Thursday, December 23, 2004

Delete... delete... delete...

The Freedom Of Information Act, due to come in next month, could be one of the most significant steps towards a truly transparent government (assuming it's not got loopholes aplenty). In a way, it's like an inversed effect of ID Cards - we, the public, actually get to find out what the people who run the country are actually doing.

Interesting, then, that apparently Whitehall's shredding of official documents has been "drastically stepped up" of late. E-mails are also being deleted in droves.

Now, I could stoop so low as to cite the liberally-sprinkled (as in "spread freely", not "spread by liberals") phrase, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" in order to bring attention to the eyebrow-raising activities behind parliament's doors, but naturally that would be crass and probably somewhat hypocritical.

Alas, we may not ever get to see what many of those documents contained (assuming they've destroyed e-mail back-ups too), but hey, it's good to know all those faceless ones behind close doors are getting a bit jumpy. Got to keep them on their toes, eh?

[More information of the Freedom of Information Act]

Monday, December 20, 2004

Charles Clarke is an arse

Arrgh! Charles Clarke is an arse! From his commentary in the Times today:

"ID cards will potentially make a difference to any area of everyday life where you already have to prove your identity — such as opening a bank account, going abroad on holiday, claiming a benefit, buying goods on credit and renting a video."

So once they have in place a system to record every transaction your ID card is used for, they're quite eager to push it out to every single aspect of life? How is that not an Orwellian state? Oh wait, I have to hide this blog entry while the Police Helicopter buzzes overhead (fortunately the CCTV cameras only scan the street outside). OK, continue...

"I claim that the ID Cards Bill that I am introducing today is a profoundly civil libertarian measure because it promotes the most fundamental civil liberty in our society, which is the right to live free from crime and fear."

OK, someone please explain to me how having an ID card will prevent the people down the road jumping on cars, spraypainting every wall in sight and smashing shop windows. I'm really confused.

Clarke is an arse!
Clarke is an arse!
Clarke is an arse!

Shields up

10pm this evening sees the ID Bill getting its second reading, and "only around 30 Labour MPs are expected to vote against the government". Des Browne speaking on "Today" (listen via BBC) apparently dismisses critics' worries about the system - worries such as those I put to my MP. Dismissal of argument seems to be a common tactic these days, and one that continues to make me even less inclined to trust the "democracy" that runs our lives. Mark Oaten also persists with the somewhat-ancient and mostly-debunked 80% figure in favour of the scheme, despite his adversity. Ho hum.

As expected after the storm, all eyes are off the subject, with even the Register allocating more space to Blunkett's comeback than to the secretness of the ID System's effect on Human Rights (see original Guardian article).

Yup, we are about to enter an age when the government (a small 'g', until such time when I trust it with a capital again) have more non-transparent control over us than probably ever before - a direct result of the ubiquitous nature of technology, and the readiness of a nation's majority to "think" purely of themselves. If ever there was a year of the Sheeple, 2005 is it.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

It's all falling down

BBC News

In Summary, one of the security cleared lawyers arguing for the suspects has resigned as a protest against the law.

"My role has been altered to provide a false legitimacy to indefinite detention without knowledge of the accusations being made and without any kind of criminal charge or trial," he said.

The terrorism law is beginning to resemble a house of cards. Let's have a quick puff, eh?

CCW

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Taken from BBC News

The former UN commissioner for human rights and Irish president told Radio 4's Today the government's response would be scrutinised internationally.

"It would be very troubling if the government did not accept the judgement and then work within it," she said.


She went on to say that the suspects may be due damages if the Government fails to act promptly and within the line of the judgement. Well, that's raised the stakes hasn't it?

CCW

Friday, December 17, 2004

Fine to be rowdy.

Another instance of how the "serious" thinking amongst the struggling elite is paling into insignificance compared to the mighty will of Social Cohesion:

Drunken revellers face 80 quid fines

Obviously this has nothing to do with our nation's dependency on alcohol or low self esteem. No. OK, I understand that short-term measures may be taken for short-term fixes (such as the Christmas period), but dear Home Office, couldn't you please look at the serious causes of problems in this country, rather than merely upping the ante for those who do offend, just like you're upping the fines for rowdy drunken misbehaviour next week?

Here's the naked truth: in a generation so far removed from politics, morals are dictated all the more by the social norm - a norm that the government no longer controls. In other words, the link between government policy and national behaviour has been severed, a state that will continue to worsen as long as we truly believe that increased punishment an effective solution. The primary chord between the elected and the electorate is fast becoming the flashing lights and flourescent jackets of the police force, simply because we have no idea how to teach people what it is to be kind. By the time our grandchildren arrive, our schools will be nothing but prisons, and our high streets under armed guard.

This is the future so long as we carry on being afraid.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Regarding the Lords of Appeal Decision

This got long. Oh well, it's comprehensive.

I'm just reading the detailed report produced by the Lords of Appeal in reference to the Foreign Nationals detained indefinately without charge. It is comprehensive, and references a large number of other cases both domestic and foreign in both national and international law.

The case hinges around section 5 of the Human Rights Act. Section 5 is "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:(f) the lawful arrest or detention of ….. a person against whom action is being taken with a view to deportation …..”"

Such detention is of indefinate duration while deportation proceedings are being carried out. Now section 3 of the same act prohibits "Torture or Inhumane Treatment" and is interpretted as being applicable to prevent deportantion of an individual to a regime where such practises are widely used.

However the indefinate detention of section 5 while deportation is attempted may not be used in conjunction with section 3 where the deportation process is halted to produce indefinate detention of an individual who the Home Secretary wishes to deport but can't. This was the ruling from 1996.

The Terrorism Bill worked by removing (derogating) the UK from several of the terms of the Human Rights Act specifically section 5, regarding detention, removing the requirement, and allowing indefinate detention. However, it is not true indefinate detention because this derogation is only allowed in emergency circumstances, and for as long as the emergency lasts. It requires a "public emergency threatening the life of the nation", as defined by the Greek case.

“153. Such a public emergency may then be seen to have, in
particular, the following characteristics:
(1) It must be actual or imminent.
(2) Its effects must involve the whole nation.
(3) The continuance of the organised life of the community
must be threatened.
(4) The crisis or danger must be exceptional, in that the
normal measures or restrictions, permitted by the
Convention for the maintenance of public safety, health
and order, are plainly inadequate.”

The accused claimed that no public emergency exists, and as such the derogation is not applicable. Paragraph 20 is the lynchpin of the case, if you wish to read it in full.

"20. [...] they argued that there had been no public emergency threatening the life of the British nation, for three main reasons: if the emergency was not (as in all the decided cases) actual, it must be shown to be imminent, which could not be shown here; the emergency must be of a temporary nature, which again could not be shown here; and the practice of other states, none of which had derogated from the European Convention, strongly suggested that there was no public emergency calling for derogation. [...]."

They quoted various government ministers to the extent that there is no specific threat to the United Kingdom. In addition the Council of Europe has declared that it's members should not derogate because there is no emergency that requires it.

The Attorney General refuted these points, claiming that the UK did not have to wait for a threat to take action against it given that Al-Qaeda were issueing threats to the UK, felt that an artificial limit to the emergancy would be unnacceptable and noted that the Irish emergency went on for many years. "Little help, it was suggested, could be gained by looking at the practice of other states."

"Insofar as any difference of practice as between the United Kingdom and other Council of Europe members called for justification, it could be found in this country’s prominent role as an enemy of Al-Qaeda and an ally of the United States."

So the government is admitting that our actions as an ally of the US have led to us becoming a target. I'm sure I heard a minister refuting this at some point in the past on some debate or other. I'll look it up later.

"Secondly, he submitted that the judgment on this question [State of Emergency] was pre-eminently one within the discretionary area of judgment reserved to the Secretary of State and his colleagues, exercising their judgment with the benefit of official advice, and to Parliament."

Which is a polite way of saying that the government does not recognise the legitimacy of this court on this issue. Now where have I heard that before?

