temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
(Benjamin Franklin, 1759)
In view of the recent vote in the House of Commons, and of the excellent Channel 4 documentary about the way in which our civil liberties are being stolen away in the name of security from crime and terrorism (Dispatches, 27th February 2006), it seems appropriate to revisit this topic for the third time in just over a year.
The new cards are likely to use RFID technology or something like it. This means that they can be read by a sensor that is not in actual contact with the card, just somewhere near it. The government say the card has to be within one or two centimetres of the reader, but we all know how quickly technology progresses - it will be only a matter of months before you'll be walking down the street with your ID card in your pocket, and some criminal or secret policeman sitting in a parked car will be able to read all your personal information as you pass. They're already doing exactly that with wire-less computers. But don't take the GOS's word for this - click here.
The penalties to be imposed - many of them civil penalties in order to prevent us from getting legal aid to fight them - are draconian and oppressive. Fines ranging from £1,000 to £2,500, and prison sentences of up to two years (and, in one case, ten years) will apply to offences like failing to register when told to do so, failing to turn up for an interview when instructed to do so, providing faulty information etc. If you lose your ID card and don't report it, or move house without telling them, you can be sent to gaol for up to a year. Why don't they just make us all wear yellow stars on our backs and have done with it?
And if you're one of the people who blithely say "I've nothing to hide, so why should I worry?" then frankly you're a bloody fool. If you've nothing to hide, why should you be tagged and registered like a cow or a paedophile?
If you want to read more detail about Identity Cards, the GOS strongly recommends these three websites: No2ID, Privacy International and Out-Law.
This is what The GOS had to say back in February 2005, and nothing that he's heard since has made him change his mind ...
"So ... let's get this straight.
I have a passport. I have a birth certificate. I have a marriage certificate. I have a medical card with my social security number on it. I have a driving licence, an MOT certificate and a Certificate of Insurance. I have a television licence. I have several credit cards. I own a house and the local authority knows where I live because they keep telling me to cut my hedge (actually, they keep telling me to cut next door's hedge, but that's another story). I have a library card. I get regular utilities bills. I have an email address. When my picture is taken by one of these cute yellow cameras at the side of the road, the DVLA in Swansea knows exactly who I am and can have Mr.Plod waiting on my front door mat before I get home. I'm on the electoral roll, and actually have a vote for all the good it's ever done. I pay my taxes, and have had a job for most of my life so have also been paying my National Insurance contributions. I've been checked by the Criminal Records Bureau so I can work with children.
I went into a shop recently to buy a new computer. The young assistant asked my name, typed it into his computer and then told me where I live and what my telephone number is. He then spent the rest of the interview calling me by my Christian name, though I didn't know him from Adam. I had a telephone call the other day from a man in India who even knew my date of birth.
I am so deeply woven into the fabric of our society that I couldn't hide if I wanted to.
Yet now the government want me to have an Identity Card. Why? They already know who I am, where I live, when I was born, who I'm married to, who my children are, what my qualifications and employment history are, whether I have any convictions for speeding (I have) or for offences against children (I haven't), and probably the name of my cat and whether I pick my nose with the right forefinger or the left. So why do they need to issue me with an Identity Card?
To combat terrorism? Yes, I can quite see that any responsible citizen with an Identity Card would think twice about letting loose with a Kalashnikov in IKEA one Saturday morning. But your bona fide terrorist with a bomb strapped under his parka - what's he supposed to think? "Oi, wait a moment, I don't have an Identity Card. I'd better not do this"?
Perhaps it's to ensure that only people who legally live in this country can get the dole or go to hospital or draw their old age pension? But they already know all this stuff about me. They know, if they can be bothered to check their computer like the lad in PCWorld, that I've paid so much National Insurance and Income Tax over the years that I practically own the bloody National Health Service. Of course, if there's an asylum-seeking illegal immigrant terrorist who looks exactly like me, lives at the same address and happens to have laid his hands on my passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical card, social security number, driving licence, MOT certificate, Certificate of Insurance, television licence, credit cards, library card, utilities bills, email address, Voter's Card, wife, cat and hedge, I can see where an Identity Card might be quite useful.
No, the real reason is because they can make me pay for the damned thing. There's the crunch - it's just another tax. I've paid all my life so I can get the medical help and pension I need when I'm old, and now they won't give them to me unless I pay a little bit more.
Well, think about this, Mr.Blair, old cock. By the time this all becomes a law that applies to everyone, I'll be really old. All I'll want from life is three square meals a day, a bed, a bit of telly in the evening and somewhere to crap. How about I refuse to get an Identity Card, you prosecute me, I refuse to pay the fine, and you have to send me to gaol? I imagine I'll get three meals a day there, a bed and a pot to piss in. And if I'm ill, the prison hospital will bloody well have to treat me whether I've got an Identity Card or not.
Get out of that!"
And this is what he had to say in June last year ...
"Speeding in Ballards Lane, Finchley, North London on 7th December 1950, a Yorkshire man, Clarence Wilcock, was stopped by Police Constable Muckle. When asked for his Identity Card, the dry cleaner, living in the Metropolis, refused to produce it, saying that he was "a Liberal and against that sort of thing" (opposed to undue influence by government in personal lives). The policeman then gave Wilcock a form, which he threw on the pavement, so Constable Muckle told Clarence to present his ID card at Ballards Lane Police Station within the next two days.
As he failed to comply with Harold Muckle's instruction, Mr.Wilcock was summoned to the Magistrate's Court at Hornsey Town Hall where he was fined thirty shillings. However, the Magistrate gave him an absolute discharge, saying that although guilty of speeding, he had, in his opinion, done nothing wrong in not showing his ID card and would pass the case on to the Royal Courts of Justice.
Agreeing with the Magistrate's judgement, Lord Goddard made the following statement: "It is obvious that the police now, as a matter of routine, demand the production of National Registration Identity Cards whenever they stop or interrogate a motorist for whatever cause. Of course, if they are looking for a stolen car or have reason to believe that a particular motorist is engaged in committing a crime, that is one thing, but to demand a National Registration Identity Card from all and sundry for instance, is wholly unreasonable, and such action tends to make the people resentful of the acts of the police and inclines them to obstruct the police instead of to assist them."
It is a fact that the government had no intention of withdrawing the National Registration Identity Cards introduced at the beginning of the war to aid conscription, monitor rationing and for national security. Nevertheless, Clarence Wilcock brought the matter to a head and Churchill abolished the Identity Cards on his return to power in 1952.
The GOS says: So this is a battle we've fought and won once already. Why are we having to fight it all over again?"
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