Wednesday, September 03, 2003

John Stevens claims ID cards "essential" in TWAT

White Rose, a civil liberties blog comments on a Reuters report that John Stevens, the Police Commissioner for London, regards compulsory ID cards as essential for fighting terrorism. Both White Rose and Samizdata provide interesting comments on this. E.g. highlighting the contrary nnature of Stevens' comments:

What I am totally against is the business whereby we can trace and follow people who have a normal life. But we do need to have the ability to identify those people who are around doing their business lawfully and those other people who want to create mayhem and effectively destroy our way of life.

So he is totally against tracing and following people who have a normal life but wants to identify people who are doing their business normally! For his purposes, he only needs to identify those who are terrorists and/or criminals.

However another of his statements deserves a response:

The excuse people say is that terrorists and organised criminals get round it. They might do. But in getting round it, it will identify who they are.

This is simply wrong. All of the hijackers on 9/11 had apparently valid travel and identity documents. "Getting round it" did not identify them as terrorists and in fact involved elaborately established false identities. And here's the nub of the problem. The possession of a valid ID card will not indicate whether you're a terrorist or a criminal unless you get convicted as such and continue to operate under that identity (without e.g. bribing officials to wipe the slate clean). Real terrorists will operate under false identities and recruit people who haven't got criminal records and won't attract attention to carry out their plans.

I have yet to see a single jot of evidence that ID cards will help at all with crime and terrorism. The govt has not provided any. Stevens hasn't either. According to Liberty there is in fact evidence that those countries with ID cards have not solved problems relating to crime, terrorism or immigration and have seen the fuelling of a criminal industry in the production of forgeries. Surely that suggests the ID cards could in fact make the situation worse?

No comments: