I am stunned to learn, from a comment written by Peter Adamski to the previous post, that
To say this is a huge blow to freedom is an understatement. It is antithetical to the ideals and practices of a free people, and illustrates that the creep of totalitarianism continues apace in the West.
Consistently, fearful anti-terrorist hysteria has given to photographers a power we simply don't have. The act of taking a picture has never been demonstrated to have any value whatsoever as a predictor of a future terrorist event; surely, the problem is that when ten thousand people take pictures and one turns out to be a terrorist, being suspicious of people with cameras is of no value in finding that one needle in that vast haystack. Not only that, but it has never been demonstrated that actual terrorists use cameras or take pictures. In short, photography is not a terrorist activity—never has been, never will be, not in any way, shape, or form.
We simply have a falsely "reasoned" idea that terrorists probably do take photographs of their targets beforehand. It's never been proven, but it seems likely. That seems to be enough for most people. Never mind that Google is putting the world online (a reader who learned my address recently, from my email sig file, shot me back a photo of my street taken from in front of my house) and that evildoers can get photographs of practically anything from a large variety of sources, without even having to take them themselves. And never mind how easy it is to take pictures surreptitiously.
It seems reasonable to infer that terrorists use the toilet. Therefore anyone who uses the toilet is a potential terrorist, and using a toilet should be considered a suspicious activity. Anyone caught using a toilet may be detained and questioned, and is subject to having their their toilet tissue confiscated.
(Why not? It makes just about as much sense.)
The only effect of laws like Britain's new one is that photographers can now be persecuted, on a whim, at any time, for no good reason.
The inescapable conclusion is that Britain has handed the terrorists a win: we are, in fact, terrorized. We are so scared that we will pass inane laws that fly directly in the face of our traditional rights and freedoms and give effectively unlimited power to our police to persecute and harass innocent citizens—us—for any reason, or for no reason. If this had any value whatsoever in combating terrorism, we could discuss its desirability; but it doesn't. It's a giant, fat red herring that does nothing but cede unreasonable power to authorities who, as most photographers can attest from direct experience, are poorly trained with regard to policies and procedures regarding photography, and act capriciously toward photographers anyway.
Incredible, and deplorable. My sympathies and condolences go out to all photographers in the U.K., and indeed to all U.K. citizens. You lost something important on the 16th of February. I wish I felt that such a thing could never happen in the United States. I'm not so sure.
ADDENDUM: MUST READING: Bruce Schneier's June, 2008 essay, "Are Photographers Really A Threat?" (Thanks to ggl for reminding me of this.)
Featured Comment by Jeffrey Hornaday: "I live in NYC and I'm on assignment in the U.K. photographing Lionel's Richie's current world tour. We were in Belfast on St. Patrick's Day, and during the afternoon before the show I walked in a small park, shooting the Paddy's Day festivities. I also photographed a few police officers chatting on a street corner adjacent to the park. One grabbed my arm and forced me to cycle through the images on my camera and delete those he deemed 'dangerous,' including a nice sequence of young people dancing on the grass, the officers blurry in the background. Humiliation is a strange thing to feel for taking snapshots in the park."