Jeremy Kuper
The Guardian
April 6, 2009

New anti-terror adverts are urging Londoners to look in their neighbours’ dustbins to help the overstretched police unmask the enemy within. Either this is a viable way of catching terrorists or the police and security services are getting desperate.

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One advert (pdf) shows a mother with a pushchair in an ordinary-looking suburban street – but look closer. The wheelie bin in front of a house is overflowing with discarded containers of bomb-making equipment. With its catchphrase "Don’t rely on others. If you suspect it, report it", the advert’s message is don’t trust your neighbours: they may be making a bomb in their shed.

It does seem unlikely that bomb-making equipment would be dumped in an open bin, to be discovered by a passing mother. You might think that hardened terrorists would be more careful – or at least leave the empty containers in a neighbour’s bin, not their own. In any case, the poster gives the men of violence a handy reminder of how to avoid detection.

Another poster invites people to take note of suspicious individuals who are "studying the CCTV cameras". Britain is already saturated with CCTV cameras and in the words of the outgoing information commissioner Richard Thomas, "Fears that the UK would sleepwalk into a surveillance society have become a reality."

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