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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata, almost literally

A most interesting document has come into our possession – and quite coincidentally, we understand, into the possession of several other well-known blogs. It is a scan of the internal document of the Identity and Passport Service outlining the new implementation strategy for the UK’s identity card scheme, liberally annotated by the experts at NO2ID.

We think it tends to disprove the denials only just issued by HM Government in relation to the scheme, as well as some half-lies and full lies they have been telling all along. (It may also show up the feeble grip of Gordon Brown’s paper Stalinism. “In government, but not in power,” ministers will rubber-stamp anything – just as long as it doesn’t look like a retreat.) But judge for yourself: (pdf 1.17Mb)

30 comments to Samizdata, almost literally

  • It seems that the British Government will bear any price, pay any cost, meet any challenge, to ensure that the great British public have their ID cards, like it or not. This bodes ill for me here in Australia, as here the great Australian public have just voted in a Tony Blair-lite clone as Prime Minister. So we’ll have our own ID cards in a few years. Joy.

  • Ed

    Once again, the Government decide what the next authoritarian measure is and then try to find convincing arguments to back it up. That document is truly scary.

  • guy herbert

    Scott,

    I thought that, whatever his other faults may be, Rudd had unequivocally cancelled Howard’s surveillance-card-in-drag the Access card.

  • That is indeed an astonishingly ghastly document, yes.

    I am not as pessimistic about ID cards in Australia as Scott. Australian governments and bureaucrats don’t get enthusiastic about things in quite the way some of the British do. (The Australian Labor Party is vastly less ideological than Labour in the UK, although it’s supporters sometimes can be. Largely the party is just a rather nasty political machine that is only interested in getting elected and the spoils of power. (For the powerful and at times dominant NSW right faction, think Tammany Hall more than British Labour). Australia’s most reacent debacle when a government tried to introduce ID cards was sufficiently recent that at least some people in the ALP remember it. And the party won’t develop the arrogant “we were born to rule” sense of entitlement for a few years yet.

    It not saying it will never happen, but it will take a while before it does. Hopefully Britain’s attempt will collapse into a debacle and that will set a good example.

  • Ian B

    Terrifying.

  • wolfwalker

    Some of the annotations make no sense to me, and others seem to be fearmongering rather than serious analysis of probable results … but both of those might well be due to the annotaters knowing more about the subject than I do.

    However, even the stuff I can understand is frightening. The entire document is cast in terms of what’s best for the government, not what’s best for the people. It’s at least as bad as the dreadful “Real ID” act that we over here in the States are currently fighting against.

  • Paul A' Barge

    I like it. When do we get this in the USA?

    I say bring it on. I have no problem with a well-designed, bullet-proof ID card. I hardly see an ID card as the first step to the gas chambers. Of course, I’m not a raging, screaming hysterical Libertarian ninny, but that’s just me.

    I just wish there were a way to arrange for those who want to fight every one of their government’s efforts at national security to be lined up first in the tubes when the Islamic mutts next decide to blow up the trains.

    That would only be fair, don’t you agree?

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Paul A’Barge:

    We know that strict ID laws will stop terrorism, because they have such laws in Spain, which has never suffered any train bombings.

  • Kevyn Bodman

    To Paul A’Barge

    ID cards won’t do anything to make us safer from Islamic terrorism.
    Or anything else.
    I’m certainly not a classic libertarian. Opposition to ID cards is much wider than that.

  • Robert L

    …Or we can forge on and continue kicking the proto-fascist “mutts” squarely in their collective asses.

    No document is bullet-proof.

  • wolfwalker,

    [...] fearmongering rather than serious analysis of probable results … but both of those might well be due to the annotaters knowing more about the subject than I do

    Sad to say, we probably know more than the ministers notionally responsible. We’ve been working on this solidly for three years now. They change every few months, and are happy incuriously to parrot their briefs for the most part.

    Without knowing what you refer to, I can’t answer specific queries, but it is worth pointing out that the ambitions of the scheme far outrun its likely capabilities. That it won’t work as hoped by the True Believers, does not mean it won’t work out oppressive and poisonous to the basic social mechanisms of distributed trust.

    Paul A’ Barge,

    [...] those who want to fight every one of their government’s efforts at national security [...]

    Contemptible. It might help if you were to read the document and see how relevant it actually is to “national security”. The national security state is in any case well worth fighting, because it is in direct conflict with individual security as well as liberty, most of the time. I am glad to say that the last couple of years have made plain to me that a number of senior military and intelligence people would be on the same side of the barricades as me.

