Dumbest salvo yet in the war on terror, courtesy of the London police

Today I spotted this sign at a Tesco's grocery store in Islington, London -- it might just be the single stupidest salvo in the war on terror to date, courtesy of the London Metropolitan Police:
Terrorism: If you suspect it, report it

Observation and surveillance help terrorists plan attacks. Have you seen anyone taking pictures of security arrangements?

If you work in vehicle hire or sales, has a sale or rental made you suspicious?

Meetings, training and planning can take place anywhere. Do you know someone who travels but is vague about where they are going?

Do you know someone who visits terrorism-related websites?

Anonymous, pay-as-you-go and stolen mobiles are typical. Have you seen someone with large quantities of mobiles? Has it made you suspicious?

Translation: god help you if you worry about CCTVs in your neighbourhood, get into an argument at the car-rental agency, don't feel like telling your co-workers that you go off to have regular dialysis treatments, look at websites that the guy next to you in the Internet cafe isn't familiar with, or can't get credit and use pay-as-you-go phones instead. After all, the police here don't even need to charge you with a crime in order to lock you up for 42 days. Absolutely the stupidest salvo in the war on terror to date, Tesco's, Islington, London, UK


  1. good thing you didn’t get locked up for taking a picture of the poster that tells you not to take pictures

  2. Yep, that’s me. I never tell co-workers where I’m going for vacation. It’s none of their concern. Yeesh.

  3. I have a phone…and a computer…and I’m renting a car next week…to go take pictures on ‘wandering’ road trip.

    I’m afraid I have to turn myself in. Should I just lie down and wait for the nice men from DHS

  4. All behaviour other than what we tell you to do is suspicious.

    My god the UK seems 3 years away, or less from having a party called “Norsefire” in power.

  5. Amazing. “V for Vendetta” is actually becoming reality.

    How soon until the US begins to emulate this stupid thought process?

  6. There a flaw in logic here
    Terrorists do A B and C
    Not everyone who does A B and C is a terrorist

    Mgfarrelly: If people were to alert the DHS, etc. of their own ‘suspicious activity’ all the time, that would be hilarious. No one ever said you can’t do that!

    Cory: if it bothers you so much, why didn’t you tear it down or deface it? You might get hassled, but you’ve got some fame now, ya know? It would say something!

  7. Didn’t Terry Gilliam’s movie “Brazil” predict this poster?

    “Don’t suspect a friend, report him”


    I hate how all the scary parts of science fiction films of my youth are coming true.

    Now I’m worried I’m going to open up my medicine cabinet and there’s going to be a camera in there and voice asking “What’s wrong?”

  8. What exactly is a “terrorism related website”, I wonder? Oh no, BoingBoing has articles questioning the war on terror so I must be a terrorist for reading it!

    …I wish I was joking but that’s the mindset of some people…

  9. You should also add a sticker of something particularly innocuous into one of the blank spaces, like an apple or a backscratcher.

  10. I got stopped and searched yesterday in London. It wasted quarter of an hour and I got a pink receipt for my trouble.

    so I’d like to suggest some others:

    TERRORISTS READ NEWSWEEK and THE GUARDIAN: Has a person attempted to buy a leftist publication, using only cash?

    TERRORISTS DRINK WATER: Has a person using a tap or carrying a bottle of water made you suspicious?

    HARBOURING SUSPECTED TERRORISTS IS A CRIME: If you fail to denounce a terrorist who is later suspected, you too are guilty of a criminal offense.

    We need your help to catch these people. Do you duty. For the Greater Good.

  11. The stupidest thing about it is that it’s aimed at the general public. It’s a guaranteed way to get yourself flooded with useless, irrelevant leads that have to be processed.

  12. Ha! I’ll bet you took that photo at my local Tesco, across from Islington Green. It’s been up there for months. The thing is, the police here are so overstretched already – 2 times I’ve had to call them – once when I witnessed my neighbour’s house getting burglarised, and again when a mob was harassing people on Regent’s Canal – they’ve arrived far, far too late to be of any help.
    If the police are seriously going to commit resources to following up such useless tips as this poster would generate, it’ll mean diverting them away from where they actually can do some good.

