Tuesday, November 25, 2008

UK Introduces New ID Card System, Codename "Older Sibling"

As I have written before here, it irks me when holier-than-thou foreigners pat us on the back for the election of Barack Obama, saying things like "we didn't think you had it in you, old chaps!" America is imperfect, but it's the most perfectly imperfect country ever devised by the hand of man. Yes, with all its flaws, it is still the greatest country in the history of history - put that in your pipe and smoke it Luxembourg.

What really gets my goat is many Euros talking about how they didn't think such a racist country could ever see its way clear to electing a black president. This sort of attitude infuriates me, because only one who had put their ethnic house in complete order should say something as pedantic. And, as anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of European history (and I'm not talking about World War II - I'm talking about RECENT history) knows or who has taken a cursory glance at a website or newspaper covering European politics in the last few years understands, "the Continent" is anything but when it comes to racial, religious and ethnic equality.

But the folks that I hold to the highest standards because of their close relationship and shared origins are the Brits. And the Brits today, as reported here, showed conclusively that they are moving backwards, not forwards, in this area:

Britain has begun a national identity card plan for some foreign nationals in an attempt to combat terrorism and identity fraud. Opponents say it represents a costly erosion of civil liberties. The program has been debated heatedly for several years. The cards are expected to store biometric data and information about the cardholder's nationality and work eligibility.
The first group to receive the new cards will be foreign students and permanent residents' spouses who apply for visa renewals. Officials expect more than 50,000 cards to be issued in the next four months and that the program will be expanded in coming years.

This topic has been hotly debated in Britain for several years since passage of the 2006 Identity Cards Act which gave the green light to this system (you can read more about it here). But what does this really mean for Brits? What should they expect? The answers might frighten you if you hold your freedom and civil liberties precious and think it is important to protect minorities within your country:

Under the NIR ("National Identity Register"), UK Residents with an ID card will be required to fulfil certain functions:
-Attend in person to be photographed, have their fingerprints taken and iris scanned.
-Promptly inform the police or Home Office if a card is lost or damaged.
-Promptly inform the National Identity Register of any change of address.
-Promptly inform the National Identity Register of any prescribed change of circumstances affecting the information recorded about them in the Register.

Whoa - everyone who gets an ID card will be fingerprinted and have their eyes scanned? Are you kidding me? We are not fighting Europa. We are now fighting Oceana.

Well, how are you rolling this out - is this a requirement for everyone? This isn't being "targeted" at certain segments of the population, right?

The first to receive ID cards will be foreign nationals, from 25 November 2008, and the Government intends to follow this up by offering young people ID cards in 2010. Ordinary British citizens will then be offered (on a voluntary basis at first, but later in larger volumes) ID cards from 2011 to 2012.

Oh good, so "ordinary" British citizens won't need an ID card until at least 2012 if not later - but foreign nationals need one starting this week? Well, I'm sure the scope of what this will be used for will be limited. You know, just preventing identity theft or for customs purposes:

For example, Gordon Brown was reported to be "planning a massive expansion of the ID cards project that would widen surveillance of everyday life by allowing high-street businesses to share confidential information with police databases."[57] He apparently described how "police could be alerted as soon as a wanted person used a biometric-enabled cash card or even entered a building via an iris-scan door."[58]

Ah, I see. Good, so limitless surveillance. Excellent. And at least it isn't targeting minorities or people who have been in the country for a short period of time, foreigners, things like that. Y'know - the dangerous elements. The ones you need to keep an eye on. Hey - if they have nothing to hide, they shouldn't care, right?

Good thing you Brits are around to pat us on the back for our progress in electing a black president. We can really take a cue from you chaps about how to treat everyone equally, openly and with respect. Speaking of which, tell me again the last minority prime minister you folks elected? Simply goes to show you that no matter what it is we get wrong here - and we gets lots of stuff wrong -everyone else will inevitably get it wronger.

Next time you complain about that DMV line, remember that at least they aren't fingerprinting you or scanning your iris. Liberal or conservative, be glad you're an American - where at least you know you're free (from compulsory biometric identification and registration).

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