Monday, February 19, 2007

Blair on ID cards

It's not just the road warriors who are getting spammed by Blair. I just received an email from the Glorious Leader himself. It seems to have been an early draft:

The petition calling for the Government to abandon plans for a National ID Scheme attracted almost 28,000 signatures - one of the largest responses since this e-petition service was set up. So I thought I would reply personally to those who signed up, to explain why I'm going to ignore you anyway. the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. You're absolutely right. Not one single act of terrorism has been planned or committed in this country by anyone who would have been refused a card - in fact our biggest problem right now comes from British-born terrorists. Even if this weren't the case, we've been sheltering some of the biggest headbangers in the world for years now, to the exasperation of intelligence services like the French. They even started calling our capital city "Londonistan". Believe me, we'd have given Abu Hamza a card before you could have said "bureaucratic twat". In fact, our open-door immigration policy means we're just going to hand them out like sweets to anyone who wants to pretend to be a one-legged roofer or blind carpenter. So why do we want them? Because we're a bunch of authoritarian bastards - not least our security services, who have been drooling over the prospect for years. Michael Howard tried but failed to introduce them, but I'm going to put even his illiberal record in the shade because I've got the excuse of terrorism. Heh. Suck on that, Howard. While I certainly accept that ID cards will not prevent all terrorist outrages or crime, I believe they will make an important contribution to making our borders more secure, countering fraud, and tackling international crime and terrorism. More importantly, this is also what our security services - who have the task of protecting this country - believe.

So I would like to explain why I think it would be foolish to ignore the opportunity to use biometrics such as fingerprints to secure our identities. I would also like to discuss some of the claims about costs - particularly the way the cost of an ID card is often inflated by including in estimates the cost of a biometric passport which, it seems certain, all those who want to travel abroad will soon need. Plus, I like listening to the squeals from the IT industry where they fear we're going to make them look bad again by ordering something the technology can't deliver yet, then blaming them for the cock-ups and cost escalations. Screw them, I say. If they wanted to be rich, they should have become lawyers.

In contrast to these exaggerated figures, the real benefits for our country and its citizens from ID cards and the National Identity Register, which will contain less information on individuals than the data collected by the average store card, should be delivered for a cost of around £3 a year over its ten-year life. You remember how your store cards record your fingerprints and retina scans? See, it's just the same, only less. Anyway, I'm sticking to my figure of £30 per card, although the Home Office estimated £93, and other estimates are as high as £300 - ten times my figure here. Or maybe I don't mean £30. Who knows? It's impossible to say from the way I just phrased it. Clever, huh? £3 per card for who? Every living creature in the country iuncluding ants, that's who, sucker.

But first, it's important to set out why we need to do more to secure our identities and how I believe ID cards will help. We live in a world in which people, money and information are more mobile than ever before. ID cards aren't going to change this. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. That's because we have virtually eliminated border checks in Europe. But let's blame something else - after all, there's fuck all we can do about it. It's up to the EU now. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Really. 50. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. Mind you, none of the terrorists we've faced in the past quarter century have been using false identities but hey. One in four criminals also uses a false identity. ID cards which contain biometric recognition details and which are linked to a National Identity Register will make this much more difficult. Remember, criminals have never managed to forge IDs before, and they can't clone phones, credit cards or any other electronic storage mechanisms. Technology has always managed to stay one step ahead of crime, and that's why we don't have any now, so the police can concentrate on tax collecting and everybody's happy.

Secure identities will also help us counter the fast-growing problem of identity fraud. This already costs £1.7 billion annually. There is no doubt that building yourself a new and false identity is all too easy at the moment. Forging an ID card and matching biometric record will be much harder. They'll do it anyway, but it'll be harder. Won't it feel better, when you get ripped off, to know that the criminal really had to work at it?

I also believe that the National Identity Register will help police bring those guilty of serious crimes to justice. They will be able, for example, to compare the fingerprints found at the scene of some 900,000 unsolved crimes against the information held on the register. They can't do that at the moment because we're unable to build large scale information technology systems that work well. That's why we need a large scale information technology system like this ID card scheme. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders. How? Haven't the foggiest. Biometric technology isn't a means to move information from one place to another. Oh well... let's move on quickly.

The National Identity Register will also help improve protection for the vulnerable, enabling more effective and quicker checks on those seeking to work, for example, with children. It should make it much more difficult, as has happened tragically in the past, for people to slip through the net. See? It's for the kiddies. And what kind of callous bastard could put the kiddies at risk? Sign another petition like this, and the News of the World will get your home address faster than you can say "violent crowds of chavs throwing bricks at your door".

