Civilians are being told to be on guard for people carrying cameras and zoom lenses as part of anti-terrorism seminars being rolled out nationwide.

PAGE 1: Cameras trigger terrorism fears

Civilians are being told to be on guard for people carrying cameras and zoom lenses as part of anti-terrorism seminars being rolled out nationwide.

The Home Office insists that there is no alternative as Britain continues to be on a state of high alert for a possible terrorist attack.

The National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) aims to train 60,000 volunteers – including security guards and council workers – as part of counter-terrorism measures in areas such as shopping centres, hotels and stations.

Each training session lasts three hours, including a coffee break, according to the project’s website.

Amateur Photographer (AP) has learnt that the training draws on existing NaCTSO guidance regarding ‘hostile reconnaissance’. This urges people to look out for ‘overt/covert photography’ as well as those in possession of ‘photographs, maps, global positioning systems, photographic equipment, (cameras, zoom lenses, camcorders)’.

So far, 30,000 have received the training under ‘Project Argus’, says the Home Office.

Commenting on the government-led operation, Liberty’s legal director James Welch told us: ‘No-one can deny the need for vigilance. But those watching out for us have to be sensible and accept that, for many, photography is an innocent and perfectly legitimate pastime.’

AP reader Alwyn Eccles, from East Yorkshire, wrote to express alarm after reading in the local press that Project Argos seminars were coming to Bridlington. ‘I had never heard of Project Argus but I don’t like the sound of it,’ Alwyn wrote in a letter to the magazine.

‘Fortunately, in this town which relies heavily on tourism, we have local businesses run by people with common sense – something evidently missing from the Home Office.’

NEWS UPDATE 6 May 2009

PAGE 2: Home Office defends anti-terror plan

The guidance adds that those being trained should also watch for ‘people taking pictures ? filming ? making notes ? sketching of the security measures [such as CCTV] at commercial centres’.

It continues: ‘Tourists should not necessarily be taken as such and should be treated sensitively, but with caution.’

A Home Office spokesman told us: ‘It’s all about being vigilant. These people are hand-picked – carefully chosen – and there’s a level of common sense that they need to apply.’

He suggested that suspicions would only be aroused if someone was seen photographing security cameras, for example, and if they looked ‘a bit shifty’.

Referring to the need to thwart possible terror attacks, he added: ‘If someone is stopped then that’s better than the alternative.’

It recently emerged that terror suspects released without charge after police raids in the North West had been seen photographing shopping centres and a nightclub in Manchester.

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