Officer, arrest that man: he's odd and he's got a camera.
March 5, 2008 1:03 PM   Subscribe

London's Metropolitan police have a press campaign to help us inform on each other identify terrorists. How do you spot your terrorist? Well he could be the one with the camera pdf. Or he could be the one with two mobile phones pdf. Or the one with a chemistry set and a house pdf. Flickr folk have their alternative takes on the poster campaign. Photographer's rights in the blue previously. And the met have already gone to bat against the terrorists an innocent photographer
posted by itsjustanalias (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
thanks for the post, itsjustanalias.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:09 PM on March 5, 2008

I just started playing Deus Ex yesterday -- again -- after a Metafilter thread, and I was thinking about how much the world had caught up to Deus Ex since it was first released.

And here we are. Spooky.
posted by Shepherd at 1:11 PM on March 5, 2008

Kind of ironic that this is happening in a city with so many surveillance cameras. Big Brother is watching you watch Big Brother and he's really unhappy about it.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2008

Photogorrists also post subversive messages to fringe web sites like, itsjustanalias, IF THAT IS YOUR REAL NAME.
posted by Mister_A at 1:22 PM on March 5, 2008

The only terror I'm seeing is those red backgrounds. Maybe it's just the way they look on my LCD, but they hurt my brain.
posted by Bugg at 1:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Terrorists use surveillance to help plan attacks, taking photos and making notes about security measures like the location of CCTV cameras

Well that's me fucked
posted by cillit bang at 1:26 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yay! It's not just the U.S. that's batshitinsane about this stuff! And yeah, I know that y'all across the pond have been CCTV-mad for quite a while now.

There was this guy who was stopped by a police officer and told to not take pictures of an office building in Arlington, VA. The building has no signs stating what it is, nor are there any signs saying that photographing it is not permitted.

And, previously on Metafilter, the guy on the Amtrak train who was nearly thrown off for taking pictures.

It's nice to have company in our paranoia.
posted by rtha at 1:28 PM on March 5, 2008

Reminds me of my favorite segment Chaser's War on Everything did.
posted by spiderskull at 1:37 PM on March 5, 2008

Attention all units: be on the lookout for people with cameras in Trafalgar Square and around the Tower of London.
posted by Avenger at 1:48 PM on March 5, 2008

Be sure to report people with unusual or suspicious names.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2008

Hey, if you're not doing anything wrong whats to worry about? AMIRITE?
posted by sfts2 at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2008

To be honest, after watching 3 seasons' worth of Spooks/MI5 over the last few weeks, I'd be pretty dang suspicious if I saw anybody messing about with multiple cellphones. Especially given how high our mobile rates are here in Canada! Heading home for a martini, shaken not stirred...
posted by sevenyearlurk at 2:00 PM on March 5, 2008


Are the people who lack enough judgment to recognize overtly suspicious behaviour normally really the people you want "informing" on the citizens they deem suspicious now that you've goaded them into abject paranoia?
posted by Shepherd at 2:07 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


posted by fuq at 2:11 PM on March 5, 2008

I can think of half a dozen of my friends who have multiple mobile phones (work/personal/almost obsolete) and a couple more who have multiple SIM cards (for UK/European use). I'll be calling the rozzers in the morning and turning myself in too.
posted by itsjustanalias at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2008

Well, I'm fucked. Last time I visited London (my home for quite a few years), I had three phones on me (English, Finnish and Spanish) and a digital camera. Thank god I'm white and speak fluent English with a more or less neutral accent!
posted by slimepuppy at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2008

Wow. That's a pretty lame campaign. The mind boggles; won't this just flood police lines with a lot of time wasting calls?
posted by dazed_one at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2008

I used to have a spare sim-card for my phone... lucky for me I never got shot in the heard when I was swapping it over
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2008

Personally, I feel secure beneath the watchful eyes..
posted by seanyboy at 3:22 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

So are Brazilian electricians OK now?
posted by dhartung at 3:38 PM on March 5, 2008

yeah, and of course, with suspicious tipsters flooding the call centers, the program is so effective you have no choice but to continue it. just like in new york.
posted by mano at 4:03 PM on March 5, 2008

Congratulations everyone, we live in satire.
posted by regicide is good for you at 5:57 PM on March 5, 2008

I've come to ignore the "See Something? Say something." ads on transit around here just because they're so pervasive. I wish none of that was the case.

It seems the best way to end this sort of campaign is through casual abuse of the tip line.

