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The New Statesman gets it right

It seems like we are getting there. The serious press is starting to understand the threat posed by the nationalisation of personal identity dressed up as a populist system of “ID Cards”

This devastating quote appeared in an article in the New Statesman, house magazine of the British political left:

“Public opinion likes the idea of ID cards because it seems like the ultimate solution to all known problems,” says Brian Gladman, retired director of strategic electronic communications at the Ministry of Defence. “But actually, the way this bill is designed enables a police state. You’re not going to be allowed to opt out of having an ID card, the linked databases make detailed tracking feasible, and a system with this combination of complexity and scale is way beyond the state of the art. It won’t be reliable or safe. Anybody with access to the database will be able to target anybody. It’s horrendous what you’ll be able to do.”

One hopes the message is now starting to get through to Labour MPs, and they may find important other things to do rather than vote for the second reading (the first non-formal stage) in parliament.

19 comments to The New Statesman gets it right

  • Phony Tony was all agog over biometric identification,not understanding that if it is stored digitally it can be altered moved and corrupted.
    These are the people who can’t even get tax self assessment forms processed.
    I can see it now,”Al Qaeda leader 85 year old Mrs Doris Stokes of Penge was apprehended by police as she went for her pension”.

  • Does Al Quaeda have an age limit on membership ?

    The interesting thing missing is (or will be) Mrs Stoke Poges ID when she shuffles off this mortal coil. That’s 600,000 spare ID cards a year (ish).

    Is everyone of these going to be handed in, destroyed?

    I emigrate – what do I do – do I get a refund if I hand it in ?

    I accidentally leave my card in the microwave on full power for 20 seconds – does the Doctor not see you now sir ? Who pays for the replacement ? How long does it take ?

  • Edward Teague,
    Not sure about the retirement age or whether one has to blow oneself up at sixty five.There was nothing on the application form that I filled in down the Job Centre,I was told that I had to go for the interview or I would lose my benefit.All they wanted to know really was had I got a clean drivers licence and a passport.
    I asked about innoculations but they said I wouldn’t be there long enough to catch anything.I do hope it is not another temporary position.

  • TJ Jackson

    Please the USA doesn’t need Europeans who have bought into the yabo culture. We don’t need more socialists; naysayers; perpetual students.

    America does need people who want liberty to be the best they can free of government nannies; people who want the freedom to worship or not as they please but will fight when the government attempts to foster fundamentalist extremist secularism; people who believe the government is the servant of the people, not the people are the serfs of government.

    If you agree come live in the US. If not go to Canada.

  • guy herbert

    Is that last comment on the wrong article?

    I’m not suggesting emigration. I want to live in a free Britain (which among other things would not be subject to US extraterritorial jurisdiction), and will fight for it.

    I’m encouraged that more and more people appear to be waking up to the totalitarian slide we have got into, and I’d trace this renaissance of interest in liberty to a precise moment: the Home Office’s successful attempt to introduce “Executive Control Orders”. If due process is suddenly abolished, people start to value it. (The same issue is slowly being apprehended in relation to the Extradition Act 2003.)

  • Private Eye has this wonderful story this week in “Funny Old World”
    “My client admits that he was drunk when he created a disturbance at Weymouth Bay Caravan Park,” defending solicitor Roger Maxwell told Weymouth Magistrates Court. “He admits that he used threatening words and behaviour, he admits to shouting and banging on caravan doors, and he admits to swearing at the police when they handcuffed him.

    It is also true that he is already the subject of a two-year Anti-Social Behaviour Order. But in mitigation, I should point out that, due to administrative error, the wording on the ASBO specifically states that he is ‘prohibited from not being drunk in a public place'”

    After consultation with his fellow magistrates, Chairman of the bench Colin Weston passed judgement on thirty-eight-year-old Stephen Winstone. “It is fortunate for you that the ASBO has been badly written, because otherwise we would have been looking to sentence you to prison for up to a couple of years. However, you were technically fulfilling the terms of your ASBO by being drunk in public, so the court will show leniency to you. You are fined £100.” (Dorset Echo, 17/03/05. Spotter: Sue Webb)

    Who needs an ID card when you can have an ASBO like that.