    “I don’t think anybody in the intelligence services – not in my former service – will be pressing for ID cards.”
    - Dame Stella Rimmington

    “We must be very, very careful not to bring on ourselves a system that cannot but be fascist, in the end.”
    - Baroness Park of Monmouth

  • Sk

    I don’t understand what the fuss is about. I’ve already got a state-issued driver’s licence, and a federally issued passport (and job-issued id cards, as well as library cards, credit cards, shopping club identity cards, swimming pool membership card, etc etc forever). what is the difference with a federally issued ID card? Its sinister because its harder to forge? Because a really big government (federal government) rather than a somewhat big government (US state government), or a pretty small government (city swimming pool) issued it? Where’s the Orwellian threat?

    Sk

  • I’m pretty sure that every attacker on 9/11 and 7/11 had valid ID at the time.

    This is sinister because the state never rolls back, only forward. Remember when US Social Security Cards said, “Not to be used to ID” and the number wasn’t supposed to be used for anything else? They don’t even bother to print that on the cards anymore. The TSA considers it to be a form of ID.

  • Sk you completely miss the point: the ID card is just the visible face of the threat… the actual threat is the government database it all feeds into which lowers the cost of repression immensely. Once it all goes through a single card into a single database, any state employee who feels like it can access your whole frigging life from the comfort of his tax funded office… Orwell without the cameras (except the cameras are there too if you step out on the street).

    Also credit cards and swimming pool cards and shopping club cards are private arrangement you make with companies and thus a non sequitur as they do not feed into state databases.

  • Phelps,

    I agree with you in general, but it is good to have a unique number for each citizen. That does put a greater public expectation on the government that it can identify people more accurately, which in theory gives it less excuses to harass law-abiding citizens by mistaking them for similarly named criminals.

  • ian

    Also credit cards and swimming pool cards and shopping club cards are private arrangement you make with companies and thus a non sequitur as they do not feed into state databases.

    not yet…

  • Glen

    I think it’s time the people of England re-read Hayek’s book “The Road to Serfdom”, take heed and start the political action needed to remove the yoke of servitude that is falling on your shoulders.

    If not, you are well and truly *%cked in a much shorter time span than you think.

    Good luck but from my vantage point in Canada. Even if you vote the bums out the country is already half way down that “slippery slope.

  • Sam Duncan

    The real threat is not the card, it’s the “joined up government” it leads to. They say “inclusion”, but they mean exclusion of anyone who doesn’t Comply.

    One sentence in the document jumped out at me, despite not being annotated by NO2ID (probably because the campaign takes no position on the EU):

    On the assumption that at some point in the future we will need to include fingerprints in the passport, we should eventually work towards a Scheme including a high proportion of fingerprint enrolment, driven by designation of the passport, once an affordable and convenient solution for enrolment has been developed. This is important as an ID card is to be used for travel within the EU.

    Aha! I knew it would be involved somewhere. I think this answers NO2ID’s question on page 5: “Who else is IPS working for?”

    The point a couple of paragraphs later about targeting 16 year olds on the DWP database is interesting too. It seems to suggest that they intend to fool youngsters into believing they’re already in the Scheme. Nice. That’ll be the open, transparent Government they keep telling us about.

  • R C Dean

    This is important as an ID card is to be used for travel within the EU.

    I should have known that the EU would eventually get back to “your papers, please.”

  • Sk

    “Sk you completely miss the point: the ID card is just the visible face of the threat… the actual threat is the government database it all feeds into which lowers the cost of repression immensely. Once it all goes through a single card into a single database, any state employee who feels like it can access your whole frigging life from the comfort of his tax funded office… ”

    Anyone-State employee or otherwise-can already do this with your publically available information on the internet. If you are really worried about this, you should be for the limitation of free access to the internet as well?

    “This is important as an ID card is to be used for travel within the EU.

    I should have known that the EU would eventually get back to “your papers, please.””

    Haven’t you always had to have a passport to travel country-to-country? Or, rather, isn’t the borderless Europe a relatively new phenomenon-bordered Europe is more the norm?

    “This is sinister because the state never rolls back, only forward.”

    This is my whole question: Forward to what?

    Sk

  • Anyone-State employee or otherwise-can already do this with your publically available information on the internet. If you are really worried about this, you should be for the limitation of free access to the internet as well?

    Except all my credit card history, banking details, travel card purchases, library card usage and medical history etc. etc. are not freely available to them on the internet, so that is a complete non sequitur.

    It pretty clear that the way they would make the ID card mandatory without technically requiring you to have one, is to make all those those businesses require your ID card before you can use them. Want a credit card? Open a bank account? Buy a train ticket? get a loan? Get a phone number? You will need an ID card and it will log each query in the central database… and I quote:

    “The NIS will also support the delivery of identity services to the private sector.”

