Consumers/everyday life magazine
Documentary series following the work of benefit fraud investigators. This week a highly respectable middle-aged lady and her cousin are found guilty of falsely claiming nearly two million pounds in benefits, using 192 stolen identities. The Organised Fraud Team allows unique access to its investigations as it trails and catches the most elaborate fraudsters.
Biometric datails not secure
Sir: James Baring suggests that it would not matter if data leaked from an ID database because the biometric information would be of no use to criminals (letter, 24 November). He might be less confident about security if he realised that biometric data can be spoofed.
Fingerprints – obtained from a database or from glasses in a pub – can be used to create gelatine moulds that are capable of fooling biometric scanners. Contact lenses can be coloured or patterned to match recorded images.
DNA is irrelevant to the ID debate: the Government is not proposing to use DNA verification because the process takes too long to be practical for routine transactions.
Furthermore, any biometric data used for identification will eventually be converted into a set of numbers for comparison against stored values. If hackers are able to capture these numbers and inject them into other systems, they are capable of impersonating anyone.
Biometrics are not a panacea for information security. Those who believe otherwise have been misled by the hype.
All visitors to Britain requiring visas will have to be fingerprinted, the Home Office has confirmed.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said a programme for installing biometric visa controls has been completed three months ahead of schedule and already 500 cases of identity swapping have been spotted.
He added: "It is done. It is done three months early and it is done several million pounds under budget.
"We now check everybody's fingerprint wherever they apply for a visa around the world."
Under the new rules, anyone applying for a visa must submit to a digital finger scan and a full-face digital photograph.
Mr Byrne said the new system - the first of ten key changes to the UK's border controls to be implemented during this year - is already having an effect.
He said: "We have already found about 500 cases of people who have chosen not to give us their identity correctly and we have checked them against databases that we hold in the UK and found out that they have been lying to us. Obviously, that has allowed us to stop them coming anywhere near Britain."
Foreign nationals will have ID cards this year and it was intended to introduce them in "significant volumes" for UK citizens from 2010.
But documents leaked to the Tories suggest it has been put back to 2012.
The Tories say the ID card scheme is "in the intensive care ward" but the government said the plan had always been to introduce them "incrementally".
When he was prime minister, Tony Blair promised to legislate to make it compulsory for all Britons to have - but not to carry - an ID card.
But the £5.6bn scheme has met fierce criticism from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on cost, effectiveness and civil liberties grounds.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said he would take part in a campaign of civil disobedience if legislation is passed.
Home Office documents leaked to the Conservatives set out an illustrated timeline for introducing biometric ID cards.
|| I think the reality is just
beginning to bite ministers on this
Shadow immigration minister
It includes the "Borders Phase I" introduction of ID cards for foreign nationals, which will begin later this year.
Then it indicates that people in positions of trust - like security guards - will be issued with cards in 2009.
But the "Borders Phase II" wider rollout to all UK citizens will not begin until 2012, the document says.
BBC political correspondent James Landale said the implication was the controversial issue had been "kicked well into the long grass", beyond the next general election.
Shadow immigration minister Damian Green told the BBC: "It's clear that there are enormous practical difficulties in putting 50 different pieces of personal information including addresses of 60 million British citizens plus lots of foreigners into a single database.
|| We have always said that the
scheme will be rolled out incrementally
Identity and Passport Service spokesman
"I think the reality is just beginning to bite ministers on this, so this delay is the first sign of reality intruding, let's hope there are more to come."
But an Identity and Passport Service spokesman replied: "We do not comment on leaked documents."
He added: "We have always said that the scheme will be rolled out incrementally.
"As stated in the Strategic Plan for the National Identity Scheme published in December 2006, we will begin issuing ID cards for foreign nationals this year, and the first ID cards for British citizens in 2009."
He said they would make it easier for businesses and government to check identities "securely, conveniently and efficiently".
But he said the date for introducing cards with fingerprints "in line with international developments in passport security" was "under consideration" and further announcements would be made in due course.
There have been reports that Gordon Brown had cooled on the idea of compulsory ID cards for UK citizens, saying it was only an "option" that would be the subject of a Parliamentary vote.
Last week immigration minister Liam Byrne said the government remained enthusiastic about ID cards.
Most people will not now have to give their fingerprints when getting a passport until 2011/12 - three years later than had previously been planned.
And plans to force passport applicants to get an ID card have been dropped.
The exception will be airport and other workers in security-sensitive jobs who will need an ID card from 2009.