  • Rich

    If they were free I would still refuse to have one.
    However, The London School of Economics has just pointed out that they may in fact cost £300.

    BBC News(Link)

  • Julian Taylor

    Interesting that in order to meet the forthcoming US regulations on biometric identification the government here has now announced an increase in the cost of the ID cards to £93. Apparently just having eye scans and a photo are not enough, we will have to have a fingerprint record, eye scan and both a side and front photo on the card.

    In the meantime British citizens are not going to be allowed to partake in the new US ‘fastrack’ security system where, in order to avoid the Homeland Security photo and fingerprint checks every time you enter the USA, you can register in advance with your local US consulate for a DOHS security and immigration/tourist visa. One somewhat surprising reason given by the Foreign Office last week was due to the lack of any US ambassador to the UK, since William Farish resigned from the position last July.

  • Stehpinkeln

    Has it been proven yet that the ID will acomplish anything? Other then more low level jobs for government flunkys? How exactly will an ID prevent Criminals from committing crimes?
    That question should be asked. For the amusement value of watching a government spokething squirm and fidgit if nothing else.

  • Julian Taylor

    Stehpinkeln, there was a fairly recent meeting at the Adam Smith Institute where someone asked a junior government minister exactly how an ID card would prevent terrorism, bearing in mind that the 9/11 terrorists nearly all had correct identification. She said she ‘had to be somewhere else’ and hurriedly left the premises.

    Nobody in the government has yet come up with a reasonable answer to justify the ID card, in fact the closest argument in favour of an ID card to combat terrorism actually comes from Privacy International [PDF] who state that, “Almost two thirds of known terrorists operate under their true identity. The remainder use a variety of techniques to forge or impersonate identities. It is possible that the existence of a high integrity identity card would provide a measure of improved legitimacy for these people”. A government such as Blair’s would undoubtedly seize on the potential for an ID card to control that other third.

  • Interestingly foreign visitors will be able to travel about with the ID of their country of origin.
    Another point is what happens when the scanners are out of order or make a mistake,anyone who has a cash point card or a computer knows there will be problems,why doesn’t the government?Is it beacuse they never actually have to deal with these things themselves?

  • Julian,

    Interesting that in order to meet the forthcoming US regulations on biometric identification the government here has now announced an increase in the cost of the ID cards to £93.

    That’s a misinterpretation you are encouraged to make by deliberately misleading UK government statements, I’m afraid. The new international passport regs require a machine readable biometric, and a digital photograph will suffice, there is no requirement for fingerprints, iris scans or a central database, there is no requirement to log addresses or link to other government data. It does not require a change to passport law turning it into a “travel permit”. In principle for international purposes a passport remains a credential for verifying an individual’s nationality.

    There’s no reason for a passport fulfilling the regulations to cost more than a few pence extra. The extra money (remember until last year passports cost £45 and lasted 10 years) is supposed to cover the fancy chipped card and the processing costs of taking your biometrics and verifying all the documentation you will be required to produce in person. The 70 new reception centres that the Passport Office is building and all the backoffice technology and staff are to be paid for out of general taxation. (I think the LSE rather severely underestimates the costs, but then I have some experience of Home Office competence in budgetting and financial controls. The Torygraph’s “wild” estimate of £310bn is probably closer.)

    The UKGov has leapt on the ICAO regulations and US requirements that they embody to say, “We have to have this anyway, so we might as well have an all singing all dancing identity control system which is only a little different.” It is a lot different.

    (Meanwhile the DHS has come close to admitting that the $10 billion US-VISIT fingerprinting programme is futile security theatre. But it is in place now, so not likely to be abolished this half century.)