Proper identity management and ID cards also have an important role to play in preventing illegal immigration and illegal working. The effectiveness on the new biometric technology is, in fact, already being seen. In trials using this technology on visa applications at just nine overseas posts, our officials have already uncovered 1,400 people trying illegally to get back into the UK. You might say the consulates should have been checking the identities of visa applicants anyway, but they're so used to getting unofficial "wave them all through" messages from us that they've just stopped bothering. Anyway, this means we'll be able to boast about reducing illegal immigration, and this will take your eye off legal immigration - which is running at higher pro-rata levels than during the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England. Hell, it worked with Romania a couple of years ago, until that bloody whistle-blower squealed.

Nor is Britain alone in believing that biometrics offer a massive opportunity to secure our identities. Firms across the world are already using fingerprint or iris recognition for their staff. If the staff don't like it, they can find another job. And if you don't like ID cards you can.. er... France, Italy and Spain are among other European countries already planning to add biometrics to their ID cards. Over 50 countries across the world are developing biometric passports, and all EU countries are proposing to include fingerprint biometrics on their passports. Whoops - I didn't mean to let that slip. Yes, it's an EU policy. You've got fuck all choice anyway. Hmmm... Better put a gloss on it. The introduction in 2006 of British e-passports incorporating facial image biometrics has meant that British passport holders can continue to visit the United States without a visa. What the National Identity Scheme does is take this opportunity to ensure we maximise the benefits to the UK. Nice non sequitur, eh? You want to visit Disneyworld without a visa, don't you? That's why you need a domestic ID card. See?

These then are the ways I believe ID cards can help cut crime and terrorism. I recognise that these arguments will not convince those who oppose a National Identity Scheme on civil liberty grounds. But then, the civil liberties merchants have had to swallow the abolition of the right to silence, the erosion of jury trial, government approval of the self-censorship of fear, the removal of the right to demonstrate peacefully in front of Parliament, and we've even tried to slip through a bill making Parliament irrelevant so we can rule by decree. Who gives a toss what they think? Hmmm... But I guess it will look better if I patronise them for a moment. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register, even if any breach of this security will mean an identity theft festival on a completely unprecedented scale, and the right for each individual to check it. I know that's meaningless. Maybe they've got the wrong fingerprints? There's nothing meaningful to check. But it sounds good I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition. Yes, that reads well. Almost as though I am engaging in a debate instead of delivering a fait accompli

If national ID cards do help us counter crime and terrorism, it is, of course, the law-abiding majority who will benefit and whose own liberties will be protected. Big "if". We could start enforcing the laws that do exist properly but that would be dreary and I just can't be bothered. Announcing new initiatives and laws is MUCH more fun. Nobody goes into politics to make sure the drains work. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritarian authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards. And hanging. But we'll ignore that. Polls are only useful if they agree with me. A well phrased poll can generally get the desired result and this is no exception. We didn't ask, for example, "Do you want your ass to be owned by the government and your fingerprints to be made available to the Post Office".

I am also convinced that there will also be other positive benefits. A national ID card system, for example, will prevent the need, as now, to take a whole range of documents to establish our identity. Of course, we could abolish the absurd anti-money laundering laws that mean I have to prove my identity to a bank I already proved my identity to if I want to open a second account. But we don't abolish laws. We make new ones. Over time, they will also help improve access to services. How? No idea, again. These trailing sentences are great - I can slip almost any unfounded statement at the end of a paragraph and hope nobody will notice.

The petition also talks about cost. It is true that individuals will have to pay a fee to meet the cost of their ID card in the same way, for example, as they now do for their passports. But I simply don't recognise most claims of the cost of ID cards. In many cases, these estimates deliberately exaggerate the cost of ID cards by adding in the cost of biometric passports. This is both unfair and inaccurate. What's fair is to subtract the cost of biometric passports, even though you'll have to pay for these as well, on top of the cards, then present the difference as the cost of the cards. Watch:

As I have said, it is clear that if we want to travel abroad, we will soon have no choice but to have a biometric passport. We estimate that the cost of biometric passports will account for 70% of the cost of the combined passports/id cards. The additional cost of the ID cards is expected to be less than £30 or £3 a year for their 10-year lifespan. Our aim is to ensure we also make the most of the benefits these biometric advances bring within our borders and in our everyday lives.

There. Clever, huh?

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

1 comment:

Serf said...

What a wanker.

Nice fisk of his patronising bollocks.