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25 February 2007 Blog Home : February 2007 : Permalink

Tony "the Weasel" Blair

In the email on my return from my Iberian tour were two responses from Phoney Tony about petitions I had signed up to. The first was the EU one where petitioners asked for a referendum on continued membership of the EU. The response was pretty slimy. It began:

Under UK's constitutional arrangements, while the Government may make a recommendation, it is ultimately for Parliament to decide whether to hold a referendum on a particular issue. Referendums in the UK are rare. Parliament - the elected representatives of the British people -has the right to take important decisions on their behalf. This was the case when the UK joined the (then) European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973.

There was, of course, a referendum on UK membership of the EEC in 1975 because the Labour Government was committed to seeking the approval of the British people for the renegotiated terms of membership which it had obtained.

So let me get this straight. The Labour government in 1975, having a majority of just 3 after the October 1974 elections was able to get parliament to agree to hold a referendum. The Labour government in 2007, having a majority of 66 after the 2005 elections seems to feel it could not get parliament to agree to hold a referendum. If you truly believe this to be the case, Mr Blair, then I have some quality high altitude beachfront property in Florida to sell you in special deal where I also throw in a large bridge in either New York or London for no additional cost. The fact of the matter is that the voters of the UK have been unable to make their opinion heard on this issue since 1975 as all major parties have supported EEC/EU membership ever since. If the Labour party wished to spike the guns of UKIP then a referendum on EU membership would seem to be pretty much the ideal way to do it, on the other hand it could be that Labour thinks it will benefit from UKIP remaining a viable force. However that is mere speculation. An alternative is that Labout feels threatened by the idea of referenda because it fears that many of its other bright ideas like ID cards would be rejected by the voters.

Then, having written this bit of BS about the UK situation, the response then goes on to say:

Thereafter, each Treaty change - notably the Single European Act and the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice - has been ratified following the passing of an Act of Parliament. Subject to Parliament's agreement, the Government has committed itself to a referendum on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe before its ratification by the UK. Following the 'no' votes in referendums in France and the Netherlands, however, the future of the Constitutional Treaty is now unclear.

It is interesting to note that the government still seems willing to allow us to vote on the proposed EU constitution, despite saying that its future is unclear, but not on the related question of whether we want to be members of the body itself. This is a position that seems to me to be inconsistent. If the government is willing ot allow the EU constitution to be voted on in a referendum why is it unwilling to allow other related matters to be settled by referendum? It occurs to me that the Labour party, being populated by a bunch of lawyers may be recalling the famous dictum of barristers that one should never ask a witness a question that you don't know the answer.

However that is merely the less offensive response by Her Majesties Spinmasters. The more offensive response is the ID card one. Needless to say the answer, allegedly written by the Phoney himself, can be boiled down to "I like ID cards so screw you" but the response also trots out the usual justifications for ID cards and is therefore well worth fisking:

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 the Government believes National ID cards, and the National Identity Register needed to make them effective, will help make Britain a safer place.

Bloody hell, 28,000 people were sufficiently upset to sign up to this so we've got a problem, not as bad a one as the one about vehicle tracking and not as bad as the inheritance tax one coming up that I'm going to let Gordon answer, but a problem none the less. So I'm going to try and pretend I care and answer it.

The petition disputes the idea that ID cards will help reduce crime or terrorism. 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.

Given that the security services are clearly acting in CYA mode, the most recent set of terror suspects have all been British citizens and that, in my opinion, the details the ID card collects make ID frand more likely this is a pretty questionable statement that could do with some justifying in the next few paragraphs.

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.

There are two problems here. Firstly how does a biometric scure your ID? Secondly why are the biometrics being included in the ID card apparently greater than those required by even the US government for travel documents? The second question seems pretty straightforward as is so we'll leave it. The first may warrant a bit of explanation. If a biometric is required to verify ones identity then the likelihood is that people and systems responsible for verifying ID will only check the biometric and not look closely at anything else. In other words if you can fake the biometric you are golden. This means that criminals have a large incentive to figure out ways to crack the biometric and since biometrics have so far proven relatively easy to crack chances are that the crooks will find ways of doing this. So the biometric will merely be the excuse used by the government (or bank or ...) for why they let some fraudster walk off with your savings.

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.

