When architectural photographer Grant Smith was harassed by security guards and detained by City of London police last December he probably thought it was just happenstance. When it happened again last week he might have considered it coincidence. Now, thanks to a document obtained by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, he knows it was enemy action all along.

The previously unseen document, from police initiative Project Griffin, instructs the City’s 5,000 private security guards to report people taking photographs or making sketches within the City of London. The advice encourages a “culture of challenging suspicious behaviour”, which it defines amongst other things as “people using recording equipment, including camera phones, or seen making notes or sketches”.

All of which helps to explain why so many photographers, and even painters, have recently been stopped and searched in the area by police quoting Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. Nowhere does the document advise that photography and painting remain legal activities in the UK, unlike the police’s frequent misuse of Section 44, which was earlier this year ruled illegal in the European Court of Human Rights.

Such police action against photographers is not just illegal; it’s a waste of resources and displays a bizarre lack of understanding of the tools available to any terrorist involved in hostile reconnaissance. Apart from the huge number of pictures available from subversion organisations like the British Tourist Authority, the Al Qaeda forward intelligence team need only turn to Google Street View for anything they need, including Aldermanbury Square, the scene of Smith’s detention last week.

Here it is, and without the distracting security goons obscuring the view:

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4 Responses to “The City Of London Police War On Photography”

  1. Andrew Hinds Andrew Hinds says:

    It’s an indictment on the way our society is nowadays. I’ve heard of train spotters being stopped from taking photographs on railway stations, even if they happen to be staff. Something is going to have to be done to stop this paranoid behaviour.

  2. Jon Jon says:

    There’s a man sitting down, talking on a phone in that picture. He’s probably a terrorist. There’s also a suspicious looking red van in the distance. It’s probably full of explosives.

  3. [...] un peu trop à la lettre du manuel du parfait agent ? Que nenni, nous explique l’auteur du « Russian Photo Blog ». Même les peintres du dimanche ont été susceptibles d’être dénoncés et arrêtés pour [...]

  4. Alexander Alexander says:

    The City Police is staffed by maniacs and paranoids, and some of them pederasts. Thus, in 2006 they arrested me under the pretext that I was standing on private site near King’s College London! Idiots! In a week time I was searched near St Paul cathedral by two police shit who were pulling down my eggs when searching!

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