  13. At the end of everything, the DHS and its equivalents are the creations of the terrorists.
    It is so nice of our governments to do their job and destroy our civilization.

    Talk about international cooperation: I knew that there was hope for humanity.


  14. Face it, in the shining new future of mankind, we are all terrorists according to the men in power.

  15. I’ve been telling people that I have a lot of travel coming up in the next six weeks, but most of the time I don’t say anything more.

    Up until now, I’ve been deluding myself, thinking that it’s because I didn’t think people would be interested.

    But now I know the ugly truth: I’M A TERRORIST!!!!!

    I need to go turn myself in now.

  16. Are you now, or have you ever been a PHOTOGRAPHER? We’ll need you to give us a list of all the PHOTOGRAPHERS you know so we can go harass them too. And we’ll need you to wear this patch on your arm at all times to we can identify you and watch your every move via CCTV. Vacation you say? Yes, you’ll be taking a “vacation” all right. We have this nice little resort in Cuba for you where you can take up the popular sport of waterboarding.

  17. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but why not some guerilla resistance? Someone can make a bunch of those fluorescent orange paper circle grocery stickers that say “Fuck The Police” or some other gauche and base reaction to posters such as these. Stickers like this (or profane expressions in general) are effective precisely because they go against what this poster/policy is trying to illustrate: terrorists try to hide. A glaring and loud reaction sidesteps the social relationship being described in the poster, that there are only normal people and terrorists.

    Any protest is going to have to make a bright line between The People and The Authorities, since so much of what allows these posters (and strategies) to continue is that the authorities are blurring the line between terrorist and citizen such that people are constantly fearing strangers.

  18. It’s actually kind of fascinating to watch this nonsense as it goes further and absurdly further. . . and no one seems to care. (Well, at least, I don’t hear of giant mobs with pitchforks and torches.)

    Let’s see:
    1. denial
    2. anger
    3. bargaining
    4. depression
    5. acceptance
    6. (?) bemused resignation?

    Yep, I’m there.

  19. I can’t wait to see the mock ups of these posters. That would be the best protest, as has been done before. Make them look so similar to the original that you might not be able to tell the difference from a distance, and post them far and wide so they actually outnumber the original poster. Cover the original posters with the new one whenever possible. I don’t live in the UK, or I’d already be at work on this, but I’d gladly donate to defray the printing costs. Put up a website with your poster(s), accept paypal donations, and link it here. (I’m sure Cory’d feature it, as he has in the past.) This crap is no match for a little clever creativity. In fact, I think it would be fun!

  20. And the saddest part of all is that the REAL terrorists all know enough not to call attention to themselves by doing suspicious things.

  21. In June 07 I saw even more troubling posters in the London tube. It sounds like they are accepting anyone for police duty. In Nazi Germany I think that was called a Blockwart (block warden?). Scary thought that they weird neighbor that hates you can now arrest you.


    Volunteer Police Officers
    From 16 hours a month – London
    Special constables are volunteers with a desire to make London a safer place. We’ll give you full police training, which means you’ll be in uniform, patrolling, searching, arresting, always with the full back up of your colleagures. To apply ….

  22. The worst part of this (and Lord knows there is so much FAIL to choose from here) is how the siege/FEAR/panic mentality really is a far greater threat to the people of the UK and US than any group of loons deciding to die for Darkseid.

    Terrorists win when you are terrorized.

  23. @ Marstein

    We’ve had special constables for a long-long time. They stem from the time when the police had no more privilege than the rest of us.

    Analogous to the territorial army, they’re trained and properly warranted and part of the police – unlike the various council employees, community support officers, private security guards you might run into.

    I’d rather see a cross over between the police and normal citizenry. Surely it’s a barrier to corruption when people can be on the inside who don’t rely on being in the police for their whole career?

  24. After the comment by #7 CharlesLG, I went to look up the poster he was talking about “Don’t suspect a friend! Report him!”. I’ve never seen the movie Brazil (I definitely will now) and the technology in there is futuristi yet retro like Cory’s obsession with cyberpunk………. HMMM.

    I don’t care anymore, people deserve what they get.