LORD BINGHAM OF CORNHILL felt that SIAC were perfectly correct to declare a state of emergency given that they had greater access to intelligence, that from the evidence he had there was a state of emergency and that the courts should in most cases give great weight to the views of politicians who make these decisions. However, he still found in favour of the appeal.

Curiously his deliberations take up 48 pages of the 102 page document, probably because his judgement was first and had to define terms I have only read the first 28 pages or so and then decided to skip to the next Lord. The last judgement, by comparison, is a single paragraph.

The second Lord (LORD NICHOLLS OF BIRKENHEAD) felt that the weakness in the governments case revolved around the differential treatment given to non-nationals as against nationals. Specifically that nations could not be subject to detention indefinately without trial, given the number of British Citizens held abroad as terror suspects.

The third Lord (LORD HOFFMANN) decided that the threat did not threaten the life of the nation, that this country has survived Hitler and could take a little loss of life without problem. "Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda." He accepted a weaker country may need to react differently to the same threat. WTF? He declined to comment on the idea that only targetting foreign nationals was illegal because he didn't want the government to extend that power to everyone instead.

LORD HOPE OF CRAIGHEAD agreed with Lord Bingham on all points. LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE likewise concurred.

LORD RODGER OF EARLSFERRY pointed out that the Home Secretary, in targetting only foreign nationals, was satisfied that the British Security were adequate for preventing British equivelents from carrying out terrorist activities, and why could they not handle the foreign nationals with the same powers? He agreed with the first lord.

LORD WALKER OF GESTINGTHORPE ("Whether or not patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, national security can be the last refuge of the tyrant.") is the Lord who was moved to dismiss the appeals, treating the limited number of detainees as evidence of discretion on the part of the Home Secretary not, as Liberty had claimed, that there was no emergency of a scale that warrented these powers. He accepted that SIAC were righ to declare an emergency.

BARONESS HALE OF RICHMOND (the only women on the panel) agreed in full with the opinions of the other agreeing Lords and focused more on the discimination aspect of the case.

LORD CARSWELL gave a one paragraph answer in agreement with the other Lords. I will not comment further since writing a paragraph longer than his would be silly in the extreme.

CCW

Yay, I'm not a fairy!

Charles presses on with ID Cards, but admits he "certainly don't consider civil liberties as airy-fairy ... [they are] very important and fundamental."

Ooh, gives me a warm, fluffy feeling inside. Especially when he also mentions that "how the scheme [is] executed [will be] a matter of debate." Too right. Let's open this thing up wide.

Also BBC coverage.

Terror detainees win Lords appeal

For those wanting to chase Blunkett out the door, the BBC has comprehensive coverage.

In the meantime, there are more important, and just as (if not more) exciting things happening elsewhere - Law Lords have ruled that detaining foreign terrorism suspects without trial breaks human rights laws, by an eight to one majority. This isn't some controversial, in-the-balance issue - this is near-unanimous. This is a huge torpedo through the hulls of the Home Office's fear-run strategy.

Does the tide really change so quickly? How far does it go?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

This blog *is* inaptly named.

Blunkett quits.

TBH, I'm quite stunned. Many people, me included, weren't expecting that in the least. Looks like Charles Clarke is rumoured to replace him.

I must say, I'm not overly pleased. While, on the one hand I'm not the greatest supporter of Mr Blunkett and his policies (as you may have guessed), I would have much preferred to see him go as a result of arguments over his direction and structure of these policies, rather than a tabloid-fought smear campaign around his alleged misdemeanours. Abuse of power they may perhaps be, but his arrogance - the same arrogance that secured his fall - also served as a rallying point against the ID scheme, against ASBOs, and against everything else the Home Office cooks up. These schemes I doubt will go away, and will press on despite the upset in leadership. If anything, the furore has and will continue to detract from the more important (again, IMHO) issues we face.

The workings of government, and in particular the HO, can appear mysterious, shadowy, dubious and full of wonder to a public onlooker such as myself. I remain curious as to how this will affect the government's approach over the next few weeks - will the ID Bill be sneaked through while eyes are averted, or puton hold and re-assessed under new speculation?

The issue of this site's name is also to be considered, but all in good time. All in good time.

Update: The Beeb has his resignation speech in full. While I am inclined to semi-believe his claims that he did nothing wrong, I'm also intently aware of the "art of implying" that seems to permeate many hierarchies - governmental and corporate alike - whereby intent can be assumed from one person to another, or from one level to another. Just as my girlfriend knows what Christmas presents I will like without me saying anything, so we face such inference amongst the ranks of the controlling forces. Maybe it is no longer good enough to find evidence to prove something is true. Bear this in mind when reading DB's speech.

He's gone. What next?

He has quit now. Same link as Scribe's post below.

But it is still a well named Blog. Publishing a biography critising your collegues while still in office is not exactly a sensible move. It sours the water even if things are going well. With various allegations flying around it's suicidal.

We need to watch the news carefully to see what happens to the various policies he supported, particularly the terrorism bills and ID cards.

CCW

This blog soon to be inaptly named?

WTF? Blunkett is expected to resign.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Killer Kites

The Reg has a good article about stats recently reported by DB (theyworkforyou.com links here and here) on the use of anti-terrorist laws against "armed anarchists" at RAF Fairford in 2003 - the willingness of the Home Office to use these laws this much should highlight just how stringent (or not) the labelling of "terrorism" by the Government really is.

Apparently "2,254 stop-searches had been conducted" in the vicinity of Fairford from 6 March to 27 April 2003, and "...police took items from 28 people as a result of searches that were conducted under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. These included a kite, white powder, controlled drugs, cameras and camera equipment, and a scanner." Blunkett also backs down on his old claims that "cudgels and swords" were seized.

Meanwhile the Tories are in favour of ID Cards, even if they're not completely convinced at all, internally...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Michael Howardbacks ID cards

Oh Dear. I started this morning with an uplifting piece, tucked away on page 21 (so really important then) of The Times, that the chairman-elect of the Bar opposes ID cards and trials without jury.

"Government plans for ID cards and trials without jury will play into the hands of extremists, the chairman-elect of the Bar has warned." - The Times

Later on I was brought back down to earth by the news that the Tories now formally support ID cards. Or, to be more presise, Michael Howard supports ID cards and has organised a three-line whip. BBC News

CCW

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The great awakening

(Oops. This turned into a rant...)

The Reg reports on a survey from think tank "Reform" that "claims 81 per cent of the British public favour the introduction of compulsory ID cards, with 29 per cent thinking it would be a very good idea, and 52 per cent a good idea." More detailed stats in the article, or possibly in the survey itself, although the site seems inaccessible at the moment.

The Reg puts this imbalance down, mainly, to an uninformed public - a feasible attribution, IMHO (and plausibly a result of a "marketing-led society" in which quantity counts while facts are discarded). Much of it also ties in with the fact that for many, politics just isn't an interest. Unfortunately, as has been proved over the last few years, electorate apathy does lead to things the electorate really don't want, which is all the more reason to think that when the government quote statistics such as these, what they actually mean is "80% of people really don't care, so we're going to do it".

This is the problem we face - our supposed democracy is based on numbers, but the numbers we're using just don't add up, or justify the system. As we keep seeing, in order to influence the system, we must influence the numbers - a nigh-on impossible task when the biggest broadcast systems are mostly out-of-reach except for established media and political channels. Even more difficult when the numbers cited by those behind plans can pick and choose poll results selectively. Why? Again, because no-one really cares.

Admittedly, that's not the end of the story. There's always influence from the minority, for instance. But what's broken is the justification loop - the feedback from those making the final decisions to those who are interested enough to find out the relevant information. In other words, the Government is actively discouraging the people it should be seeking to encourage, by pushing stats obtained from the apathetic onto the interested, in order to avoid real discussion and real participation. It's no wonder that people have lost interest when all they get if they do become interested is one big shake of the head.

