Tuesday, July 26, 2005

ID

An obvious question, this, but one that's been confusing me.

Shortly after the 7th July bombs the government admitted that ID cards would not have enabled them to stop the attacks. But there was a caveat - were everyone in the country to have ID cards, we were told, it would make it easier to sort things out in the aftermath.

This was interpreted as meaning it would be easier to help identify bodies (assuming, of course, that the cards which we would all be forced to carry hadn't been destroyed in any explosions along with our bodies), but it was also hinted that it would make tracking down the terrorists easier. (Assuming, of course, they hadn't blown themselves up at the same time. And that they had followed their civic duty and actually applied for the things.)

Our chaps last week seemingly deliberately left ID in the bags that contained their bombs, as did the lot from a fortnight before. One might suggest that even though last week's terrorists were evidently fucking stupid, they were unlikely to be stupid enough to return to an address which they would have been aware the police would have had in their posession.

So all that has resulted from this supposedly massively beneficial source of information that is ID has been police surveillance of an address left with one of the bombs, to which the terrorist in question was highly unlikly to risk returning, and the subsequent death of an innocent man who happened to live in the same building.

Meanwhile, even though our failed terrorists left ID at the scenes of their attempted crimes and then fled through areas more than amply covered by CCTV, and even though their pictures and names have been released to the public, the police have yet to arrest any of them.

Can anyone therefore explain to me how the proposed ID cards would help? I'm genuinely intrigued to know. After the events of the last couple of weeks, the only way in which I can see they might have been useful would have been to rather more rapidly dismiss the somewhat distasteful rumours, the origins of which are unclear, that Jean Charles de Menezes was in the country illegally (as if this somehow made his death OK).

Either way, this pledge may be worth considering - assuming, of course, that our dear government still has the balls to press ahead with this pointless and costly legislation. Which, considering they still have the press release on the Home Office website claiiming that ID cards "will help tackle the activities of organised criminals and terrorists" and that they have just released the attempted rebuttal of the LSE report (.pdf download), it would tend to suggest they do. (Meanwhile, in Australia they are still pushing for ID and more CCTV as well, even though in London we've just fairly conclusively demonstrated that these aren't really that much help.)

This may not be the most comforting thing to state at this particular moment in time, but it doesn't make it any less true: if terrorists want to strike, they will eventually succeed - no matter what precautions we put in place, there will always be a way around them. That's obviously not to suggest we shouldn't try to stop them, but surely we should concentrate our resources on areas in which they may actually have some impact. And little pieces of plastic filled with intrusive information will achieve precisely tit all.

6 Comments:

Blogger Postman said...

"Home Office website (is)claiming that ID cards "will help tackle the activities of organised criminals and terrorists"

Lets take score: TERRORISTS 8 bombs, 53 (?) dead, 50 seriously injured, 200 injured - economic costs to date £ ?Mn.

4 dead terrorists. (Suicides ?)

1 man Nadeem Fiez arrested held 14 days released without charge.

3 (4?) men held and Police say they are "connected" but not bombers.

Widespread anxiety, fear, concern and a rise in public concern PLUS TB popularity soars.

FORCES OF LAURA NORDER

4 bombers on CCTV, 2 identified.

Charles Clarke in a fit of honesty on 8/7 said in HOC this attack "came out of the blue".

It is evident that huge amounts of time, effort, money before the outrages failed to produce any intelligence of value.

It is evident that huge amounts of time, effort, money after the outrages have so far failed to produce any intelligence of value.

The consequence is the Home Office will clutch at any hi-tech straw to justify their :-
1. Existence,
2. Budgets,
3. Eventually, their Pension.

Human Intelligence on the ground in our own country - Fucking Zero.

Just go to the ACPO site and look at their Press release of demands (yes demands which will be met + or - bits and pieces because the Pols have no fucking ideas either) on the Gubment. Regional bodies, more and more controls - which evidently will threaten the Internet throughout Europe.

