This article explores the tension between civil rights and security by examining the perceptions of the general public and elites in Eastern and Western Europe on (i) the terrorist threat; (ii) external pressure to stay within or step outside the law when combatting terrorism; and (iii) how best to combat terrorism. Large scale qualitative and quantitative data collected in Western and Eastern Europe before the terrorist act in Norway in 2011 and the Russian intervention in Ukraine and subsequent annexation of the Crimea in 2014 suggest that at the time terrorism was perceived as a greater threat in Western than in Eastern Europe. Further, Europeans felt that the US had extended pressure on their countries to combat terrorism by stepping outside the law. While ordinary citizens believed that terrorism should be fought by introducing more security — if necessary at the expense of civil rights — elites emphasized the need to protect civil rights while combating terrorism. Finally, European Muslims claimed that the terrorist threat was exaggerated and that protecting civil rights is more important than combating terrorism.

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