Be prepared. Some day the population may wake up to what our Government are doing, under the guise of "their backing". It's not enough to march for a day, banging drums once something's gone away from your liking and out of your control - we need daily active participation, and a way to make the decisions for the future to be relevant today. Until then, the Government can pretty much stomp whatever legislation they want all over us, including - alas - a nationwide tracking system. And all those with "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" will wonder what the hell they were doing.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Bad news is still news.

The hullaballo around Blunketty drags on apace, and while I still refuse to lower myself to the witch-burning spectacles devoured by so much of the media, it does seem to be reaching such fervour that I am now wondering how the whole shenanigans affects the limping plight of the ID Cards Bill.

Think of it this way, for instance. Blunkett, as the head spokesperson for the scheme, also represents to some extent the "human" side of it - that is to say, in order for people to trust the system, they must trust the people pushing for the system. In his role as Home Secretary, the Blunketty one must therefore come across as 2 things, most of all: 1) firm, but also 2) trustworthy. These aspects represent the yin and the yang of the Home Office's relation with the people, a cause and effect amplified greatly by the fickleness of the tabloid-reading masses.*

But now, this moral upstanding is challenged, and doesn't seem to be going away as quickly as anyone might have hoped (Blunkett for obvious reasons, the media who want to get back to the next reality TV series, and me because it's clouding the whole ID thing and really is quite boring). The questions on my lips are: Are the public so fickle as to equate the failings of our Dave with the trustworthiness of the ID system, or indeed politics in general (which already suffers a fair amount of suspicion anyway, despite what Blunkett would decry)? And is the ubiquity of same Dave within the news a real threat to the publicity of the various pro- and anti-ID Card movements?

Bear in mind that, as the government are so eager to push the Bill through the Houses as quickly as possible, with as little scrupulous inspection as possible, the most likely way the Bill is going to get repealed is through a large amount of public pressure. The ability to get people interested in the issue will depend partly on if they are sick of hearing about the same people on a daily basis. Or, at least, their initial reception to the matter may depend on this to some extent, which counts for a fair bit.

So, I like to see this circus as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the amount of column inches being generated may serve to divert attention away from the bigger, longer-term efforts that Mr B is involved in (although not necessarily the sole dependency in), and obscure the nation's lust for morals. On the other hand, it may be that given the right opportunity, whichever outcome we see can be turned to an advantage. For instance, it may be easier to attract attention to the other efforts of David in the wake and lull of any further enquiries, and to the further "transgressions" offered in the name of humanity. Or if, somehow, the Secretary does (astoundingly) offer his resignation, then perhaps it makes it all the easier to draw some light on the projects he is currently "overseeing" (at least media-wise).

The lesson here is not that we should be baying for Blunkett's blood, or even that we should be ignoring the ongoing furore completely. It is that we should realise the spotlights are focused on our corner, and that even the media can be manipulated to our advantage if done right. It's an ill wind, but it may yet turn out to be blowing the right way.


* The amount of apathy within the general population towards DB at this point is, of course, questionable. One suspects that the media and the politicians alike will do anything to make politics more interesting.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Business' Point of View

ID cards will hit business, watchdog warns, with some excellent generic quotes:

"The first question we ask when assessing the quality of regulatory proposals is 'what is the objective of the legislation?' Well, the objective of the ID cards is still not clear. It appears to have four or five different ones. And where the scope or intention of the legislation is not clear, then regulatory creep is likely to follow."

Also, why voluntary may mean compulsory - rest assured that there are probably plenty of other situations where the (voluntary) NIR will introduce "unvoidable iplementations" nuder the guise of efficiency and/or security.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hi

A swift welcome to London News Review readers. If you were misled by the blog's name, and were expecting a picture of David Blunkett's face pasted onto a large person's naked bottom, then I apologise - there's none of that smut here. Yet.

If, on the other hand, you're interested in reading about what an ID scheme in the UK may or may not mean to you (seeing as you'll be forced into it eventually), and what you stand to gain or lose for your 15 30 however-many pounds then please, read on...

Reg round-up

Looks like the government are trying to rustle up some more "authoritative" statistics on the public opinion of ID Cards, through the usual under-informedmarketing ploys, and misleading questions such as "Do you welcome plans to tackle organised crime, illegal immigration, benefit fraud and national security through the introduction of ID cards?". Anyone with more info on the rest of the questions sent out, please let me know... (No clues as to how they selected the questionnaire recipients, either...)

Meanwhile, a united front is being adopted by the HO, with Des Browne seemingly giving exactly the same points as Mr Blunkett made a few weeks ago, in particular the stand in opinion that ID Cards are not meant as a "panacea" for terrorism, and they never said they were.

Also worth a read are reports on various government IT systems falling over, and the readers' letters on the same subject. Here's hoping they learn their lesson - don't fancy being denied urgent NHS treatment because the "computer's gone down"...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A matter of perspective

You heard it here first... [David Blunkett's] spokesman added: 'Our view is that people are innocent until proved guilty, not the other way around. Which is why the vast majority of the population - those who genuinely don't have anything to fear - will soon be formally treated as suspect, with their innocence to be prove. Furthermore, once cards are compulsory, you will be guilty if you don't have the means to prove it, regardless of if you're actually a danger or not.

Personally, I trust Mr Blunkett about as much as he trusts me.

Identity Cards Bill - First Impressions

I've spent the evening reading through the ID Cards Bill and taking some notes, but haven't the energy to write them up or take it all in properly just yet.

Overall impressions of the Bill are that my fears are grounded in reality. The Bill makes many, many provisions for access to the Register's information by those in power, and there don't seem to be many (if any) specifications as to what level of access is acceptable and what's not. The closest it gets to making the government accountable is a mention of the Intelligence Service Commisioner (section 26) who will be responsible for reviewing how the intelligence services are using the Register, but in extremely scant detail. Given that the individual is not told when one of these services requests and gets their information, and that the NIS Commissioner's reports can be freely censored in the name of national security, I have no faith at all in just what my information is really being used for.

In addition to all this, there are also a hell of a lot of uses of the phrase "The Secretary of State may...", giving the whole thing a definite air of the open-ended, top-down legislation I've come to expect. There really is very little in the way of ensuring efficient data flow while encouraging me to trust the government.

Hopefully some time over the next few days I can produce something with the main points, and maybe a bit of analysis.

In the meantime, an important (and relatively straight-forward) bit of reading is Schedule 1 - Information that may be recorded in the Register. While it may allay some fears that things such as religion, marital status, et al would be tracked directly under a scheme, it also makes it clear that this is very much a ID-encapsulation scheme, providing facilities to link to any other piece of identifying documentation.

There also seems to be some extra means to gather information about that documentation, e.g. "the date of expiry or period of validity of a document" as recorded in Section 4.

Much of it is also to do with the history of your ID details - when things were changed, when details were checked, etc. Plus there's the curious "password" field, that I thought we were perhaps supposed to do away with once we had new-age bio-technology. Apparently not...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Column inches

Is it just me that gets slightly depressed to see Blunkett's alleged-perk-slipping intricacies generating numerous more front-page headlines than the steamrolling progress of our new identification system?

Maybe getting more politicians into the Big Brother house would be a good idea after all... ;)

Publication a-gogo!

Well, the Identity Cards Bill is out - you can download it here (along with explanatory notes too).

PublicTechnology.net has the "press release", for want of a better name. It also has a bunch of quotes from the Home Office including the following changes, as a result of feedback (with my comments in non-bold):


  • to extend the remit of the National Identity Scheme Commissioner to cover oversight of the whole scheme, not just issues relating to provision of information from the Register

  • to remove the bar to an individual's information contained in the access records of the Register being made available to that registered individual

    Which sounds good... although the wording seems quite specific, and I intend to check what information being stored elsewhere about me I still won't have access to.