If a couple hundred (thousand?) people manage to band together and purposefully report things at the level of happenstance (so as to not draw ire upon themselves) but intriguing enough happenstance to incite police investigations couldn't a band of dedicated citizens effectively DDoS the police of any paranoid city or transit authority?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 6:00 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

This kind of thinking's been going on in the states for a while now. I had an incident several years back in Mobile, Alabama. I was still in college, enrolled in a photography class, but home for Thanksgiving and trying to get some shots for a project that was due shortly after the holiday. I was on foot downtown with my 20 year-old Nikon FG, wearing tennis shoes, jeans, a t-shirt, a big poofy old Camel Cash jacket, and sunglasses. I took a few pictures of the RSA Battle House Tower, under construction at the time, all girders and elevator shafts, before crossing Water Street to walk towards the Port of Mobile.

I was on the phone with my girlfriend at the time, framing up a few shots of some graffiti-covered boxcars when I heard one of those piercing siren WHOOPs. Lo and behold, driving straight towards me along this sidewalk (which angles significantly away from the street, where I was standing) was a damn police cruiser.

The officer approaches and asks me if I saw him back at the intersection. No, I told him, I did not. He said, "oh, well that's too bad, because I've been keeping my eye on you. What exactly are you doing?" I told him I was a college student, taking pictures for a photography class assignment. I went to an out-of-state university, and I didn't have my student ID on me when he demanded it, so he ended up confiscating both my wallet and my camera. When I asked why, he said, and I'll never forget this,
Boy, I've just been watching you looking all around, taking pictures of what's going to be the biggest building in the state, all bare and exposed. Now you're taking pictures of a major port. Now, maybe before 9/11 I could have let all this slide, but those days are over now.
I was young and dumb at the time and hadn't seen that photographer's bill of rights, but I knew something was horribly wrong. I had been walking around on public sidewalks, taking pictures of things that are visible from the street. How the hell could this be wrong? And yet, it escalated. Dude called in backup, so a cruiser pulled over on the street nearby and I had two cops running my license information through the computer and holding my camera (full of pictures I'd spent all day taking for my class) hostage, talking about taking the film, while I'm on my knees on the sidewalk with my hands behind my head.

Fortunately, the only things that must have shown up on the computer were a couple of speeding tickets, and I guess they were swayed by my fairly clean record, lack of dark pigmentation/foreign sounding last name, and COMPLETELY REASONABLE EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING I WAS DOING LEGALLY, so they were ever so kind to let me go with the warning: "You can go, this time. But we've got all your license information, so if anything bad ever DOES happen around here, you'll be getting a call." I was so relieved (and intimidated) that I didn't get their badge numbers or anything, but I still wonder if seriously, not that anyone would be plotting against Mobile, Alabama, but if anything DID happen to the port or the RSA tower, if seriously I would be on some kind of suspect list.

So yeah. If you have a camera now, you are a suspect. Don't be like me -- CHECK OUT YOUR RIGHTS AS A PHOTOGRAPHER, maybe even print them out and carry a copy if you're young or of middle eastern descent or a non-professional or in any other demographic that might attract greater police suspicion. And most of all, enjoy how much safer you are thanks to all of this invasive security theater!!! !!! !!!.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 6:05 PM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]

George Orwell was killed by irony.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2008

Though, admittedly, British "cuisine" didn't help him any.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on March 5, 2008

Quite frankly, this attitude is what got that poor Brazilian guy shot dead on a platform. I guess the settlement wasn't big enough to dissuade the British police from making bad decisions.
posted by OldReliable at 9:13 PM on March 5, 2008

The poster campaign that particularly annoys me is this one: Top Ten Tips for Staying Safe. Check out the "assets" on that poster, boys! Really, what can she have expected to happen?
posted by alasdair at 12:27 AM on March 6, 2008

Here's my poster
posted by quarsan at 1:38 AM on March 6, 2008

If a couple hundred (thousand?) people manage to band together and purposefully report things at the level of happenstance (so as to not draw ire upon themselves) but intriguing enough happenstance to incite police investigations couldn't a band of dedicated citizens effectively DDoS the police of any paranoid city or transit authority?

I had a similar thought back in the early part of the decade, when they'd announced Operation TIPS but hadn't specified how broadly it was going to dunction. There are a lot of local agencies that are running similar programs now (Boston's public transit system being the most visible locally), and I can think of nothing more appropriate than death by a thousand pinpricks, when concerned citizens start calling in reports of anything the slightest bit disconcerting to them. Since the calls for anonymous reporting are intentionally vague, it wouldn't be much of a leap to start reporting suspicious-looking bands of teenagers congregating outside the 7-11, or sinister-looking wildlife lining the train tracks.

Granted, advocating for such an effort would almost certainly earn one a trip to the DHS oubliette, but a man can dream, I guess.
posted by Mayor West at 6:13 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems the best way to end this sort of campaign is through casual abuse of the tip line.

Or that might be the best way to get the budget for the tip line bumped up.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2008

Bruce Schneier: The Myth of the 'Transparent Society'
posted by homunculus at 3:36 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

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