Sun, 18 Feb 2007

Institutionalised snooping and hostile reconnaissance

I'm always shocked when going to the movies to have to sit through a call for informers to rat on whoever may be illegally recording the movie. I generally boo when this anti-piracy campaign ad is shown (the ones promoting the cinema experience are more to the point)! Come July and, thanks to the smoking ban, we'll have moved from a call to snitching to institutionalised snooping. The BBC reports:
Thousands of council staff are being trained to police the smoking ban in bars, restaurants and shops in England.

Ministers have given councils £29.5m to pay for staff, who will be able to give on-the-spot £50 fines to individuals and take court action against premises.

They will have the power to enter premises undercover, allowing them to sit among drinkers, and will even be able to photograph and film people.


Ian Gray, policy officer for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and chief trainer for the government course, said he expected most councils would take a "softly, softly approach" at first.

"But there will be some occasions where action has to be taken and I am sure the compliance officers will not shy away from that," he added.

"These officers do not have to identify themselves when they go into premises and they can even film and photograph people to gather evidence although this may not be appropriate in many cases.

"There will be two ways of doing this, either staff can go in and identify themselves to the landlord, but they don't have to."

SpyBlog has, as usual, a very detailed and insightful analysis of this news item. Go read it in full. It points out among other things that such surveillance may be unlawful under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 section 28 (b), that the 'authorised enforcement officers' do not have any power of arrest, and that Police Constables do not have the power to issue a Fixed Penalty Notice under the Health Act 2006, since the Police are not designated Enforcement Authorities.

Pubs are among potential terrorist targets as reminds the Publican:
During the current terrorist threat, pubs have not been targeted as they were in the 1970s by the Provisional IRA and in 1999, when the Admiral Duncan in Soho was hit by a lone neo-Nazi bomber. But, especially since the July bombings last year, pubs have been included among the possible “soft targets” identified by the security services.


His [Jim Maietta from the National Counter Terrorism Security Office] advice on protective security ranged from simple good housekeeping to prevent packages being planted on or near the premises, to being aware that terrorists need to plan their attacks – what’s known as “hostile reconnaissance”.

“The Al-Qaeda training manual talks about getting information, maps and plans and so on. That helps them determine how much explosive they will need, and they will also look at levels of security.”

'Hostile reconnaissance' is the justification the Police has used to stop and arrest innocents taking pictures, filming or even just drawing sketches of buildings.

This Summer, coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the July 2005 London bombings, Council staff will go undercover taking pictures and photographs in pubs, restaurants and shops, while the Police will continue to train the staff working with the public about hostile reconnaissance, and stop and arrest people taking pictures and photographs - especially doing so sneakily - in pubs, restaurants and shops among other places.

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