  25. To be honest, I can’t think of a single legitimate reason to have a pile of pay-as-you-go cell-phones in one’s living room.

    The surveillance part is kind of hokey, and I say that as a hyper-vigilant weirdo who sees everything through a lens of cynicism.

    Vehicle rentals? Yeah, the companies that rent trucks should be paying attention to the reasons stated by the people renting them. There are absolutely no reasons for renting a box-truck on the sly.

    The bit about travel is also kind of odd, anyone can lie about where they are going.

    If these posters really wanted to effect some kind of awareness they’d emphasize investment schemes which are too good to be true. At worst it’s a con and when it pays out it’s a money laundering scheme. It’s the latter which worries me. Sure, most of the time it’s just drug and whore money getting cleaned… but. And that’s a big But right there.

  26. is there anything stopping sane people from putting up counter-posters decrying the absolute idiocy of the government’s latest folly?

  27. PERLA@30: “I don’t care anymore, people deserve what they get.”

    Really? People in Gitmo right now that have been held for 6-7 years without trial deserve what they got? People being extradited to foreign gulags and tortured by goons for the CIA deserve what they are getting? If they deserve it, why is due process of law being circumvented to perpetrate these horrible scenarios upon these people? Lives are being ruined at the whim of the government and you don’t care anymore? I can’t even begin to express my dismay at your statement. Just one more question: When did you ever care, and why did you stop? (Ok, two more questions.) What the hell is wrong with you?

    If you somehow meant from that statement that people in the government deserve to be ridiculed for such a lame campaign of outright Orwellianism, then I take it all back and agree with you. As written, it leads me to believe you are indifferent to suspicion and paranoia encouraged by your government which serves no real constructive purpose, and quite a few destructive ones to a “free society.” Please tell me I misinterpreted, and do go see Brazil right away.

  28. I like danegeld’s additions, so I’ll add some of my own:

    TERRORISTS NEED TO EAT: Have you seen anyone eating lately? They could be eating anything (except pork), so pay attention!

    TERRORISTS NEED TO BLEND IN: Be sure to alert authorities if nothing suspicious is going on. Pay special attention to people you don’t notice.

    TERRORISTS NEED SUPPORT: Terrorists may be alone or in groups–report both. Ask anyone and everyone what they’re doing there all the time.

    TERRORISTS ARE EVERYWHERE: You’re probably a terrorist, too. Go ahead and report yourself.

  29. yes, it’s silly. But rather than make fun of how silly it is, why not use your creativity to come up with BETTER ways for people to thwart terrorism WHILST still protecting our liberties? I dare you to take part in a little thought exercise where it’s YOUR JOB to protect the populace, rather than imagine what clever dismissal of the stupid police you’ll be saying the next time there is an act of terrorism. Can you?

  30. Perhaps the signs should be simplified down to one instruction:

    “Do you know anyone who seems too normal and pleasant. Perhaps they are terrorists trying to blend in. Report them as soon as you can!”

  31. @W000T

    TERRORISTS NEED TO BLEND IN: Be sure to alert authorities if nothing suspicious is going on. Pay special attention to people you don’t notice.

    That’s just brilliant.

  32. Chelvis,

    Did you just tell people that they have to come up with a solution themselves…without bothering to propose one? Because that would be rather passive aggressive.

  33. what is going on in London?

    Hey, has anybody seen Banksy lately?

    Terrorists need to urinate…notify authorities immediately if you see anyone using the loo.

  34. Antonius,

    I didn’t think of it as passive aggressive, but you may be right :) I wanted to somehow express my frustration at pointing out flaws in the authorities plans’, without appreciating how very difficult it is to do what the police are trying to do. If people consider how seemingly impossible counter-terrorism seems to be (at least to me), by empathizing with what the authorities have to try to do, maybe their reaction to silly measures like the above won’t be knee-jerk cynicism but rather trying to creatively come up with better ways to prevent terrorism. Explosive-detecting technology that doesn’t infringe on privacy? I don’t know.

    Also, I think the “Keep Calm and Carry On” advice from WWII is a both naive and passive if taken literally and not as a ironic fashion statement or something.

