Monday, February 28, 2005

Run away!

Blimey, it's gone all busy. Clarke is in retreat over the proposed superman powers he oh-so wants, even though the bid for judges rather than BatClarke lost, 253 votes to 267. He even admits... "I have come to the view that there is great merit in seeking as wide a consensus as is possible across Parliament." Can't think that's something old Blunky would have done... Good news, I suspect.

Meanwhile, it may be interesting to see in a few weeks what sentence Saajid Badat gets for not being a terrorist. Interesting, because the law is now firmly on the side of those wishing to convict people merely for planning attacks - if they change their mind, they're still guilty and liable to be locke dup for.. well, how long indeed? Hmm, IANAL. Are there similar precedents for, say, planning to commit murder, but not going through with it?

And is it just me, or are a fair proportion of (potential) terrorists intelligent and polite young men?


Suicide is annoying

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders! The cure for all ills!

In a fantastic victory for utilitarianist ASBOs, the Guardian reports that a suicidal woman has been issued with an ASBO to stop her from "going into rivers, canals or any open water in England and Wales", going onto train lines or hanging around on bridges. If she does any of these, she'll go to jail.

Phew, we're all safe now. Now I just need one to shut the baby next door up...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Emperor's new documents

Oops, missed this before...

[Clarke] "published 'briefing papers' about the international terrorist threat and the government's response.

Ex-government emergency planning chief Mike Grannatt said the papers combined information already on MI5's website with public threats from terrorist groups."

Does anyone know where you can get hold of these papers at all? Can't see any links from the Home Office site, BBC News or anywhere...

The hypocrisy saga continues...

Unleashing his superman-like powers, Charles Clarke said: "Some believe that the absence in this country of a terrorist outrage like 9/11 or Madrid means that the terrorist threat has somehow passed us by or failed to materialise.

"That view is short-sighted, complacent, ignorant of the facts and potentially cavalier of the safety of this country."

And some believe that to chase terrorists without due discussion as to why they would want to target us is equally shortsighted. Some believe that merely casting people that disagree with our culture as "evil" is, perhaps, not such a good idea. To support the "destruction" of "terror" by wading into places and saying you know how to run a place better than the people that live there is questionable.

Perhaps this isn't Clarke's job. Maybe he doesn't care what happens in other countries - only what happens in this one, which may be fair. But I see a government that seems all too ready to lock its own people up to save face, rather than to consider the effect they're having on the world. I repeat myself - laws based on the fear of politicians are backwards laws that betray our backwards way of thinking.

Holy future paranoia, home office man!

Well well, we are in a bit of a tizzy, aren't we? There are evildoers afoot, and if we don't come up with a way of sorting them all out by the 14th of March, *BOOM!* - we'll all be blown sky high! What is to be done?

Fortunately, Charles Clarke knows there's only one way to deal with terrorists, and that's by locking them up himself. Everyone will be able to wake up safe and happy on March 15th knowing that red-pants-ridden Charlie will be flying through the skies, swooping down to pick up anyone and everyone that looks, well, downright suspicious, eh? It's no wonder, with his superhuman powers of judgement and righteousnes, that he's so eager to get on with the job! Just such a shame that everyone else is jealous and wants to see a boring old judge do the job - judges can't even fly, for goodness' sake!

So the clock is ticking. Less than 3 weeks to draw up the blueprints for the future - but note, the next 20 days will properly reveal who's really in control of the country. Will Clarkey listen to democracy? Will the common people realise what the inter-party tiff really represents? Will Michael Howard be able to think up something before Charles does? Tune in next month - same terror-time, same terror-blogchannel*!

* Actually, this may change soon. Clarke is definitely living up to his predecessor's insultory nickname, and the ability to appear relevant and up-to-date is somewhat hindered by referring to someone that everyone's now forgotten ever existed. Aww, poor Blunky. He did so well.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Help Me! I'm agreeing with Peter Lilley!

The Bow Group, a centre-right Tory think tank, has just produced a reoprt opposing ID cards. It can be found here in pdf format.

The summary is clear, consise and informative, although it does have the obligatory headline grabbing quote: "The Government’s plan for compulsory identity cards is a bad idea, in a bad bill, introduced for the worst possible motives."

Other than the spin, it just shows that opposition to ID cards is truely cross-bench. It could be an interesting debate when it comes to to the house.