  • to extend the prohibition on requirements to produce identity cards for services so that neither production of an ID card nor a check would be lawful before Parliament agreed the necessary regulations. The absolute prohibition on making it compulsory to carry a card at all times remains

    Hang on, give me a moment to decipher that one... Basically, there are now less scenarios where it would be legal to demand an ID check, at least before the government have decided it would be ok. Will check under what scenarios such a check is still ok, though. Oh, and you won't have to carry a card all the time.

  • to amend the false documents offence in the Bill so that it does not include those who knowingly use false documentation to enter the UK to apply for asylum.

    The meaning of this depends on what the "false documents offence" entails... Looks like it's time to do some bedtime reading.



More to come...

Monday, November 29, 2004

An example, exploded.

Blair presses case for ID cards: "They will help protect civil liberties, not erode them, because people will be able to produce their own identification."

This really highlights the inverted state we find ourselves arrived at, in our modern reminiscence for panoptic panacea - ID Cards are a libertarian boon, as they represent a technically-certified method to prove that we are are who we say we are.

On the surface, this is maybe a plausible pro for the scheme. But if we stop and think a moment, and flip it on its head, we see the true, slithering nature of it. Ask yourself this: If you've done nothing wrong, why should you have to prove it?

This is an important point in the debate, and one we must constantly remind ourselves of. Under an ID scheme, we are no longer considered innocent, until proven guilty. Under the new regime, we are constantly considered suspect, unless we can somehow prove otherwise. Proof, in this case, comes from the biometric labs, but is refracted through a hundred layers of kaleidoscopic government layers.

The key thing, the tour de force, is that having an ID card would only be beneficial to your civil liberties under an ID scheme. And up until the point of display, you effectively have no right to be trusted by the government - that aging hierarchy put in place for our benefit, remember. You are to be eyed suspiciously, watched from afar and treated with brutish apathy. Under an ID scheme, your ability to be free is no longer inherent in your existence as a human being, but coupled savagely with a piece of plastic and the myriad tables of data deep within government storage.

Who do you trust? Who trusts you?

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Media Appearances

Catching up with some of Dave's recent appearances on TV and radio...

Spy Blog has a transcript of Blunkett with Jonathan Dimbleby from November 21st, in 4 main sections.

On the 25th (last Thursday), Blunkett also popped up on Radio 4's Today programme. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age, you can download it as an audio file. (4.9MB, Mono Ogg Vorbis format)

Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Is the UK safer under Labour?"...

... asks the BBC in response to Peter Hain's comments. Bearing in mind that the comments "reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far", but also that such commenting is self-selecting, it's kind of impressive to note that - currently - the comments are about 17-to-1 decidely opposed to ID Cards and the UK foreign policy.

Remember to ask yourself, what is security? If I threaten to attack you unless you "pay" me 50 quid, and you hand it over, does that then make you more secure? (Hey, it works for the Mafia in all them films...)

Are we more secure just by building ever larger walls around ourselves, whilst letting our attitude towards the rest of the world continue to be one of imperialist aggression?

My Return to the Madhouse

Honestly, I go away for a couple of days, the Queen does some yadda yadda, and all Hell breaks loose. Can't I leave you lot alone for just a little while?

Anyway, to keep up to date, a quick scan throws up this equally-quick summary:



I also notice that Liberty have noticed that Labor have a page to add your support for ID Cards. But why bother, if they know they're going to do it anyway and damn the rest of you? I also like the way they want to get the Tories backing the card, but keep them way out of power. Keep your friends close...

Friday, November 19, 2004

Fear and loyalty.

A couple of BBC articles to note...

Following Blunkett's concern over supermarket loyalty cards, there's a more in-depth follow-up on just how much they do invade our privacy. While they note that they currently only target particular demographics on a broad basis (e.g. "women aged 20 to 30"), I see no reason why, given cheap enough technology, they wouldn't extend this to target individuals. With the right blend of time and motivation, this isn't so unfeasible. But see previous posts as to why loyalty cards are different to ID cards.

Secondly, Charles Kennedy is kicking back against terrorism as an excuse. Good for him, although the image caption leaves the details out, I notice. Turns out it's actually quite easy to frighten people into doing whatever you want them to do, once they're completely dependent on you for how they live.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Blunkett concerned about loyalty cards

Interesting, Blunky's comparing ID cards to supermarket loyalty cards, the big fat BBC quote being: "It is a really good opportunity to start debating what is know [sic] about us, by whom, who supervises it and how we can get a grip on it"

Start debating? Maybe if he hadn't been so eager to chase down terrorists and immigrants, he would have noticed that these kind of discussions have been going on for years. Maybe if he hadn't simply swept the arguments aside in favour of promoting his own top-down, proud decision-making abilities, then we could have broached the subject of privacy, the state and liberty together with the government, from the start.

And for the record, the answers to the Spot the Difference competition, between Nectar cards and proposed ID cards were:

  1. I'm not forced to have a Nectar card (and, indeed, don't).

  2. I don't have to pay for a Nectar card

  3. I can stop using it whenever I like (if I had one)

  4. There's no inherent coupling between the card and a person (I believe - comment if wrong). I can give my card to someone else, who can "attach" their shopping behaviour to it.

  5. Sainsbury's, Vodafone, et al, aren't in a position to decide my fundamental freedoms based on the card. Admittedly they could attempt to spot "unusual" behaviour based on data associated with the card, and perhaps restrict my ability to shop at their shops based on it, but a). that's not good business for them, b). I can always shop elsewhere.



Yes, let's have this privacy debate, here and now. Open the doors, and hey - why not put the whole IDatabase on hold while we're at it, huh?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Blunkett Whispers...

A bit of a side issue today, although vaguely related to Blunkett. As you may be aware the media have been announcing Blunkett's new plans for policing reform. As an example see here at BBC News or here at the Observer.

BBC News states quite clearly "People could be given the mobile phone number of their local bobby under an overhaul of policing in England and Wales unveiled by David Blunkett."

Now this sounds like a bloody stupid idea, possibly one of Blunkett's worst yet. The potential for abuse is enourmous, in distracting the local officer by calling them or sending them on a wild goose chase while your mate burgles somewhere.

So I downloaded the three consultation documents and did a search for "mobile". In the two smaller documents - nothing. In the bigger document a few instances of mobile criminals, and mobile communities, and one instance of Police doing their beaurocratic paperwork with mobile technology to save returning to the station. So I checked the press release. Instances of "mobile" are strangley absent there too.

So I repeated the search with the word "phone". A few things relating to the new non-emergency number "311", otherwise nothing.

So, where does this story come from. It certainly doesn't seem to come from Blunkett (for which we must be grateful since the idea is totally daft). It seems to be entirely an invention of the media. They appear to have managed to confuse the new "311" non-emergency number with the mobile numbers of officers on the beat.

Inspires great confidence in the media doesn't it?

CCW

Petition Time

Quick, you've only got 10 days left to add your name to the NO2ID on-line petition against UK ID cards. Normally I'm sceptical of the impact of petitions (and am somewhat in this case), but if NO2ID's latest newsletter is correct, "Cabinet Office rules mean that e-petitions with more than 300 signatures are listed on the Number 10 site, along with a Government response." i.e. there will have to be at least some minimal amount of feedback on the issue.

Hopefully I'll chase this up, but I can't (currently) find any up to date info on this on the Cabinet Office site, even with a search. That may be just me being lazy. Anyway, spread the petition link to friends and enemies alike.


Also, Phil Booth of NO2ID will be speaking at the Cowley Club in Brighton, this Thursday the 11th from 6 to 8pm. It's on London Road, and here's a map.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

ASBOs in the eye of the beholders

Recommended reading for Mr Blunkett: The BBC asks readers, "Do anti-social behaviour orders work?" and, for once, gets a pretty consistent stretch of answers...

