CARDS ON THE WAY
Today, the British Home Secretary announced his intention to
bring in a compulsory national identity card (the last scheme
was scrapped in 1952 - see BBC Online http://tinyurl.com/yvbl5).
The ID card system is to be based on biometric informationinformation
such as fingerprints, or a scan of the iris of the eye - taken
from all 60 million people living in the UK.
David Blunkett has long been trying to
introduce national ID cards (called entitlement cards
at one point), but was forced to water down his proposals last
Nov. after objections from Cabinet colleagues. But sources
say opposition to ID cards has weakened since the Madrid attacks.
The realities of the past few weeks have had a big impact,
one said. (Independent, 5 Apr. 2004, p. 1)
The war on terrorism is being
used as a justification for ID cards.
But there is no evidence that ID cards can help stop terrorism.
On 3 July 2002, Labour MP Chris Mullins asked the Home Secretary,
among other things, will he confirm that the card will
be little or no use in combating terrorism? Mr Blunkett
replied, I can say yes... Yes, I accept that it is important
that we do not pretend that an entitlement [identity] card would
be an overwhelming factor in combating international terrorism.
(House of Commons http://tinyurl.com/28okf)
Launching his plans for a compulsory ID
card, Mr Blunkett was confused: The primary reason for
having ID cards is not because we believe they will stop terrorists...
but it will make a big difference to the operation of the counter-terrorism
and security services. (Guardian, 26 Apr. 2004 http://www.guardian.co.uk/humanrights/story/0,7369,1203748,00.html)
IDENTITY CARDS DO
NOT STOP TERRORISM
The Israel-based International Policy Institute for Counter-terrorism
has drawn up a list of the 25 countries which it assessed as
having suffered most from terrorist attacks since 1986. While
the list is biased (for example, Sudan is not mentioned, despite
the US cruise missile attack in 1998), Privacy International
used the list to draw this conclusion:
cent of these countries have long-standing identity card
systems, a third of which contain a biometric such as a fingerprint.
it is impossible to claim that terrorist incidents have been
thwarted as a
result of an ID card, the above data establishes that the cards
to eliminate terrorist incidents.
AN IDIOTIC ANTI-TERRORIST
Ministers have suggested that a biometric ID system could help
in the fight against terrorism by detecting when a person is
using multiple identities; by determining whether a person is
using a false identity; by detecting those people who have a
background that is indicative of a terrorist profile; by exposing
those terrorists in the UK who have not registered.
Privacy International ('Mistaken Identity')
notes that these claims assume the following circumstances:
The target terrorists will be entitled to an identity
The target terrorists will apply for an identity card.
Target terrorists who are entitled and motivated
to apply will do so
using their true identity.
Measures will be in place to detect suspected persons
who are living in
the UK without an identity card.
Data matching systems will reveal information that relates
to a suspect.
David Winnick MP says, If the emphasis is now on terrorism,
the fact remains that in Spain identity cards are compulsory
from the age of 14 onwards. In what way did that stop the massacre
which occurred? (Times, 8 Apr. 2004, p. 12)
Mr Blunkett says, The Spanish do
[have an ID card] - but it isnt a foolproof [see next
page] biometric card with a database, with the ability to test
not only the card... but actually the person and the card they
hold. That's what will be potentially possible and this will
ensure that they can't have multiple identities. (BBC
News Online, 25 April 2004 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3656945.stm)
But Mohammed Atta, the leader of the 11
September hijackers did not use multiple identities. Nor did
the men suspected of the Madrid bombings. Their plans would
not have been hindered by biometric identity cards. Privacy
International notes that, It is possible that the existence
of a high integrity identity card would provide a measure of
improved legitimacy for these people. ('Mistaken Identity',
April 2004 http://www.privacyinternational.org/issues/idcard/uk/id-terrorism.pdf)
Compulsory ID cards in Spain did not stop
the Madrid bombings. Compulsory ID cards in Germany did not
stop the planning of the 11 September attacks by Mohammed Atta
and his associates in Hamburg.
Then there are people intent on terrorism who are using false
ID, but in ways that cannot be detected by the proposed ID card
For example, terrorists could use a tourist
visa25 million people visit Britain every year as tourists,
half of them from outside the European Economic Area. Jack Straw,
now Foreign Secretary, and formerly Home Secretary, has attacked
the ID card proposal on grounds of unworkability: There
will be large numbers of people who will be entitled to both
[employment and government services] without a card, starting
with EU nationals, who will be able to stay and work here for
three months without any official documentation... This is an
obvious loophole for illegals to exploit, given poor security
of some EU documents. (Sunday Times, 12 Oct. 2003, p.
All but one of the hijackers involved in
the US attacks entered the country on a tourist visa. (Privacy
International, Mistaken Identity)
Mr Blunkett says that In circumstances
where it was crucial to have a full identity check and there
was not an easy way to get the card the police would actually
be able to take the biometric of the individual - an iris
scan, perhaps [http://www.guardian.co.uk/humanrights/story/0,7369,1203399,00.html].
But the British biometric database could not confirm their ID
if they came from a country which did not have a biometric database,
or if that countrys database was not entirely reliable.
FOOLING BIG BROTHER
There are plenty of other ways that a determined terrorist could
evade biometric identification controls. How could the British
Government check the identity of someone from a country which
does not have a reliable biometric database? Privacy International
points out, It is a relatively
simple matter for a terrorist to assume a clean and legitimate
identity of another) person. ('Mistaken Identity' http://www.privacyinternational.org/issues/idcard/uk/id-terrorism.pdf)
Biometric data can also been forged. In
May 2002, a Japanese cryptographer, Tsutomu Matsumoto, used
superglue, a printed circuit board available in hobby shops,
and gelatine (from a sweet) to copy a fingerprint from glass
and create a false fingerprint which reliably fooled commercially-available
fingerprint readers. http://tinyurl.com/ysjlw
In the same month, German technology journalists
used a digital photo of an eye to fool a commercial iris scanner.
Mr Blunkett, biometric cards are not fool-proof.
BUILDING ON QUICKSAND
The foundation stones of the biometric ID system are going to
be the passport and the driving licence. True, these are the
two most reliable pieces of government-issued identity in Britain,
but in both cases genuine documents exist which support
false identities, points out technology journalist John
Lettice: These relatively reliable documents
are currently used to provide proof of identity in order to
obtain one another; a driving licence helps you get a passport,
a passport helps you get a driving licence, and once you've
got both you're pretty nearly real.
The currently circulating false driving
licences and false passports will somehow have to be found and
eliminated. If not, if the new scheme simply adds the biometric
data of the bearer onto an existing ID, then it will merely
strengthen existing false IDs. http://tinyurl.com/23hpm
SHOW UP AT POLICE STATIONS
On current plans, Police will only be able to demand the
card if the person is suspected of committing a crime. Similar
to driving licences, individuals will then have a number of
days to produce the ID card at a local police station.
(Observer, 11 Apr. 2004, p. 5) Will a professional terrorist
show up at a police station? Or is this scheme a waste of time?
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
ID cards do not provide security. ID cards do not stop terrorism.
They are a means of social control, of state surveillance. They
are an invasion of privacy. They strengthen police racism. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3455685.stm]
They must be defeated.
For more information and links, please
go to the JNV NO ID page
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