ID CARDS TIMETABLE
2008 - Some non-EU nationals will have to get them
2009 - Compulsory for 200,000 UK citizens and EU nationals who work in 'sensitive' airport jobs
2010 - Voluntary scheme for students
2011/12 - Biometric passports issued, applicants can choose to get ID card
2017 - Full roll-out of identity cards
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said students would also be encouraged to get identity cards from 2010, as part of plans to let "consumer demand" drive take-up.
Ms Smith confirmed that some non-EU migrants applying for leave to enter or remain in the UK, such as students or spouses, will need ID cards from November.
The aim is that by 2015, 90% of foreign nationals will have identity cards, she added.
The announcement was branded a "complete U-turn" by Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne - but anti-ID card campaigners warned the government was trying to introduce the scheme by stealth.
The government had previously planned to take biometrics - including all 10 fingerprints and iris scans - of everyone applying for a new passport from 2008.
The proposal had been that from January 2010 everyone getting, or renewing, a passport would have to get an identity card in addition to a passport.
And ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair had said that a major plank of Labour's next election manifesto would be a bill to make it compulsory for everyone, irrespective of whether they get a passport or not, to get an ID card.
|| To engage consumers' hearts and
minds on the scale required, enrolment and any tokens should be
provided free of charge
Sir James Crosby
But those timetables have slipped, the proposed biometric data cut back to just fingerprints and not mention made of any foreseeable plans to make identity cards compulsory.
"While there are big advantages to making ID cards as widespread as possible, we need to be clear there is public acceptance," Ms Smith told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Ms Smith said that information on the national identity register would not be held on a single, central database for security reasons.
Ms Smith said she expected the "full roll-out" of ID cards would happen by 2017.
Private firms will be encouraged to set-up "biometric enrolment centres" where passport and ID card applicants will be fingerprinted.
In a speech in London, Ms "endorsed" the findings of Sir James Crosby - whose report on working with the private sector on ID cards recommended a more consumer-driven approach.
But the home office rejected one of Sir James' key recommendations - that ID cards should be free of charge.
The report says: "To engage consumers' hearts and minds on the scale required, enrolment and any tokens should be provided free of charge."
A home office spokesman said the government charged for other forms of ID such as driving licences and passports and it though the planned charge of £30 for an ID card was "fair".
The government's plans for ID cards, linking personal data to a fingerprint, have been plagued by technical delays, budget overspend and political controversy.
The government claims identity cards will boost security, tackle identity fraud and prevent illegal immigration.
Critics oppose the cards on cost, effectiveness and civil liberty grounds.
|| Whether you volunteer or are
coerced onto the ID database, there's no way back - you'll be monitored
Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "The government may have removed the highly visible element but they have still left the dangerous core of this project.
"The National Identity Register, which will contain dozens of personal details of every adult in this country in one place, will be a severe threat to our security and a real target for criminals, hackers and terrorists.
"This is before you take the government's legendary inability to handle people's data securely into account."
Phil Booth, of campaign group NO2ID dismissed Ms Smith's latest announcement as a "marketing exercise" designed to introduce ID cards by stealth.
"Whether you volunteer or are coerced onto the ID database, there's no way back. You'll be monitored for life. That's why the government is targeting students and young people, to get them on before they realise what's happening," he said.
Former Home Secretary David Blunkett, who introduced the initial identity card scheme, has previously said it would not work unless everyone had to have a card.
The UK's main aviation trade union, Unite, has also criticised the plans, which it said could discriminate against some of its members who already have to undergo "vigorous pre-employment checks".
Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile of Berriew told GMTV's Sunday Programme he had changed his stance on the issue, having previously backed the plans.
"ID cards could be of some value in the fight against terrorism but they are probably of quite limited value," he said.
"I cannot think of a terrorist incident in which ID cards could have brought the incident to an earlier end.
"I don't think they will get through a compulsory ID card."
But he added a voluntary scheme might be accepted by the public.
Days after peers debated the controversial Terror Bill, Lord Carlile also said he thought the legislation had been "rushed".
"I don't think there was a need to rush through the current terror legislation. I would have preferred it to go to a scrutiny committee. I think it's led to certain issues being muddled by political debate rather than analysis."
Earlier this week former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens urged Conservative leader David Cameron to drop his opposition to the scheme."I think that, not only is it going to be of absolutely great use in terms of dealing with organised crime, terrorism, identity problems and identity theft - which is a major problem in this country at the moment - but I think it will give a certain amount of certainty and take away some of the rubbing points when police officers stop people in the street and the like," Lord Stevens said in an interview for GMTV
Peers voted by a majority of 61 to overturn the proposal - backed by MPs last month - for a second time.
Opposition peers say the plans break the government's promise that ID cards will initially be voluntary.