    You would need to be pretty dense not to see where that is headed. Soon your credit card will be an add-on service to your state ID card. Next? Ban cash (it has actually been mooted before) and then NOTHING you do will not be logged on a government server.

    This is my whole question: Forward to what?

    To ever more complete regulatory control over every aspect of life.

  • Gregory

    I don’t know whether or not this is a ‘frog in slowly boiling water’ thing or not, but most Asian countries have ID laws in place – fairly strict ones, I would say. Malaysia, my home country, for instance, had these laws in place long ago. ‘Temporary, for combating Communist Insurgents’ as their catchcry 3-4 decades ago. I don’t see no commies around no more, and yet we now have the all-new, all-singing, dancing MyKad, improved with EMV Smart Chip technology!

    That damned card can carry your driver’s licence, passport details, even MEPS cash/Touch’n’Go (electronic cash, sort of)/ATM. Lose that card and you lose your life. Well, your details, anyways.

    It wasn’t mandatory, back then, but as has been mentioned, it is nigh impossible to get anything done w/o the card. Or the number, anyways. Talk about Gebertsnumero(sp?), eh?

    And yet… and yet, you don’t hear a lot of people complaining. Practically none, in fact. Like I said, maybe it’s a frog-in-slowly-boiling-water thing, but everyone’s pretty much used to the idea.

    As someone who is in the system, maybe my views can be discounted, but please bear in mind the demographics in Malaysia, OK? That being said, I don’t think you have much to be worried about. The sheer number of people, plus the amount of raw data generated, and the natural laziness of the civil servant… well.

    OK, I get that it’s the principle of the thing, plus the ‘worst-case-scenario’ or ‘imagine what they can do if’ stuff, but can libertarians also be realists and pragmatic about these matters?

    Whatever your inclinations, however, I believe one thing can be agreed on. If you want to have a good idea of how your society might turn out with implementation of this ID scheme, having a look at Malaysia/Singapore/just about every other Southeast Asian country would probably be a good start.

    Actually, and somewhat off-track, I thought this would be a good idea if carried out by a commercial enterprise committed to privacy and using technological means to secure that privacy, instead of using government’s coercive power. It would make online authentication on several websites a breeze, yet allowing you to maintain multiple pseudonymous identities. Obviously, I would like to cash in on the idea, so not giving the full details, but you and I both know these things can be made transactional and stateless in nature – online, anyway.

    Carry on.

  • Midwesterner

    Actually, and somewhat off-track, I thought this would be a good idea if carried out by a commercial enterprise committed to privacy and using technological means to secure that privacy, instead of using government’s coercive power. It would make online authentication on several websites a breeze, yet allowing you to maintain multiple pseudonymous identities.

    Agree completely. Something already occurs much along those lines with, for example, eBay. People put a great deal of investment into establishing an identity’s reputation. I don’t care how many identities a seller has, I only care how valuable of an identity the seller is putting on the line when they sell me a product.

    We clearly cannot avoid a need to be able to positively identify ourselves. But like you say, we should be able to have as many identities as we like. The biggest roadblock are the authoritarians in government who want total control of their slaves subjects. The annotated document describes how they are lacing the straitjacket.

  • David Aitken

    One other thing to remember is that if you are so inclined to encourage serious and far reaching change upon the government (i.e., lower taxes, abolition of certain agencies, etc), it may be to your disadvantage to have them know all about you.

  • Lascaille

    Gregory, what exactly is the point you’re making? “In politically repressive states we already have ID cards and…”

    The Singaporean ID card contains details of race and discrimination on the basis of race is rampant in Singapore.

    The malaysian ID card contains details of religion internally on the chip – unless you’re Muslim, in which case it’s actually written on it as well – and discrimination on the basis of religion (more specifically, on the basis of not being muslim) is rampant in Malaysia – and failure to carry the card is rewarded with a jail sentence of up to three years.

    I don’t particularly wish the UK to ever become like Singapore or Malaysia, thanks very much.

  • Sam Duncan,

    The point to note about:,

    On the assumption that at some point in the future we will need to include fingerprints in the passport, we should eventually work towards a Scheme including a high proportion of fingerprint enrolment, driven by designation of the passport, once an affordable and convenient solution for enrolment has been developed. This is important as an ID card is to be used for travel within the EU.

    Is that it actually contains an example of the information mavens in Whitehall directly adapting the existence of EU principles to buttress the argument for whay they want. What they don’t want is to produce a situation where British residents are entitled to wander backwards and forwards to neighbouring countries unmonitored, and in fact they are busy working on the destruction of the common travel area with Ireland to that end.