That is why ...."...Home Office website (is) claiming that ID cards "will help tackle the activities of organised criminals and terrorists"

7/26/2005 05:52:00 pm  
Anonymous soru said...

Spain has ID cards, and the Madrid tube bombers were tracked down and arrested or shot as a result of that trail of evidence. There was no second Madrid bombing.

Can someone explain why going from a picture to an address in 30 seconds, and without letting the suspects know you know who they are, instead of 'whenever a neighbour phones the tip line' is absolutely guaranteed to be no possible help under any circumstances?

Better intelligence, less fuck ups. Id cards are better intelligence.

Is that really so hard to understand?

soru

7/26/2005 11:36:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Soru - no one denies that better/more intelligence is good. But you need to balance the increase of intelligence against cost.

On this occasion the police had addresses and photos of the suspected bombers almost as rapidly as were we already to have ID cards, thanks to them leaving other forms of ID with their bombs. That didn't, however, help in any way in tracking them down as it has taken six days for them to make any arrests - and even those this morning are not necessarily the bombers.

(Note: that's not to say that being able to get that information quickly would never be of use - but if a suicide bomber has blown himself up along with his ID, or had left his ID at home, it would still take a fair while to track his identity down.)

There are many things which would add to our intelligence capabilities - we could implant GPS tracking devices into everyone's skulls, for example. It would be a massive intrusion on everyone's privacy, but it would, after all, allow us to track down criminals and terrorists faster. Assuming, of course, they didn't tamper with their implants, get forgeries made, or avoid having them inserted in the first place.

Under the proposed ID legislation, foreign nationals would be exempt from ID cards if they were in the country for less than 3 months (as the person suspected of planning the 7th July bombs was). And that's assuming any foreign nationals came through regular channels declaring their real identities. Britain has 10,000 miles of coastline - there are always going to be ways around it.

As for British nationals, as the 7th July bombers apparently were, none of them had anything more than minor shoplifting offences on their criminal records, and had no history of terrorist or radical sympathies, so could never have been picked up. Even if they did have radical histories, the problem with any official ID system is that forgeries can be made which then allow greater freedom of action (as anyone under 18 who's ever bought a beer with fake ID knows all too well).

The point, old chap, (beyond the privacy issues) is not that ID would not provide the government with useful information, but that it is so very far from foolproof, and the information it would provide so very minor in importance, that charging everyone in the country large sums of money for the privilege of being forced to supply the government with information to which they have no right, to be stored on a central database which based on past experience is likely to malfunction, is hardly a worthwhile way to expend time, money and effort.

7/27/2005 09:41:00 am  
Blogger MitzieBitchie said...

Nice one!.. Drop me a line........

7/27/2005 10:11:00 am  
Anonymous soru said...

The right to be able to prove your identify is a fundamental human right. It should be the responsibility of any government to provide that right to its citizens.

Ultimately, costs and benifits are secondary issues. However, you do still seem to be missing the potential benifits of faster identification of the second set of bombers.
Most of the (admittedly high) cost of the proposed system goes not on plastic, but on computer systems that can map from biometrics (including pictures) to identity.

soru

7/27/2005 08:21:00 pm  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

No soru, no it isn't. There are very few fundamental human rights, and all of them are debatable.

The only one that most people can agree on is the right to freedom. ID cards would limit our freedom by preventing us from keeping parts of our lives private.

I don't deny for a second that faster identification would be beneficial. But no one has yet managed to demonstrate to me how the mere fact that we had ID cards would have enabled faster identification in this case.

Because although the proposed cards will have biometric details on, they would not have DNA information - and DNA samples/CCTV pictures would have been all the police had to go on had the bombers not left addresses in their bags. DNA tests take time. Likewise, facial recognition software is nowhere near advanced enough to have managed to identify the bombers from CCTV.

So even if we did have ID cards, unless the bombers left theirs (assuming they had them) at the scene, the police would once again have had to rely on old-fashioned asking the public methods to find out who they were.

7/27/2005 08:32:00 pm  

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