Less data is not at issue. It doesn't matter to me whether a store card reports that I buy vodka, nappies and liver every week without fail or even that I purchase porno movies on weeks when the wife is away (for those that may know me I don't actually buy any of this, it's merely an example), however it is true a year's worth of till receipts, which is basically what a store card causes to be recorded, does add up to a lot of data. However the data recored by the NIR includes details like current and past addresses as well as national insurance and driving license numbers. These are precisely the sorts of things needed by someone wishing to steal your identity and possibyl use the theft of the ID to subsequently steal your belongings. Oh and the £3 a year. Does that mean it will only cost £30? really? sure you haven't dropped a zero somewhere. Also how come Tescos can run a store card program with, as noted, more data on it, without needing to charge the punters for the privilege?

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. Terrorists and international criminal gangs increasingly exploit this to move undetected across borders and to disappear within countries. Terrorists routinely use multiple identities - up to 50 at a time. Indeed this is an essential part of the way they operate and is specifically taught at Al-Qaeda training camps. 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.

It only makes it safer if
  1. ID cards/information is hard to fake
  2. The information is rigorously checked
  3. The computers doing the checking work properly
Call me skeptical but I doubt all three. What happens if Al Qaeda (UK) or some criminal group figures out a way to create ID cards under the name of John Smith but with the biometric details of Abdul Aziz? Or figures out a way to make 50 different Abdul Aziz ID cards?

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.

See above. All you need to commit ID theft is contained in the NIR linked to your ID card. Hence it is EASIER to forge an identity because all you need is to somehow fake the ID card.

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. Another benefit from biometric technology will be to improve the flow of information between countries on the identity of offenders.

So we are all going to be potential suspects. Forget the abuse of civil liberties and "you are all crooks" mindset inherent in this idea there are some serious practical issues with this idea. First note that UK biometric information is also going to be given to other countries, now some other countries (say France or the USA) are probably not going to abuse that information or hand it out to others but not all foreign anti-terror and law enforcement agencies are secure and incorruptible. Let us pick a slightly sleazy EU country, say in Eastern or Southern Europe, where the holiday resorts are filled with British lager louts. Assume that one of the local police is on the take from a criminal gang which steals ID cards from the aforementioned lager louts. See above for identity theft possibilities.

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.

Indeed once you are accidentally put on the sex offenders register your life with ID cards is going to be a nightmare. Anyone think it will be easy to have your name removed? Even ignoring malice simple bureaucratic bumbling means that lists of kiddiefiddlers and other undesirables will be inaccurate. And more to the point, these lists only work if people check them and the person they are checking on has been put on the list in the first place.

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.

It only works if ID cards are reliable and checked every time. Any time someone either fails to make the check or the card is succssfully faked it stops working. If (see above) Abdul Aziz or Vladimir Vizinsky can get his hands on a version of John Smith's ID card and fake the biometric the whole scheme falls down. Since (see above) the likelihood is that once the biometric matches people will ignore the rest, there will be great incentive for people to find ways to fake this informstion.

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. 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. 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.

Hey guys, control freaks in other governments like the idea too.

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. They will, I hope, be reassured by the strict safeguards now in place on the data held on the register and the right for each individual to check it. But I hope it might make those who believe ID cards will be ineffective reconsider their opposition.

Pity I just demolished all the ways. And strict safeguards? Look matey stop smoking the wacky-baccy! The UK government has to date proven incapable of implementing secure large scale computer projects - in the DVLC and NHS to pick just two examples - what makes you think that this even larger scale project is going to be secure?

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. This helps explain why, according to the recent authoritative Social Attitudes survey, the majority of people favour compulsory ID cards.

If you told people repeatedly that the only way to be secure was to kill the Jews, history shows that a majority of people will believe that too. At least until it turns out that you should have also included the gays, commies and gyppos.

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. Over time, they will also help improve access to services.

Look moron, you just admitted it. If you can fake the ID card you won't need anything else. This is a benefit to crooks, fraudsters and the like but I don't consider that to be positive.

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.

So what will it cost then? above you say it will cost £3 / year for 10 years. Given that the biometric and identity details required are greater than those required for a passport, the cost of the passport will clearly be whatever it costs to print a 50 page document in a nice EU colour piece of laminated leatherette. About £5 at the most. Passports currently cost £66 so therefore the price of a passport will reduce to £35? Ah no that would be too simple as we discover in the next paragraph

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.

Actually the price is £66 (current passport price) plus price of gathering new biometrics (£N) plus £30. Apparently you are unwilling to state the price of gathering new biometrics. It probably isn't £0 though so that means that we are looking at every UK resident citizen having to fork out over £100 for an ID document, even if they don't travel abroad.

Yours sincerely,

Tony Blair

I sincerely hope you swallowed this pack of half truths because if not we're going to be in trouble.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin