Civil Liberty

In Which Ben Goldacre Demolishes The ID Card System

A superb column from Ben Goldacre here. Go and read it all. He\’s got more details of how, for example, to make your own fingerprint (or rather, someone else\’s) here.

Quite apart from the whole civil liberties part of the database and so on, it\’s clear that it simply won\’t actually work.

In fact you might sense that the whole field of biometrics and ID is rather like medical quackery: as usual, on the one hand we have snake oil salesmen promising the earth, and on the other a bunch of humanities graduates who don’t understand technology, science or even human behaviour. Buying it. Bigging it up. Thinking it’s a magic wand.

50 Day Detention

Here\’s another cart where the wheels appear to be coming off: The Director of Public Prosecutions.

Sir Ken said: \’\’We are satisfied with the position as its stands at the moment."

He pointed out that charges could be brought against suspects on the grounds of \’\’reasonable suspicion" of involvement in a terrorist act.

If such a benchmark could not be achieved after almost one month of questioning and inquiry, a court was unlikely to allow the period of detention to continue.

Once a suspect was held for more than 14 days, a High Court judge must be persuaded to let the detention continue. This becomes increasingly difficult the longer he is held without charge.

So longer is no necessary. Can we now return the conversation to where i ought to be, making that period shorter?


Your Documents Please

I\’ve missed this one so far:

We now accept with apparent equanimity that the state has the right to demand to know, among other things, how your ticket has been paid for, the billing address of any card used, your travel itinerary and route, your email address, details of whether your travel arrangements are flexible, the history of changes to your travel plans plus any biographical information the state deems to be of interest or anything the ticket agent considers to be of interest.

What\’s Porter on about?

Combined with the ID card information, which comes on stream in a few years\’ time, the new travel data means there will be very little the state won\’t be able to find out about you. The information will be sifted for patterns of travel and expenditure. Conclusions will be drawn from missed planes, visits extended, illness and all the accidents of life, and because this is a government database, there will be huge numbers of mistakes that will lead to suspicion and action being taken against innocent people.

Those failing to provide satisfactory answers will not be allowed to travel and then it will come to us with a leaden regret that we have in practice entered the era of the exit visa, a time when we must ask permission from a security bureaucrat who insists on further and better particulars in the biographical section of the form. Ten, 15 or more years on, we will be resigned to the idea that the state decides whether we travel or not.

Who pays for the £1.2bn cost over the next decade? You will, with additional charges made by your travel agent and in a new travel tax designed to recoup the cost of the data collection.

Obviously, at some point my eyes glazed over and I missed it all. Anyone got further details? At first glance this would seem to fall foul of the freedom of movement…..or does that have a "security" get out clause?

Ah, I see more of it with Jenkins:

This is not responsible government. Yet on the advice of a self-confessed “simple sailor” security adviser, Admiral Lord West, Brown is now to encircle Britain with an “e-border”. All comers and goers are to be electronically recorded and asked to supply addresses, phone numbers and computer details, up to 53 items of personal information. Officials are to be given powers to revoke visitor visas at immigration desks without appeal. It will make America’s draconian immigration control seem like open house.

I\’ve been subjected to that cancellation of visas without appeal myself. It\’s quite possibly the one most important thing about the US practice that I would insist should never be tried by any sensible nation.

Sheesh. Still, at least al the Federasts will be annoyed, it entirely puts to an end any idea of joining the Schengen arrangements. Other than that I can\’t actually see any merit at all.

What a Wonderful Country

Matthew Parris:

We have found someone out thinking something awful, and we feel she has no right in this country to think or say it, and should somehow be stopped. Thought was the crime. The internet was just the evidence.

Samina Malik is awaiting sentencing fo posting poetry to the internet.

Those Rape Conviction Figures

Of course we must do something about the fact that only 5% of reported rapes end up in convictions. Of course:

The worst day of Paul Haslam’s life began at 3.30am with a loud knock on the door from the police. They told him he was being arrested on suspicion of rape, and took him to Charles Cross police station in Plymouth.

There, he was questioned about what had happened the previous evening, when he had spent the night with a girl he had known for only a short time. He knew he had done nothing wrong, but he did not know how he could prove it.

Later that day Mr Haslam was released without charge. Three weeks later he received a letter telling him that no further action was being taken. By then he had lost his job and had to tell his family about the arrest.

Mr Haslam, 30, had hardly thought about that day nine years ago until he read in his local newspaper this week that the woman who made the false allegation against him had since done the same thing to seven other men.

Gemma Gregory left a trail of disrupted lives across the city of Plymouth. A judge gave her a 12-month suspended jail sentence for perjury for her latest false accusation and ordered her to undergo psychiatric treatment.