But ministers say
there are no proposals to extend the
scheme to holders of other documents. The ID Cards Bill will return to
The ID card scheme will be introduced 'rapidly'
It is the first time the government has set out the estimated total expense for the controversial project.
Ministers claim ID cards will help in the fight against illegal immigration and terrorism.
But the Tories, who want the scheme scrapped, say the true cost is likely to be £20bn and the cash would be better spent on building more prisons.
'Will do nothing'
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "The Home Office has an absolutely appalling record for delivering IT-based projects on time and on budget.
He said ID cards would "do nothing" to improve security and "may make it worse".
"What the government should be doing is answering our calls to establish a UK border police, putting more police on the streets and appointing a dedicated minister to co-ordinate our security efforts," added Mr Davis.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg said the public had "every right to maintain a healthy scepticism about this figure".
The ID card scheme will force every adult in the UK to pay for a "biometric" card which stores fingerprint and iris scan details.
Leaked e-mails earlier this year suggested civil servants had serious doubts about whether the scheme could be implemented.
Two weeks ago it emerged that the government would attempt to save cash by using existing government databases to introduce the ID scheme.
Ministers are wary of opting for a single "big bang" solution, favouring instead a series of smaller IT contracts.
But Home Office minister Liam Byrne insisted ID cards would still be introduced "rapidly", with the first biometric cards coming into use in 2008, for foreign nationals wanting to work in the UK.
Speaking at the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), he said ID cards would make illegal working by immigrants "far more difficult".
Mr Byrne added: "Any employer would be able to check a person's unique reference number against registered information about their identity to find out whether someone is eligible to work in the UK.
"ID cards will give us a powerful tool to combat identity fraud which underpins organised crime, terrorism and abuse of the immigration system.
"ID cards will also help transform the delivery of public services to the citizen, making interactions swifter, more reliable and more secure and helping to reduce costs by eliminating wasteful duplication of effort."
However, Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: "First ministers claimed ID cards were needed to combat benefit fraud, then to guard us against terrorism, then to fight identity fraud."Having lost these arguments they now they claim they will be used to combat illegal immigration."
Mr Blair refused to estimate the number of illegal immigrants in the UK - something a study referred to by the government last year estimated could be up to 570,000.
He was asked about the consequences of deporting hundreds of thousands of people from London and the South East, where they were working in a range of jobs.
He replied: "What's the consequence of saying that even if someone is an illegal migrant, you are going to allow them to stay?
"The consequence is you are going to get a lot more."
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne recently said he had not ruled out the idea of an amnesty for illegal migrants - but Mr Blair's comments suggest he opposes the idea.
the problems in tracing and deporting people
who overstayed their visas, Mr Blair said: "Until there is a proper
system of identifying people, it's going to be very, very difficult to
do." [end of news extract]
Travellers will be able to bypass long queues if they have their fingerprints biometrically scanned, while face and eye scans will be introduced soon.
Those trying the miSense system have the scans at the same time as their passport is scanned at check-in.
Privacy campaigners said the scheme had "extremely limited value".
But advocates say it will make travelling easier, while maintaining security.
Some Cathay Pacific and Emirates flights will invite passengers to join the trial when they check in.
Passengers' details are linked to their passport, so they can be fast-tracked past queues through security and boarding controls.
BAA said the system provided passengers with a type of "electronic key" which would allow them to pass easily through each stage of the airport's processes.
Steve Challis, head of product development for BAA, said: "Rather than having to continually show pieces of paper to prove who you are, or to prove entry to the next stage of a journey, then your electronic key should make things much faster and much more secure at the same time."
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, launching the measures at Heathrow's Terminal 3, said the new system was crucial for security.
"Biometric ID systems are fundamental to securing our borders in a more mobile age," Mr Byrne said.
"They are crucial to our plans for counting everyone in and out of the country."
Mr Byrne went on to argue that the system is "a good example of how ID cards will be useful when helping people move through security".
All European nationals flying out of Heathrow's Terminal 3 will also be able to join the programme in its second phase.
In order to take part, they must hold a passport valid for at least six months, be over the age of 18 and fulfil UK government background checks.
A total of 13 different identifying scans of their fingerprints, irises and face will permit them to carry a membership card and allow them to use the system whenever they fly.
BBC transport correspondent Tom Symonds says similar biometric technology has already been installed in Dubai and Hong Kong.
It is hoped that, if successful, the system will be adopted at airports around the world.
It would enable passengers to pass through immigration controls by simply swiping their fingertips.
Simon Davies, of privacy watchdog, Privacy International, said: "The Home Office still hasn't got the message from international research that biometrics are extremely unstable and unreliable.
"At this early stage of biometric understanding this programme can have only extremely limited value."
By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click
The ePassport is one of the many measures pursued by the United States and governments internationally after the horror of 11 September.
It will, we are promised, keep the unwanted and dangerous outside our borders, while streamlining entry for those welcome to come and visit.
But as the implementation of the scheme gets underway it is becoming clear that there could be serious problems with it.
With the old passport, we knew where we stood. If you lost it you knew you had lost it, but with the new, machine readable passports the story is very different.
When you take a digital photo the image is, in effect, a code, which means that however many prints you make they are all exactly the same.
So when Lukas Grunwald and Christian Bottger realised they could clone the new ePassport they were pretty sure it would be identical to the original, and undetectable. So how did they do it?
The chip inside the ePassport is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip of the type poised to replace the barcode in supermarkets.
The good thing about RFID chips is that they emit radio signals that can be read at a short distance by an electronic reader.
But this is also the bad thing about them because, as Lukas demonstrated to me, he can easily download the data from his passport using an RFID reader he got for 200 Euros on eBay.
Lukas is less forthcoming about where he got what is called the Golden Reader Tool, it is the software used by border police and it allows him to read the chip on his ePassport, including the photo.
Now for the clever bit. Thanks to a software he himself has developed, called RFdump, he downloads the passport's data onto his computer and then onto a blank chip.
Using a standard off-the-shelf component you can just buy at a component store you can have a cloned ePassport in less than five minutes.
When the cloned ePassport is read and compared to the original one it behaves exactly the same.
The UK Home Office however dismissed the ability to get hold of the information on the chip.
A spokesman said: "It is hard to see why anyone would want to access the information on the chip.
"Other than the photograph, which could be obtained easily by other means, they would gain no information that they did not already have - so the whole exercise would be pointless: the only information stored on the ePassport chip is the basic information you can see on the personal details page."
The spokesman said the chip was one part of the security features of the ePassport.
He said: "Being able to copy this does not mean that the passport can be forged or imitated for illegal or unauthorised use.
"British ePassports are designed in such a way as to make chip substitution virtually impossible and the security features of the passport render the forgery of the complete document impractical."
According to Lukas Grunwald of the consulting company DN-Systems an ePassport holder is more at risk from someone trying to steal their data.
"Nearly every country issuing this passport has a few security experts who are yelling at the top of their lungs and trying to shout out: 'This is not secure. This is not a good idea to use this technology'".
DN-Systems' Christian Böttger also believes the system was set up in a hurry.
"It is much too complicated. It is in places done the wrong way round - reading data first, parsing data, interpreting data, then verifying whether it is right.
"There are lots of technical flaws in it and there are things that have just been forgotten, so it is basically not doing what it is supposed to do. It is supposed to get a higher security level. It is not," he said.
A European Union funded network of IT security experts has also come out against the ePassport scheme.
Researchers working within the Future of Identity in the Information Society (FIDIS) network say European governments have forced a document on its citizens that dramatically decreases security and increases the risk of identity theft.
RFID chips can be read at a short distance and tracked without their owner's knowledge, while the key to unlocking the passport's chip consists of details actually printed on the passport itself.
It is almost like writing your pin number on the back of your cashpoint card.
"The basic access control mechanism works based on information like the number of the passport, the name of the passport holder, the date of birth and then other data which are simply readable by anyone who looks on the passport," said Professor Kai Rannenberg of Frankfurt University.
"If you have that information and put the respective software into the reader, the reader can overcome the basic access control of the passport."
The experts say it is not too late to roll back and rethink the ePassport.
If not, the danger is obvious - that a scheme, the declared aim of which is to increase our security, could well do the exact opposite.
Instead of a single multi-billion pound system, information will be held on three existing, separate databases.
Home Secretary John Reid said it would save cash, but the Tories said ID cards were still a £20bn "white elephant".
All non-Europeans already in the UK will also have to register fingerprints or iris scans from 2008 not just new arrivals, Mr Reid announced.
The controversial National Identity Register (NIR), which Mr Reid says will cost £5.4bn over 10 years, was originally proposed as a single "clean" computer system.
It was going to be built from scratch to avoid repeating mistakes and duplications in the government's computer systems.
Now the information will be spread across three existing IT systems, including the Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) Customer Information Service, which holds national insurance records.
Mr Reid denied IT companies had wasted millions on preparation work for an entirely new system, saying the industry had been consulted on the move.
The government has reportedly spent about £35m on IT consultants since the ID cards project began in 2004.
"Doing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn," Mr Reid told reporters.