Update: Also worth checking out is the Q & A session with Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty. She deals quite calmly and sensibly with some of the issues and opinions for and against ASBOs, for example:

"My family has suffered for 18 months from young youths who have threatened to damage my property and shout verbal abuse. I believe that more power should be given to the police and courts. Do you agree? (Keith Bennett)

"When there are serious problems of crime and what’s now being called anti-social behaviour, the easiest thing for a Home Secretary to do is to say, I’m going to tackle this by creating more powers by legislating again and that is why we’ve had 30 criminal justice Bills in the last 10 years.

I’m afraid that the tough truth is that more and more criminal offences, wider and wider police powers do not in themselves solve deep-seated problems of crime and anti-social behaviour. You can solve perhaps a bit more by having more financial resources to put into policing and also to put into tackling the causes of crime, like high unemployment in certain areas, drug addiction, poor housing and so on. But just legislating is the cheapest thing in the world, the easiest thing in the world and it doesn’t necessarily always do any real good.
"

New 'yob' targets to be unveiled

According to the BBC, the Home Office is pressing forwards with its widespread, "tough-on-crime, tough-on-10-year-old-kids" ASBO plans around the country, bringing in specialised experts as promised.

But do they really work at all? Or are we just trying to get our population to behave through heavy-handed threat of incarceration and violence?

Minister Hazel Blears also revealed this week that "about a third" of Asbos were breached - with some people jailed and others not. (And how come this appears as the last 2 lines in the BBC article? Aren't statistics like this important any more?)

BBC Magazine highlight some of the more original uses for ASBOs so far, confirming the question: Are we merely using draconian legal measures to replace our lack of social cohesion and our ability to raise the next generation sensibly?

Or, to put it another way, are we now so isolated from each other that our only recourse is a political+enforcement one? Are we no longer in a position to recognise, deal with and prevent the very real problems arising directly around us? If so, why not? If the factors that traditionally stop us from tearing each other apart are failing, what's to say that ASBOs are a decent, long-term solution?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What do *you* think?

According to their press release, the Home Office have issued a couple of documents today, including their response to the HAC (40 pages), and a Summary of Consultation Findings (104 pages).

The Summary of Findings looks interesting. I note initially that while the government are quick to tout the popularity of the old "Entitlement Cards" as a solid backing for progressing with a scheme ("The purpose of the consultation exercise was to elicit views on the draft legislation, rather than on the principle of introducing identity cards, which has already been shown to have widespread public support."), they note that the consultation itself should be viewed from a much more skewed viewpoint:

"It is worth bearing in mind that responses to consultation exercises are by definition self-selecting rather than representative. People tend to be motivated to write in because they are opposed to the proposals under consultation."

This may be worth bearing in mind when the consultation figures seem to conflict with recent research. Compare:

Consultation Responses

Opposed: 48%
In favour: 31%
Supportive in principle, with reservations: 8%
Neutral: 13%

General Correspondence received during the consultation period

Opposed: 21%
In favour: 31%
Neutral: 48%

Hmm, hardly an overwhelming majority in favour, I'd say...

I've yet to go into further detail about the document, but it seems that the general public are often as confused as the government over exactly what ID cards are for, although the consultation hints that really, it's for everything it could possibly be for.

I encourage all to read.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Shields up

Blunketty Goodness is to respond to the Home Affairs Committee report on ID Cards, tomorrow. Will we get more details on the proposal? Will Dave and Tony have figured out just what the whole thing is for yet? Who knows, but the Register put together an incisive preview of the whole thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The making of the terror myth

The Guardian are giving some coverage to the upcoming BBC2 documentary, The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. Made by the guy behind "The Century of the Self", this 3-parter looks at the web spun by politics and media alike around that "war" on terror thing that seems to be all the rage right now. It promises to take the various concepts sold to us such as dirty bombs and Al-Quaeda, and actually go so far as to -gasp- doubt their effectiveness and even their existence. Appalling statistics that many of us are already aware of will help watchers to further question the endless stream of "facts" that we get presented with every day.

Let's just hope it gets picked up on more than "Century of the Self" did...

Update: Gah, did I really forget to add the time it was on? OK, Wednesday, 9pm, BBC2. There.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Who am I?

The Register lays the smackdown on our favourite Blonkett's recent speech at the Labour Conference. Read to the bottom of the article to gain wondrous insight into just what joy the card scheme can bring into your life. Mmmm... "to promote our citizenship, to value the fact that ... taking on citizenship is a tremendous step as part of our mutuality, as communities and a nation."

That's why I feel so despondent about the UK then - it's all because I don't have a card so I have no idea who I am. yeah, that'll be it.

I may read through his speech once I have a nice, calming cup of tea in hand. Such drastic measures must be taken these days, in order to avoid being eternally irritated by the endless spewstreams of drivel being forced upon me by the Home Office. Still, venting it constrictively into the various HO consultations might help.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Are *you* funding terror?

Three more arrested for planning to fund terrorism, with the police (I assume) alleging that they ... "entered into, or became concerned in, an arrangement as a result of which money or other property was made available, or was to be made available to another, and knew or had reasonable cause to suspect, that it will or may be used for the purposes of terrorism."

Now, I'd not read that before. But it seems like you could arrest a lot of people based on this, especially considering that the public have been alerted to the fact that buying pirated films funds terrorism - can I demand that those buying dodgy DVDs at a local market be carted off and orange-suited?

Furthermore, given that terrorists seem to have a penchant for e-mail scams, it makes sense then that they also indulge in the lucrative sale of items via spam e-mail. I therefore have reason to suspect that anyone falling prey and purchasing a few boxes of Viagra surreptitously is probably doing their bit to make the world a more dangerous place. Lock em up!

Alas, neither Gordorn Brown nor the treasury itself provides ready lists of likely funding sources, so it may take a little research before I can be sure that I'm only spending my money at fully-Govt-certified non-terrorist-lovin' outlets. Thankfully my paranoia has increased (or, perhaps, been cultivated) to the point where I can now wholeheartedly gaze suspiciously at those that have most to gain from anti-terrorist measures, and prevent myself from passing financial resources in their direction, just in case.

After all, in this dark, dark day and age, all suspicion is reasonable.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Not got a passport? That'll be £270, please

Once again, a little something from the Home Office that looks at first glance to be reasonable, then turns nasty under closer scutiny.

Consultation launched on immigration fee increases is a recent press release (8th Sept 2004). At first glance it all looks, well, beaurocratic and largely insignificant.

The idea, as stated in the introduction, is that a fee should be charged to immigrants coming here to work, most of the fees being paid by the company that hires them. Apparently this is already in effect because the document talks about raising the fee, rather than introducing it. So far, so beaurocratic.

Item Four: "Travel document fees for those who cannot get or use a passport from their own country could range from £25 to £270 depending on which type of document is applied for."

This item appears to a new fee. Now ask yourself, what sort of person could not get a passport from their home country? Refugees, maybe? Persecuted minorities, perhaps?

Combine this with the comments from the Mr Browne, quoted:
"The Government is also consulting on proposals to:
[snip]
Introduce separate travel documents for children who have been granted refugee status."

Two questions to the Home Office:

Will these new travel documents for the children of refugees be subject to the £25 to £270 travel document fee mentioned above. If so, what will happen to the refugees if their parents do not have the capital to meet the fee?

Will any of the fees for travel documents apply to those claiming political asylum?

CCW

Sunday, September 05, 2004

AFK

Scribe is heading off for a few weeks round the upcoming world, so no posting from him until the end of September. In the meantime, don't forget about NO2ID's Campaign Launch on September 18th, and check out the latest post over at voxpolitics.com for links to various blog-related activities surrounding the various adventuous conventions...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hey, you told me them pesky fundamentalists were evil...

ePolitix reports that of a "sample of the 609 arrests made" under terrorist laws, two thirds were Muslim, and yet only a fifth (out of 15 - not exactly a great statistical population) of those actually convicted were Muslim.

Worryingly, this means if there is discrimination going on, it's surely pretty inherent to the system that seeks "justice"? Is it ok to discriminate however you like, so long as you believed you were right in the first place? Of course not.