  • GCooper

    Julian Taylor writes:

    “One somewhat surprising reason given by the Foreign Office last week was due to the lack of any US ambassador to the UK, since William Farish resigned from the position last July.”

    Quite an astonishing story. Though one imagines the real reason is because the UK has been allowed to become a hotbed of Islamic terrorirsm.

  • GCooper

    guy herbert writes:

    “That’s a misinterpretation you are encouraged to make by deliberately misleading UK government statements, I’m afraid.”

    Has there ever been a government so adept at this form of lying? I now find it impossible to listen to any minister without wondering “Now what did that really mean?

  • guy herbert

    “Though one imagines the real reason is because the UK has been allowed to become a hotbed of Islamic terrorirsm.”

    Evidence that it has been and is?

    Even TB in full context-free scaremonger hasn’t dared claim more than “hundreds” of terrorist suspects–an estimate that was immediately disowned by the Security Service, which (given its adoption of the terrorism brief since the early 1990s) has a vested interest in the threat.

    Some Muslim residents of Britain have quite scarey belief-systems, but are in practice quite peaceable with it. Most of those incurring the distrust of the authorities, as far as I can see, are emigré refugees from some very nasty Middle Eastern régimes that I too would like to see brought down, but that count as legitimate states and allies.

  • guy herbert

    I’m getting quite good at interpreting departmental and ministerial statements by now, BTW. The trick is to ask yourself, “What is the literal meaning of these words, and how far could the facts be different from what’s suggested by the context, while being capable of this description?”

  • GCooper

    guy herbert (on the subject of Islamic terrorism in the uk) asks for:

    “Evidence that it has been and is?”

    I’d have thought that the activities of Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad and our old chum, Abu Hamza, would have convinced even the most unwilling that we have a serious problem here. It may be claimed they haven’t actually done anything, but it is stretching credibility to suggest that funds aren’t being raised, schemes hatched and young men being sent abroad to fight.

    I realise the National Review isn’t everyone’s publication of choice, but the following article raises sufficient questions, I’d have said http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/ehrenfeld200405100910.asp

    I wholeheartedly back your concern about Bliar’s totalitarian attempt to impose ID cards (not to mention his many other infringements of personal freedom) but it strikes me that implying there isn’t a genuine problem with radical Islam in this country as a stick with which to beat his ID policies, is as disingenuous as his suggestion that we are in imminent danger of going up in a cloud of radioactive smoke or down with a dose of anthrax, without them.

  • guy herbert

    I wasn’t offering it as a stick to beat the dangerous ID policies, which I would never do any more than I would suggest the idea that they can be used to control illegal immigration is invalid because we should have much less immigration control. First neither argument follows, but more important since absence of logical coherence wouldn’t necessarily disqualify them if the public were likely to be swayed, neither is a good one in public disputes, as you point out.

    I was simply disagreeing with the assertion that the UK is “a hotbed of Islamic terrorism”.

    I think Hamza and Bakri are pantomime figures, minor celebs playing up to their own notoriety with all the enthusiasm of former Big Brother contestants. They have clearly been left in place because they are completely incapable of doing things subtly and act to sweep up malcontents where they can be seen. That they also frighten the public–or at least Hamza does–is a bonus.

    Any competent terrorists none of us have heard of, or (significantly) from. Since killing people horribly in large numbers would not be terribly difficult for the fabled brilliantly-managed steely-eyed fanatics with no care for their own well-being, I’m inclined to believe they aren’t all that common.

    [£500 and half a dozen such could shut down the entire London tube system for months, starting tomorrow. The shops are shut now, so the ordinary domestic supplies required can't be got, and most of the tourists you'd want to mutilate for maximum publicity and economic damage are dispersed, so this evening is probably out of the question.]

  • GCooper

    guy herert writes:

    “… I’m inclined to believe they aren’t all that common.”

    Which, in the end, I suppose, is what determines this debate: inclination and belief.

    My own suggest to me that we cannot afford to take the risk. They may, as you say, be not so common. But how many would you need?