[Edit]

There is a very interesting statement concerning the biometric element of the ID card scheme. Gov't ministers have asserted that under EU rules a full biometric scheme is required for all passports and that the cost of this biometric covers the major cost of the ID card scheme (initially rolled out in conjunction with passports). However this report states "In fact, all that is required to meet the International Civil Aviation Authority rules is 'a facial biometric (which can be derived from a passport photo)'."

So, no reporting to a depot for processing, no fingerprints, iris scans, etc. Just a photo.

So I checked the reference back to the UK Passport Service website:

"The UKPS is planning to implement a facial recognition image biometric in the British Passport book from late 2005/early 2006. The biometric can be derived from a passport photograph and will be in accordance with international standards."

"The UKPS has been supporting the work of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to develop international standards for biometric deployment. ICAO nominated facial recognition as the primary biometric for travel documents with iris pattern and fingerprint as secondary but not mandatory."

[/Edit]

CCW

Friday, February 04, 2005

Human Rights? What they?

Not sure if this came out a week ago, but I only just picked it up on publictechnology.net...

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has released its report on the Identity Cards Bill [summary], raising numerous (read "shedloads of") concerns around the privacy implications of the Register Scheme. PublicTechnology.net further summarises, but the main points are:


  • The extent of personal info being held is questionable, both in terms of scope and effectiveness

  • Allowing information to be held in the database without the individual's knowledge/consent is questionable

  • A system of "designated documents" would make the scheme "effectively compulsory" for certain (very large) groups

  • Information "shared" from both public and private organisations to confirm the register's information may be too much

  • "extensive disclosure of personal information on the Register to public bodies for a wide range of purposes"



Much of it seems to be regarding the potential for further expansion, an observation I completely agree with. There are very few safeguards to ensure that the government itself handles data with any responsibility at all, and there doesn't seem to be any eagerness to address this issue of accountability.

The Committee's questions to Charles Clarke pulls few punches, offering insight and rationale that the government has sorely been lacking so far in its arguments. For instance:

"Requiring only those who hold driving licences or passports, and who apply to hold or renew them, to enter their details on the Register appears unlikely to provide an effective means of addressing any of the aims of the Bill." (Question 2)

It's going to be an interesting reply (the Committee request one by Monday 7th February) from the Home Office, one which I look forward to reading.

This is also really good material, from an extremely reputable source, to forward onto Ministers (hint, hint). What would be even better is an easy-to-read version (with relevant pointers to the original source) that gets the findings across really quickly. I wonder if a wiki or something could be used/useful for this...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More terror backlash, and Freedom at the expense of the public

ePolitix reports that Labour could be weakening on terror laws. "The one thing I will not do as prime minister is engage in anything that puts the security of our country at risk," Blair told MPs. "That is absolutely paramount for me." Hmm, shame he didn't think of that before portraying himself as being constantly in bed with US policies then...

Also worth checkin out is spy.org.uk's FOIA request for OGC Gateway Reviews of the ID Cards scheme, as they've now been put off by 15 days - just enough to avoid giving out information until after the final debate of the bill. According to publictechnology.net, it's 1 of only 2 (out of over 4,000) requests to have the deadline extended. Coincidence? Government afraid? Make your own mind up.

The backlash begins

The Lib Dems are opposing house arrests says the headline, although let's face it - the real issue here is Use of Evidence, as in there isn't any. Alas, I think this is going to be another of those issues that the public really don't care about, and so the government will get their way if no-one fights it.

Now, after reading Sarah Arnott's piece on ID Cards, I must admit to changing tactic slightly.

Up til now, the civil liberties aspect has always taken slightly more precedence over government incompetence. I would rather a stupid state than an all-powerful state. And fortunately, perhaps, my wish is true. It is, I think, plausible to assume foremost that the government is scared rather than incompetent - scared into making some dumb, paranoid moves that may then have the possible side-effect of sweeping aside civilities.

Any organisation that is led on by both fear (in the Home Office's case) and outright faith (in the Prime Minister's case) is on a very wrong footing, IMHO. Whitehall's lack of courage to think sensibly for a moment, coupled with a political structure in which admitting to making mistakes is considered heresy, has left us with a fussy-mother state rather than a nanny one.

On the up side, it may be easier to combat fear than malevolence...

On a different note, I'm still thinking of changing the blog's name (and putting a redirect in). Any suggestions? :)