And if there's this kind of biased policing as part of the daily routine, being reported widely and proudly through the media of the land (lacking the conviction figures, admittedly), then who's going to end up shouting and cursing when the bias becomes inherent in society-at-large?

Big Brother smiles on

CNN is running an article on Britain being the surveillance capital of the world, with a look at the rise of CCTV, the various cases it's been important in, the public's acceptance of it, and a few concerns towards the end.

Meanwhile, ePolitix offers a number of reponses to the satellite tracking trials from the main parties and related organisations, all seeming to offer little or no criticism of the scheme.

Thankfully the Register offers up some more thoughtful insight into the technology, including details I've not seen in any news "release" elsewhere ("The actual kit works like this..." - and there are 2 kinds of tracking), thoughts on how reliable the technology is (kind of important if you're putting so much faith in it, eh?), as well as the contractors standing to gain most from the scheme.

And, if you're really bored, here's the 10 Downing Street release. Mmm.

I figure it's only right to mention good ol' Jeremy Bentham's good ol' Panopticon as well. Refresh your memory.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

1984 Now

A brief reminder that satellite tracking of criminals goes live today, at least as a trial. The "prolific offenders" include "convicted burglars, robbers and car thieves", although it's hard to not get the impression that these are simply a lab-rat demographic as the article goes on:

"If the offender strays into an area they are excluded from the police are alerted." - how exactly do you define an no-go area for a car thief? Pedestrian areas are ok, I presume.

And it's clear which "end of the spectrum" Blunky wants to prioritise:

"We should use every tool at our disposal and if with very serious violent sexual offenders we can ensure that their supervision can be enhanced by satellite tracking we should do it." he says.

Fortunately he continues to undermine his own faith in any "corrective system" the country might currently be involved in, and maintains a gleeful hand-rubbing posture:

"We should also do it ... with low-level offences where we could have a prison without bars, making the community sentence really secure, being able to send people to jail if they break their curfew or break their community sentence."

How sweet... All those 10-year old shoplifters won't have to worry about being sent to prison any more. Now, British Government [tm] brings the prison to *you*! And because they're not really "locked up", and it's all for the "public" good anyway, surely there aren't any restrictions on who this technology can be applied to? (Comments noting otherwise duly appreciated.)

And, my favourite quote of the whole piece...

"However, under this system there is no way of knowing where the criminal has gone."

Magnifico. And just in case you weren't paranoid enough yet, I quote this gem:

"It will be a very, very clear, constant reminder to the offenders that we're watching them, we know where they've been, we know what they're doing and if they stray, we'll act to stop them." - DB.

Pretty soon, the "offenders" and the "criminals" being spoken of are going to be a very real and very large part of our society, not because the lack of technology until now has been insufficient to prevent their increase, but because too much faith is being placed in technical measures rather than educational ones. Down this path lies paranoid madness, and a very real and significant number of our own children being "tracked" simply because we've forgotten how to raise them.

Fancy gadgets do not a well society make.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

"Ambassador, with these ASBOs you are really spoiling us."

Word on the street is that crime experts will be sent out to advise people to use ASBOs. More coverage from the Guardian as well. Would the Home Office now have us believe that petty crime and louty behaviour has now become so out of hand that "experts" are now needed to solve the problem? Have we forgotten how to raise our society ourselves so much? Apparently so. Still, supposedly the answer is more Orders to push the unruly even further away from community and further into the realm of the outcaste.

And no, calling the experts "ambassadors" doesn't make it any more impressive. Perhaps it makes it sound even more desparate to impress than the whole half-cooked, self-clappy Flunkett schemes already do.

Talking Politics on Prisons

On Radio 4 this weekend just gone was a Talking Politics programme on the role of prisons in society. Sir David Ramsbotham, Theodore Dalrymple, Nick Cohen and Ann Widdecombe all present some interesting and salient points - so can we expect to see some thinking above and beyond the Dredd-esque "lock up the juves" mentality?

I'll try to get it as an mp3/ogg sometime soon, but in the meantime you can stream it from the BBC.

Update: The programme is now available in .ogg format as a 19MB download.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

More Signs and Portents

The Independent reports that Robin Cook warns against alienation of British Muslims, although the way the Home Office is going, it's looking to alienate anyone and everyone that disagrees with it, whomever they are.

Elsewhere, more evidence that simply putting more cameras in and hoping for the best really doesn't work.

Unfortunately, modern "civil" thinking seems to be continuing along the lines that it's better to catch those causing trouble/mayhem after the fact, than to construct a more responsible, respectful society in the first place. Keep watching as the government maintain a steadily-concocted confusion between what it means to be "liberal", and what it means to be "self-interested". The erosion of our language continues apace.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Quote from Roger Scruton

The Guardian yesterday had a round-up of media quotes on whether we are becoming a surveillance society, in which Roger Scruton cuts through the usual (and apparently currently popular) argument of "the idea's great, but the government must do it properly", and gets to the nub of the matter:

"In almost every area, the recent expansion of the law has involved an attempt to put legal norms in place of social norms. The consequence is a withering away of community, an undermining of family sentiment and a demoralisation of society"

(Of course, expansion of law is always going to be about legal norms, by its definition, surely?)

Unfortunately, I think the original piece is subscriber-only. More annoyingly, the link to Scruton's old article "We must have ID cards if we value freedom" doesn't work...

Even the suspects don't know what they're doing wrong

"I'm a what? A terrorist? Why? Oh, I'm not allowed to know?"

BBC News: My week as a terror suspect.

Assistant Chief Constable Rob Beckley says that "Riaz's claim that he still does not know why he was held is understandable, as the sensitive nature of anti-terrorism intelligence means police cannot always reveal why they acted."

Just WTF is going on? This is turning into a game of Mornington Crescent - you can only play if you know what the rules are, but no-one ever tells you them.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

2.46%

According to this BBC News article, "there have been 609 arrests under terrorism legislation between September 11, 2001 and 30 June 2004. Of those people, 99 have been charged with terrorism-related offences, and 15 convicted."

That's 16.26% and 2.46% respectively. I'm not certain of this, but that sounds a little... disparate. Just why are we arresting so many people that don't get charged, let alone convicted?

Does anyone know what similar non-terrorist-related ratios are like?

Update: Aha, an older BBC article on the issue, and this Muslim news article also sheds some more light on it:

"The Home Office said, "Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 gives the police power to arrest anyone reasonably suspected of being a terrorist or having committed certain offences under the Act. The decision to arrest a person under the Act may be the result of an intelligence-led operation or the result of an officer's judgment in circumstances where he feels an arrest is appropriate."

Nice and specific then. Good to see arrests these days are the result of many manhours of work and careful intelligence, and not just rash decisions being made on the spot.

"There can be a number of reasons for arrests so high in relation to those charged or convicted. For example, where an intelligence-led search of premises is made as part of an investigation, the police may find more than one person there. In these circumstances it is possible that a number of individuals could be arrested and subsequently released without charge because it is not clear at that stage which is the individual sought."

Which explains the more-than-6 to 1 ratio of arrests to charges above. Terrorists! Stop living with other people! Anyone caught swaying government statistics in such an underhand way will be forced to live alone. In a cage.

"Police have to make a decision to arrest based on the circumstances presented to them at a particular time, based on the need to conduct an effective investigation, and above all, to protect public safety."

OK, the bold highlighting was just a ploy to draw attention to the ongoing efforts to draw distinct boundaries between the "good" public and the "evil" terrorists.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Downing Street Says...

Downing Street on ID Cards:

"Asked for a reaction to doubts expressed by Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, regarding the purpose of ID cards and the information contained on them, the PMS said that Mr Thomas had made an important contribution to the debate on ID cards. A consultation was currently ongoing into the issue and we were therefore keen to hear people's views. However, as we had underlined in the past, there would be guarantees against any 'function creep' regarding the transfer of information about people to different parts of Government. As we had made clear, that was not going to happen. There would be proper oversight of such a scheme, as you would expect."

