Highly amused to read the police’s latest defence today of their absurd and sinister policy of targeting photographers. They’ve been claiming that it “may have foiled a massive al-Qaeda attack” after it resulted in the arrest of an “Algerian national” (oo-er, suspicious already) who “filmed four lengthy clips on a Nokia N95 phone.” This, according to the cops, was “hostile reconnaissance” on possible terror targets in London.
Read a little further into the story, however, and you learn the following inconvenient facts:
It happened five months ago.
Although arrested under the Terrorism Act, the suspect was actually charged with… fraud.
Detectives “were unable to find direct links to a terror group”.
The fact is that harassing photographers is not just illiberal, but a monumental waste of police time. Terrorists can use any number of undetectable ways to recce targets – such as pretending to talk on their phones while taking pictures with them, discovering the joys of Google Earth – or buying a picture postcard. No terrorist would be as obvious as this Algerian guy, who was probably taking pictures for some lower-level crime, such as pickpocketing.
If this is the best example Plod can find, then all it actually confirms is what a disgrace their policy is.