No woman would ever accuse a man of rape if it hadn\’t actually happened now, would they? A simple system of accusation and conviction should be suitable, don\’t you think? For we must always listen to the voice of the victim. This insistence upon evidence is simply so patriarchal, testament does, after all, share the same root as testes.

Well, Yes

Shocking really:

The law lords have delivered a major blow to the Government\’s anti-terror policy, ruling that stringent control orders should be watered down so that suspects will be able to wander free for half of the day.

That people who have been convicted of no crime should be free to wander the streets! What is this? A free society or something?

Jack Straw on Rights and Responsibilities.

Hmm. Looks like they\’re actually serious about this:

Yesterday, we announced plans for a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities which will build on the Human Rights Act (HRA), with a clearer description of our responsibilities.

Err, whose responsibilities is that my dear Lord Chancellor? Do you mean your responsibilities to us? Or, as I suspect, our responsibilities to you? The latteris, I\’m afraid, bollocks.

You see, a Bill of Rights is not about what we must do for you, it\’s about what you, the Government, the State, may not do to us, the citizenry. As the history of the 20th century shows us, the greatest danger to the pursuit of happiness, to life and liberty, is the State. As indeed it was before that, which is why ou forefathers spend so much time and effort it limiting the things it could do to those who constitute it.

So can we please get this very straight, right now? We owe you no duties. You are our servants, hired for a limited time to do what must be done collectively and with the power of compulsion that only the State has. The obvious temptations of the joy of exercising that power of compulsion mean that what you may do to us is limited by a Bill of Rights. Stick with that and we\’ll be fine. But it is you that owes us the duty, not us you.

Gordon Brown on Liberty

So we\’re going to get lots more liberty from El Gordo. Aren\’t we lucky little boys and girls?

Gordon Brown has set out to jettison Labour\’s reputation for authoritarianism with a pledge to "open a new chapter" on civil liberty in Britain.

A new chapter? How delightful! What is it that we\’ll get?

New rights of protest. This will mean watering down laws – introduced just four years ago – that ban any unauthorised protest within one kilometre of the Palace of Westminster.

Is that a new right? Isn\’t it, rather, simply the resumption of an old one? One that was taken away four short years ago?

New rights of access to public information by extending the Freedom of Information Act to companies carrying out public functions, such as private prisons.

How lovely: now, who wants to bet that at the same time as FoI is extended, it\’s also tightened? To make it more difficult to find out things but from a larger group of people?

Entrenched freedoms of the press to carry out investigative journalism.

Sorry? We already have freedom of the press don\’t we? Freedom of speech, of association? But there\’s another matter here. By "entrenching" the freedom of one group to do something then you\’re marking them off, making them someone special. That\’s something that traditionally we don\’t do: we don\’t say that as a "registered journalist" (for there must be some method of divining who is "Press" and who is not if there are to be privileges) you have legal rights greater or different than anyone else. I\’ll guarantee you that whatever freedoms are entrenched will not extend to bloggers: it\’ll be only those on the register. And of course, by controlling those who are on the register there is thus control over the system.

New rights against invasion of property after it emerged there are 250 laws allowing state agents to enter a home.

Worthwhile, of course: but the simplest measure would just be to insist that outside the emergency services everyone else must hav a warrant. Let the magistrates decide.

Mr Brown said he would not compromise the security of the nation and there would be tougher counter-terrorism laws before Christmas.

Aaaaah…there it is. The other shoe. We get back some fraction of what has been stolen from us at the same time as more is taken.

We\’re rednecks, rednecks
And we don\’t know our ass from a hole in the ground
We\’re rednecks, we\’re rednecks
And we\’re keeping the niggers down

Now your northern nigger\’s a Negro
You see he\’s got his dignity
Down here we\’re too ignorant to realize
That the North has set the nigger free

Yes he\’s free to be put in a cage
In Harlem in New York City
And he\’s free to be put in a cage on the South-Side of Chicago
And the West-Side
And he\’s free to be put in a cage in Hough in Cleveland
And he\’s free to be put in a cage in East St. Louis
And he\’s free to be put in a cage in Fillmore in San Francisco
And he\’s free to be put in a cage in Roxbury in Boston
They\’re gatherin\’ \’em up from miles around
Keepin\’ the niggers down

We\’re free to be tried twice for the same crime, we\’re free to be tried without a jury, we\’re free to be incarcerated without trial, we\’re free to be subjected to house arrest without trial, we\’re free to have a barcode stamped on our forehead, we\’re free of the right to silence, we\’re free to be jailed for a t-shirt saying "Bollocks to Blair", we\’re free to be watched by 4.5 million cameras, we\’re free to have our money, our homes, taken without being convicted of an offense, we\’re free to have to prove our innocence instead of having our guilt proved, we\’re free to be extradited without evidence….

They\’re gatherin\’ \’em up from miles around
Keepin\’ the British down

Fuck \’em. Hang them all.