  35. MAXXMONDE@44: Brilliant! Let us know where to chip in on printing costs. =D

    CHELVIS@39 & 47: I believe using creativity and humor to shine a light on ignorant policies to be the best solution at hand, because I only believe in non-violent protest. Being afraid of bogeymen and shadows is what is not being helpful. In fact it has been quite devastating to millions of lives. This is why we have laws and separation of power. -To prevent witch hunts from trampling on liberty. These times we are in, though unique, are not without precedent, and do not demand that we throw out the rule of law, due process, and habeas corpus. We’ve created “the terrorists” and give them all their power with such folly. I could go on all day, but can’t say it better than this:

    “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” -Ben Franklin

    If our governments want to really catch “the terrorists” then we need to stop being the terrorists.


    That’s great. Can we send that over to one of the online sticker-makers so we can just buy them pre-adhered?

  37. Chelvis (#39),

    Actually I _have_ come up with an almost perfect method of preventing terrorism. My secret method has prevented a 86% of terrorist attacks on the continental United States and a whopping 92% of terrorist attacks in Europe.

    As an added bonus, it has also prevented 100% of Parana Attacks in Africa, Lion Attacks in Australia and absolutely all instances of the sky falling.

    Best yet, I do it out of a sense of civic duty and there is no need to pay me a cent!

    So, for curiosity, how many active terrorist cells do you think I’ve missed?

  38. I’d be happy to forward the original .psd to whoever wants it. Two free fonts were used, roger white’s ‘swansea’ and flop design’s ‘digit’ for the IP addresses. (Yes, those actually mean something, do a few lookups if you’re curious.)

    Just hit me up at gmailDOTcom, and I’ll send it on to you. I just want credit if you remix, thanks!

    Appreciate the comments :)

  39. “Have you seen someone with large quantities of mobiles? Has it made you suspicious?”

    I find it darkly amusing that “Has it made you suspicious?” is a criterion here. Sure, if they’ve got loads of phones, that’s bad, but if you also think they’re a bit shifty then they’re *bound* to be a terrorist.

    OK, I’m exaggerating a bit but I’m not 100% happy with suggesting to the general public that “making you suspicious” is in itself some kind of evidence that somebody is a terrorist.

    Also amusing to university students (and grad students in particular) is that travelling a lot but being vague about where / when you’re going is precisely the kind of behaviour you typically expect from academic supervisors!

  40. HORNCOLOGNE@53: Nice! Thought you’d like to know, though, that you’ve got a couple of typos in your text. Should be easy to fix.

    IANSMITHLV@54: Very nice! The TSAs are really cracking down on those pesky tourists already, across the pond.

  41. Actually, that kind of campaign nothing new at all. You can almost call it ancient.

    This campaign from 2001 is very similar, just scroll to the bottom:

    ‘Mr Fry added: “Terrorists need somewhere to live, somewhere to store their equipment, and they need vehicles to move around in.

    “If you sell cars or let property and you have noticed something suspicious please contact us.”‘

  42. What I don’t understand is the sheep factor, or the lemming factor. No no no, it’s lambs-to-the-slaughter.

    It just keeps piling up and no one seems to give a shit. People I know and like and even respect seem to shrug this stuff off, and I can’t get why it doesn’t rattle the hell out of them.

    But, as other posters keep pointing out, things look more and more like some dystopian science fiction novel or movie. Is it because we’re all nerds here, and we grew up reading and watching science fiction that this freaky scenario seems so horrifying to us all? Is it because we have the imagination to understand how it is likely to play out, only no, it is not imagination. We can point to a hundred different writers and a half a hundred directors who’ve spelled it out for us. No, it doesn’t take much vision to see the creepy corporation-driven global police state arriving, because it’s a fucking cliché.

    Even the way societies around the globe are letting themselves slide down the toilet is tacky and played. We’ll end not with a bang, but a whimper and an advertising jingle. And a goodly portion of the population will be to stupid to even notice anything has happened.

    Sheep. Baa!

  43. I agree with the Moderator in as much as this kind of “recruiting the public” method of law enforcement is pointless. The overwhelming amount of garbage that has to be trudged through (think of a slush pile after just one week), is unprocessable by humans. Helping the police by turning into a brown shirt is not the answer

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