(Although I seem to remember my views were discounted...)

Downing Street on Blunkett:

"Asked if the Home Secretary continued to enjoy the Prime Minister's full confidence, the PMS said yes."

[via-ish Liberty on Demand]

3 times as good?

While many people seem to think that a single point of identification will make access to public services easier and less bureaucratic, my faith in such a utopia is under fire from news such as this: NHS patients will need 3 cards - one European one, one NHS one, and the Home Office's wunderkind. Now, perhaps the NHS will gradually integrate theirs with the Home Office's, and perhaps once Mr Blunkett's proven the validity, plausibility and effectiveness of it all, Europe will start to integrate with it too... (Mmm, EU-wide identity scheme, nice.)

My personal opinion is that their are far larger obstacles within public organisations to achieving less bureaucracy and more efficiency...

Meanwhile, lots of sources (e.g. BBC, ePolitix, Register) have been picking up on Information Commissioner Richard Thomas' interview in the Times (subscription-only), and his warnings over a "surveillance society." Although, by the looks of things, he's been mentioning this for a while, now. Still, good to see the media giving it big splashes.

There's a fair amount of critical momentum surrounding the issue now, which can only be a good thing. The difficult step is getting rational points across to people that have already been sold the idea of a "safe" society amongst all kinds of bogeymen. There are still far too many people out there who would rather lock the rest of the population up, or lock themselves up, in order to avoid dealing with problems many of which we should collectively take responsibility for. Those of you who've seen the final series of Buffy and laughed at the idea of "destroying the evil inherent in the world" know what I mean ;)

I can see the government finally recognising that this could become a real issue, just as with foundation hospitals, university fees and war. If they're sensible, they'll be reviewing the various criticism currently forthcoming, and making serious efforts to either a). get their plans in order first before spouting how good they are - although mainly to appease the critics, or b). implementing a much lesser identity scheme that seeks to partially achieve the intended goals. What I've yet to see from this government is any admission that There's More Than One Way To Do It, or that popular, dissenting, informed opinion has any sway in politics.

Friday, August 13, 2004

CBI wants ID, if it knew what it was

According to publictechnology.net (also ePolitix and the BBC), the CBI supports the principles behind ID cards, but fears for the reliability of the data:

"The government must spell out how broad its objectives for ID cards are and exactly how the scheme is intended to achieve them."

This is the most prominent mention of cards, I can think of, in an industry-usage sense - up until now the scope for use has been mostly governmental and public sector. Does this mean that anyone that wants to verify who someone is will have access to this identity database now? This certainly seems to indicate that that's what the CBI are pushing for:

"If it is to become widely accepted, the government must win the confidence of business or the scheme will be of little use."

In fact, the whole press release suffers from the same unsure, ambiguous and short-sighted enthusiasm that those behind the plan suffer from.

But hey, at least they admit it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Detention without Trial

So a number of suspected foreign terrorists have failed in their case to be freed from 'Detention without Trial' under the Terrorism Act 2001. Source: BBC News

Would this be the same section of the Terrorism Act that a cross party group of peers and MPs recently declared should go? Source: BBC News

I do believe it was.

CCW

Together we can beat the Jargon

Here is an interesting web site. "Together - Tackling Anti-Scocial Behaivour".

There are two option to select when you log in.

"I am a member of the public"
"I am an anti-social behaivour practitioner" ?!?

What the hell is an anti-social behaivour practitioner? A yob, perhaps?

CCW

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Michael Howard is an Arse

Woooeee, Blunkett has some competition, it seems. In an effort to out-H.O. the current H.O., Michael Howard sets out his sights for a new, determined, anti-crime vision across Britain. Is it enough? Apologies for going off the Blunkett-topic, but I think that many of the arguments laid out here apply equally to the direction that Blunkett is headed in.

This is a relatively long dissection of his speech, so to avoid taking up the front page of the blog with it whilst allowing people to add comments, I'll post it as the first comment on this post - if you're reading this on the front page, just click the "comments" link below. I've also posted it here.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Special Blunkett

Read Blunkett's piece in the Observer: "Why I refuse to feed the media's summer frenzy" Too hot and tired to comment now. Hum.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Tell them what you think...

Also just noticed the Home Office are waiting for your feedback on their site - doesn't take long, and at the end you can enter your name and e-mail if you want to beta test their new version. Take the survey, unless you don't use Javascript, in which case you're buggered. Accessiblity, eh?

Home Office prohibits happy biometric passports

The Register reports (via the Sun which probably got it from the Home Office press release) that there's no smiling for your ID card photo - opening your mouth would confuse the technology. 100% accurate and foolproof, eh? In the words of the press release...

"The photo must be of the applicant on their own, with no other people visible. It must show their full face, looking straight at the camera, with a neutral expression, with their mouth closed."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

News Vom

Report finds that terror laws risk human rights, with a longer article at the Scotsman. Have yet to find the report, but the alternatives seem to involve more surveillance and more laws to put people on trial. Uh huh.

Home Office to be split up - to be replaced by a "Ministry of Justice" and a "Ministry of Rights". Closely followed by a Ministry of Love and a Ministry of Peace. Orwell would be proud. Or sick.

Also from the Scotsman, Blunkett warns US Animal Rights Protestors not to come to the UK, but he's not telling which ones, no. "Is he wearing a hat?" "Does he have a beard?" "It's Mike!" as the old advert goes...

Monday, August 02, 2004

More about that Terror Booklet

Received that booklet through the post this morning. Something else has just occurred to me about it too.

If you look at the logo (also to be found at the Preparing for Emergencies site), it is possible to decode this logo into a message.

The first circle, with an 'i', obviously stands for "Information Booklet".
The second circle, with '999', represents an emergency.
The third circle, with an arrow represents a direction, or "leads to".
The fourth circle, with a keyhole, is obviously John Locke, a C17 philosopher, at least partly responsible for the British (unwritten) constitution.
The fifth circle, with a dial, is to be rotated.
And the last circle, the cross, is an RIP symbol.

So put them all together and the subtext of the terror booklet is:

An Information Booklet about Emergencies that will Lead to John Locke Turning in his Grave.

CCW

Sunday, August 01, 2004

More Technology, Less Humanity

1. Paedophiles to take mandatory lie tests.

2. Schools to get US-style weapon detectors.

Emotional bullying seems fine with the authorities, so long as no-one gets physically injured. The smart ones will torture their victims with words, playground politics, and an atmosphere of fear rather than any discernible tangible threat. What then? Will nobody care, so long as knives can't be brought in?

Friday, July 30, 2004

Blunkett's Response

David Blunkett has issued a response to the report on ID cards.

I'll just pull a few quotes for you. Blunkett in italics. Committee quotes in bold. Important stuff in red.

I am pleased that the Home Affairs Select Committee report confirms that the Government’s plans for a compulsory ID cards scheme will deliver real benefits[...]

Not quite. The report stated that compulsory ID cards may deliver real benefits, but different benefits required different specifications for ID cards, and the gov't had yet to consistently define the specifications; "the changing aims of the scheme do not give total confidence that the Government has arrived at a complete set of clear and settled aims for the card."

The committee isolated some areas where ID cards *could* make the current situation worse. We believe there is a danger that in many day-to-day situations the presentation alone of an identity card will be assumed to prove the identity of the holder without the card itself or the biometrics being checked, thus making possession of a stolen or forged identity card an easier way to carry out identity fraud than is currently the case.

and make sure that our public services are only used by those who are entitled to them.

The committee states "there does not appear to be a consistent set of principles underlining access to government services." So under the current scheme nobody is entitled to gov't provision (I suspected as much). Time to define what public services are available, and to whom. Preferably before we start restricting access with ID cards.

The Government and the public - and the HASC [Home Affairs Select Committee] - believe that the project will deliver real benefits and should go ahead. The remaining questions are, naturally, about the detail of the scheme.

