This is the kind of posting that will likely make me no friends in government security, but I’m tired of all of that.
I’ve been reading far too often lately about the liberties being taken away from us in the UK for the sake of our protection from terrorism. As a regular traveler I have never minded airport security until recently. I flew out of New York a few months after “9/11” and felt quite satisfied that security was sufficient. However, since then the authorities have stacked on more and more restrictions on travel based on badly founded risk assessments. Examples of these are:
1) That all persons carrying liquids could be a threat to safety
2) Our shoes are a potential hiding place for objects/substances that could threaten safety
So, lets take a look at those threats:
1) There was a reported threat that it might be possible to make a binary explosive by mixing two or more chemicals in the bathroom of an airliner. This is the stuff of Hollywood legend and has very little practical application.
2) Richard Reed, a disturbed English/Jamaican man from Bromley who found religion after being in prison. He failed to ignite a small quantity of explosives hidden in his shoes. So that is one failed attempt to blow up a plane with a badly conceived and executed plan.
So overall, I now have to have my liquids scanned (what use is it to put the bottles through an x-ray machine?) and I have to take off my shoes to prove I am not hiding any explosives in them. Apparently for some people it makes them feel more secure to know that action is being taken, but do they really realise how ineffective this action really is? How much of a waste of resources it really is? If I wanted a knife on-board an aircraft I could make one out of readily available materials (drinks cans), or I could just fly first class and order the steak!
Apparently it has now become a crime to take photographs in a public place and even where it isn’t a crime it is now decided that if you are taking photographs of public places that you must be a terrorist planning something. When did it happen that actions that many could consider common actions became so suspect. Not all of us just take photographs when we are tourists, some of us like to take pictures when we are out and about of interesting but everyday subjects. It also is becoming a crime to refuse to give your identity when asked by a Police Officer and this I also disagree with.
I am not an opponent of the Police, I think many of them do a sterling job but I felt I had to write an email to the Kent Police Authority just as an appeal to their better nature and it is in the Read More section below and as always I welcome comment.
Dear Kent Police Authority,
I would just like to quickly add my concerns to that of many others in regard to the treatment of photographers. As a Man of Kent and a keen photographer I don’t want to feel that I will be regarded as a terrorist as a result of taking photographs and I don’t expect there to be an assumption that photography is a mechanism for terror. I am sure you will agree that it is the duty of the Police to ensure that all who are in the UK are able to feel safe and this includes those who might wish to enjoy their hobbies. If we make too many assumptions about terrorism, which in the past 10 years has harmed statistically few people compared to other crimes, then we have allowed the terrorists to win. I know that Police forces need to be seen to act: but when the data shows that of all the actions taken under the guise of the Prevention of Terrorism Act very few have actually been proven to be related to those involved in terror activities we are casting a net too wide to actually be effective.
Many of us who have been victims of crimes against property will be well aware that due to available resources the Police would rather leave the work to the insurance companies. It would be much better for general crime statistics in the UK for the Police to let the specialist terrorism units handle terrorism matters and for the general Police population to concentrate on the daily crime. Remembering that before Al-Qaeda the UK was being terrorised by the IRA to much greater effect over a much greater period and without so much loss of freedom by the people of the UK. If it can be demonstrated that a significant minority of the UK population poses an actual threat to the safety of our nation, rather than a perceived threat, then we should perhaps consider stronger measures but at present this is not the case.
I hope that the Police of the UK and Kent Police especially can take on board that terrorism is uncommon and that statistically it is unlikely to occur on their beat. I hope that the Police can not give in to spin and hype around terrorism and can take a rational view. Above all I hope the Police in any state can understand that it is a persons right to do as they wish without being intimidated, being viewed as suspicious and monitored without more than just circumstantial evidence. Never has it been more true that ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’ but also the same consideration must be given towards ourselves, we must be vigilant that we do not lose our liberties in the pursuit of the perception of safety. I leave these thoughts with you and hope that you can issue guidance to your officers so that they might take a different view of their role in maintaining the liberties of the UK and the world.