Blogs > Cliopatria > Identity and Terrorism

Dec 20, 2004 5:00 pm

Identity and Terrorism

The domestic agenda of Bush II-2 is still shrouded in mystery - besides the red flag of Social Security reform [will the liberals never learn?]. However, across the pond, are clear indications of new things on the horizon. Identity Cards.

Tony Blair's government will be debating and voting today on establishing I.D. cards for everyone. The Immigration Minister, Des Browne, says:
"What we are doing is taking information which the state already knows about individuals and applying it to biometric information to give the opportunity for a secure form of identification, which the society we live in is crying out for."

Margaret Thatcher is quoted as saying it all sounds very"Germanic".

Charles Clarke, the new Home Secretary, writes in the Times that:

For example, a secure identity system will help to prevent terrorist activity, more than a third of which makes use of false identities. It will make it far easier to address the vile trafficking in vulnerable human beings that ends in the tragedies of Morecambe Bay, exploitative near-slave labour or vile forced prostitution. It will reduce identity fraud, which now costs the UK more than £1.3 billion every year.

I believe that some critics of our proposals are guilty of liberal woolly thinking and spreading false fears when they wrongly claim that ID cards will erode our civil liberties, will revisit 1984, usher in the “Big Brother” society, or establish some kind of totalitarian police state. Those kinds of nightmare will be no more true of ID cards, when they are introduced, than they have been for the spread of cash and credit cards, driving licences, passports, work security passes and any number of the other current forms of ID that most of us now carry.

In order to reinforce this point, the Bill does not make it compulsory to carry a card, nor does it give powers to the police to stop individuals and demand to see their card. Neither will the database which accompanies the card hold information such as medical records, religion or political beliefs.

The Opposition Leader, Michael Howard, drops the whole"opposition" bit and explains himself in the Telegraph:
Why are ID cards important? The primary reason is that identity is a key element in detection. If someone comes to the attention of the police, arousing their suspicions that he may be involved in a terrorist conspiracy, the police need to know who that person is in order to identify who his associates are, whom he has been seeing and what they've been up to. And they need to do it fast. This information could be the determining factor as to whether a major act of terrorism and murder takes place or does not.

Bottomline: Fight Terrorists, Get an ID Card.

I come from a National I.D. society. Yes, with biometric information now. I still have my N.I.D. card tucked into my passport. Terrorism is non-existent in Pakistan. Right?

The central problem with all these programs which call for centralized information on the citizenry is that they rarely provide direct support to the causes for which they are established. Instead, the I.D. cards will get used for immigration policing or mob/crowd busting or cashing social-security checks.

I think that this debate is headed our way soon - in one form or another.
comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Jonathan Dresner - 12/21/2004

I'm struck by the admission that less than half ("more than a third" the article says) of terrorist activity (what we know about, anyway) involves false identities. It's an admission that this is a massive program which will leave unaffected more than half of the known terrorist activity, and which, as you point out, may not affect the rest of it much, either.

The only way that the benefits described can come to pass is if the government collects and collates massive quantities of personal data on non-terrorists....

Sharon Howard - 12/20/2004

Word is that significant numbers of MPs on both sides of the House are going to rebel (well, Tories are staying at home).

This stage will (almost certainly) pass, but with the sort of opposition that might make it all but impossible to complete the passing of the Bill before the General Election in the spring...

History News Network