But the Government's proposals are poorly thought out in key respects: in relation to the card itself, to procurement and to the relationship of the proposals to other aspects of government, including the provision of public services. These issues must be addressed if the proposals are to be taken forward. It is important that the Government clarifies the purposes of the scheme and makes them clear through legislation.

So, despite what Blunkett says, the current proposal should not be taken forward in it's current form. And the details he refers to sound pretty major to me.

Essentially the committee has reported that ID cards may be a good idea, but that in regard to the scheme suggeested by Blunkett et al, "The lack of clarity and openness increases the risks of the project substantially"

It is essential that the Government explain its intentions on issues raised in this report before the Bill is published.

We will consider fully the HASC’s many comments and suggestions as we progress with our consultation.

I'd feel happier if he'd said that he'd publish the gov't intentions, as requested by the HASC.

CCW

ID card plans 'badly thought out'

BBC on the Commons home affairs committee report on ID Cards, released today. Here's a HTML version of the report.

The report comes up with many of the same points put forward by critics of the scheme - What is it trying to achieve? Is the planning ready/sufficient? Is the technology sufficient? Who will have control over/access to the data? What data will be contained?

There's also a continuing theme within the report of how open the government is when it comes to this process, and about how much the individual knows about what is being stored on the card, about themself. As the summary states:

"the Government's proposed scheme would represent a significant change in the relationship between state and individual in this country".

Zombie pirate attacks!

Via Politech, I'm pointed to a parody site of the original government site, preparingforemergencies.co.uk, which includes class advice such as...

Children are the worst fire hazards; consider giving them up for adoption.


Unfortunately, the "parody" part has been lost on the government, who have decided to "respond". I, for one, am utterly confused by the information presented, and have already started to report all the beggars asking me for money in case they're all terrorists.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Home Office Terrorism

I've just been looking at a government site entitled "UK Resilience". One of the links is to a site labelled as "Home Office Terrorism". I thought the job of the Home Office was to prevent terrorism, not cause it.

CCW

More dissent amongst the ranks

What's he up to now? Closing local immigration checks before domestic ones are up-to-scratch, that's what. Interesting that it's had to go so far as legal action, eh?

As with much of everything else, the Home Office have had to have their headstrong way about this issue. Between them and the "80 Immigration Service officials" in question, I know whose words I'd take less lightly. As things are, the whole lot of them'll probably get arrested for perverting the course of domestic security...

Big Brother Awards

And the awards go to... None in the bag for Mr Blunkett this year - but he gets the prestigious acclaim of having one named after him. Tasty.

See also the Register coverage of the event, along with NO2ID shirts for sale.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Privacy International 2004 UK Big Brother Awards

A reminder that Privacy International hold their 2004 UK Big Brother Awards at the London School of Economics this evening. Entrance is free and open to the public, but space is limited and people should RSVP as per the page's info.

The Home Office has a joint nomination in the "Worst Public Servant" category (Katherine Courtney and Stephen Harrison) for its involvement in ID Cards, but faces stiff competition from Margaret Hodge,MP. Here's the shortlist.

Terror Booklet

Is anyone else living in terror of the Home Office booklet that is shortly to be pushed through our collective letterboxes (at a cost, I might add, of £8mill)?

In order to cope with the fear and anxiety caused by this pamphlet, I have constructed this mini guide to it's more prominent stupidities:

1) Once the delivery has been completed, interested people may order additional copies in alternative languages OR braille OR spoken word. Multiples are not permitted. There appears to be total blindness (as it were) towards the idea that a blind French person (as an example) might want a French copy in Braille.

2) I do like their slogan: "Go In, Stay In Tune In". So, exactly what most people do of an evening anyway. Although they do make the point that if the building you were about to enter itself is on fire then it might be an idea to find a different building, or at least wait for a bit, just till it stops smoking.

I might just print up a T-Shirt with the slogan on. Just to see the response.

3) Basic First Aid. So basic, it essentially says: Unless you know what you are doing, leave well alone.

4) "To prepare for an emergency, you should take the time to find out: [...] How to tune into your local radio station." In the event of an emergency the government will seize control of all local and national radio stations. I just hope they remember to give them back afterwards. I would hate to meet someone who does not already know how to tune a radio.

5) Among the items recommended to collect in the event of an emergency:

Torch, Radio and spare batteries (presumably in case the power goes off), Mobile Phone. Like, where the hell are you going to plug it in to recharge it if the
power is off?

Other items: Cash and Credit Cards (Of what use is a small piece of plastic in an emergency?).

6) The list of useful contact numbers include the 'Foreign and Commonwealth office'. Presumably in case the emergency is of such a scale that the only bits of the UK administration left standing are various foreign embassies (or are we trying to export our terror on holiday, too).

The only other point to mention is that there are seperate downloads for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Presumably this is due to slightly different phone numbers. But the version for Wales is twice the size. No prizes for guessing why. Yes, if you live in Wales you are required to download *both* the Welsh and the English versions. I hope you're on a free internet connection, guys.

CCW

Friday, July 23, 2004

Are you normal yet?

While not, strictly speaking, directly related to Mr Blunkett per se, the philosophy behind both these stories is in precisely the same barn...

The House of Lords says that DNA is to be indefinitely stored on national database, even for "people who have not been convicted of any crime". The "Lords said they could see no reason why anyone should object to the samples being stored in a database". Right.

Secondly, it looks like a new UK Passport System will gradually fuse with ID Cards (assumedly so that you won't actually notice it happening), and that the focus is on people, rather than passports themselves as currently happens.

So there's definitely going to be no function creep, no sir. A reminder: "...registrable facts are listed in the draft Bill to set limits on the types of information which may be held on the Register and do not include sensitive personal information such as medical records or religious opinions." Although such data may be linked to, a la passports, if of course, the government sees fit to define who gets to be tracked as those of, say, possibly extreme religious viewpoints, or of a potentially dangerous medical disposition, such as...


  • an individual dedicated to criticising the government's defence plans, thus disrupting the ability to fight this week's enemy

  • an individual that suffers from a "mind-altering" illness that prevents the sufferer from acting in a rational manner. Illnesses such as... oh, I don't know... diabetes? Road rage? Alcoholism?

  • an individual that exhibits odd emergent behaviour over time, indicating a potential societal outcast/danger

  • an individual with "defective" genes that show a tendency towards violence/particular sexual behaviour/extreme views

  • an individual with a "causal" history or environment that, statistically, will lead towards violence/particular sexual behaviour/extreme views



That's just off the top of my head.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

PM and Blunkett unite against crime

...although I'm left wondering which one is the dark, moody main crime-fighter, and which one has to wear lurid lycra tights and say irritating sidekick expressions.

"...focus on ... prevention"?

"And children as young as 10 could face on-the-spot fines for unruly behaviour. ... In a keynote speech Tony Blair said Britain was paying the price of the relaxation of values seen in the 1960s."

Remember kids, the only way to rule the country is with IRON STICKS. Society and environment isn't responsible for how people turn out at all - it's in their genes! Quick, burn the genes! Burn the genes! Next up: Only intelligent and polite people can be allowed to breed. Ha.

Monday, July 19, 2004

New Blog...

...just for the purposes of keeping a list of all the things I disagree with David Blunkett on. Usually whenever he makes it into the news with some over-hyped, heavy-handed "idea", I have to run around my room, do some exercises and have several cups of tea in order to calm down and think like a man again.

Take, for instance, his latest plan to track 5,000 criminals by satellite, as well as naming and "targeting" the worst (anti-social) offenders in 50 areas - no, wait, 60. No, 50. Gah, arsing article. Note with extroadinary gasping the sheer, luscious irony in the phrase ...they will be singled out under an expansion of the "Together" scheme.'' Does he really want us all to be "together", or does he just want us to throw the louts into stocks and throw turnips and pigs at them?

So bit by bit, I shall construct my views here on Blunkett, policing methods, and psychological causes of petty crime. Join me, in the adventure of a liiiiife-tiiiiime....