    Ergo, they cannot permit the creation of a national ID card that isn’t an adjunct to e-Borders surveillance, because EU law would then entitle you to travel and settle freely using it, and they would then have no excuse or capacity for exit-visa type scrutiny of citizens.

    It is quite possible that this dog-in-the-manger-attitude will sink the pre-passport phases.

  • Jason

    Gregory, Lascaille beat me to it, but just to elaborate, pointing to the success of the ID scheme in Singapore will do nothing to recommend it here. You may just as well argue that North Korea’s national ID scheme has brought tangible and demonstrable public order benefits.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve discussed the issue with Malaysian friends who have pretty much trotted out the same line, which could be cause for concern in itself (unless of course you are one and the same and using a pseudonym, in which case all I will say is yah boo sucks to Manchester Utd).

    I think though that there exist differences in people’s attitude towards authority in different parts of the world. Having lived for a short time in different countries in SE Asia, I’d certainly say there is greater deference in general than in Europe. I won’t labour the point there, but suffice to say I don’t think Dr. Mahathir would have been tolerated in the UK for more than 4 years, let alone 22. But there again, I don’t suppose he would have wanted to be here either!

  • Sam Duncan

    Good point, Guy. I hadn’t thought of it that way. There is an argument, of course, that this sort of abrogation of political responsibility, adapting EU policy to your own ends then pushing the blame on to it, is precisely what it’s for.

    David Aitken: It’s not just that. Who knows what you might feel the need to hide from a future Government? This is the best rebuttal of the “nothing to hide; nothing to fear” argument. Ten years ago, huntsmen had nothing to hide. Gun owners had little to hide. Landlords who were happy for their customers to smoke had nothing to hide.

    When a Government puts the machinery of totalitarianism in place the assurance it won’t be misused is worthless, since it isn’t binding on the next one.

  • Ken

    ” Ban cash (it has actually been mooted before)”

    A restaurant here in Nashville TN. U.S. has already done this-it was in response to a robbery/murder and done by a private business true, but?

    What is one to think-oh, and don’t ask about the business man attacked in his driveway for crack money and now wants us to pay even more ransom to the hoodlums to “keep our streets safe…”-about such?

  • Gregory

    Dear Jason and Lascaille;

    Don’t know if you’re still reading or not, but…

    1. I am a LIVERPOOL supporter and post under MY OWN NAME. So, bugger off about sockpuppetry, OK, Jason? For that matter, I might point out the difference between
    ‘Malaysian friends who have…’ and ‘… one and the same”’. Sheesh.

    2. I don’t call people sheep, but really, calling MY/SG politically repressive, while technically correct, does not begin to convey the relative freedoms enjoyed, as opposed to N. Korea, or China, for that matter. Why sheep? Well, the govts know that as long as people are economically content, they will put up with a lot of crap. I don’t personally like it, but nor do I believe that leading a bloody revolution or going to jail and meeting the Malaysian equivalents of Bubba are worth it. YMMV, but a whole lot of people agree. Don’t rock the boat is a typically Asian mindset. And I’m borderline radical, relatively speaking.

    3. There really ought to be a Godwin’s law about this. I mean, the requiring of ID immediately brings on cries of ‘OMG! Police State! Next thing you know we’re the USSR! Papers, please!’ and come on that’s ridiculous. Much less ridiculous is the fear that it becomes a slippery slope, but hey, gay marriage is not a problem either, right?

    4. The only point I wanted to make is that libertarianism as a matter of principles is great, but you have to operate in the real world, and most of the time people are just not all fired-up and gung-ho. It’s all very good to object to this and that on grounds of liberty, but you have to see realistically what would/might happen. And for the vast, vast majority, it’s not a very big deal, so how would you fire them up, which you need to do to get this done right? Case in point, illegal immigration in the USA. It was a massive grassroots support from BOTH major sides that nixed the deal. Can you get that for your ID scheme? If so, then more power to you. It’s too late for us – but somehow, I’n not feeling the pain and suffering… yet, any rate.

    5. Not to say I don’t agree that our political systems couldn’t do with a lot of reconstruction but the fact of the matter is, the population is 60% Muslim! In Malaysia, I mean. The lesser of two evils, you know?

    6. Didn’t I say that you can see what might happen to the UK by studying MY/SG? You don’t like it, well, it’s a free country. So to speak.

    I hope this clarifies matters somewhat. Am I allowed my opinions, however stupid and wrongheaded you think they are?