"We have decided it is lower risk, more efficient and faster to take the infrastructure that already exists, although the data will be drawn from other sources."
Biometric information will be stored, initially, on systems currently used for asylum seekers, while biographical information will be stored on the DWP's system.
Other information, on the issue and use of ID cards, will be stored on the existing Identity and Passport Service computer system.
Mr Reid also announced proposals to force foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), who are already in the UK, to register their biometrics, such as fingerprints and iris scans.
This is already due to happen for those applying for visas to come to the UK from 2008, but Mr Reid said: "We are going to look at how we could do it for people who are already here."
He said the ultimate aim was to make all foreign nationals from outside the EU to register their biometric details but the scheme would begin with people re-applying to stay in the UK.
He said he also wanted to tighten up exit controls at ports and airports, as well as entry requirements.
"We want to count everybody in and count everybody out," said Mr Reid.
Foreigners from outside the EEA would not be able to get a National Insurance number unless they have a biometric identity.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said new legislation would be published in the New Year.
Mr Reid said ID cards would help tackle illegal immigration, identity fraud, fight organised crime and terrorism, help protect vulnerable children by allowing better background checks and improve public services.
They would not stop people having a fake identity, he conceded, but would prevent people having multiple identities, which he said were most often used by "crooks, terrorists and fraudsters".
The plans were laid out in an action plan which Mr Reid said was a "countdown" to the introduction of ID cards.
ID cards are due from 2009, becoming compulsory for anyone applying for a passport from 2010. Critics question their cost and the impact on civil liberties.
The card will contain basic identification information including the name, address, gender, date of birth and photo of the cardholder.
A microchip would also hold biometric information.
Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, for the Conservatives, said it was "beyond belief" that Mr Reid still planned to "waste up to £20bn of taxpayers' money on this expensive white elephant".
And the decision to use existing databases was "an admission of what will turn out to be a financial disaster for the taxpayer".
He said Mr Reid "has tried to sneak this announcement out in a written statement that is not subject to scrutiny betrays just how fragile the government's confidence in their own scheme actually is".
The government should instead use the money to set up a dedicated UK border police, said Mr Davis.
Nick Clegg, for the Liberal Democrats, said: "These are sticking plaster measures in which the government is cutting corners to make the increasingly unpopular ID card scheme more palatable.
"The fact remains that however much John Reid rearranges the deckchairs, ID cards are doomed to be unacceptably expensive, intrusive and unmanageable."
The SNP called the move an "embarrassing u-turn" which proved the Home Office was "not fit for purpose".
Campaign group No2ID said "mixing up" new data with existing data meant the system would be "even less secure than originally suggested".
The idea that this could then be integrated with banks' chip and pin system, as the Home Office has proposed, was "farcical" in practical terms, a spokesman added.
At the same time, 150 screening centres around the world are to be set up in 18 months so that biometric data - electronic fingerprints and photos - can be taken and stored from passengers coming to Britain from 169 countries outside Europe.
But Mr Reid had to confirm that the Home Office's original plans for one huge new "clean" database to store the details of everyone resident in Britain have had to be scaled back on the grounds of expense as the government tries to cut the estimated £5.4bn cost of introducing ID cards. The controversial national identity register, which will store everyone's biometric fingerprints and photographs as well as personal biographical details, will now be housed on three separate existing government computer systems.
Mr Reid denied yesterday that this was a U-turn, although the computer industry has widely seen the decision as a significant change of tack: "Doing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn," said Mr Reid. "We have decided it is lower-risk, more efficient and faster to take the infrastructure that already exists, although the data will be drawn from other sources."
An "action plan" produced by the Home Office yesterday said that existing Department for Work and Pensions technology used for national insurance records would store biographical parts of a person's national identity register entry. Home Office systems used to hold data on asylum seekers will be expanded to hold the biometric photographs and fingerprints.
Private companies will be invited to bid for contracts to develop these databases in the next six months.
The Home Office claimed that the split between different databases would guard against malicious or fraudulent damage. Mr Reid said that it would also reduce the overall £5.4bn cost of the ID project but declined to give a new estimate, saying it would be reported to parliament next April.
He also confirmed that the current price excludes issuing the compulsory resident permits to foreign nationals living in Britain. Increased fees and charges for renewing their visas are expected to cover the extra cost. While ID cards are unlikely to be compulsory for British residents before 2011, foreign nationals will have to give their fingerprints for a compulsory foreigners' ID card from 2008.
Biometric checks on non-European travellers to Britain from 2008 would in volve a "triple check" before they stepped on to the plane, said the immigration minister, Liam Byrne.
Everyone from the 169 countries outside the European Economic Area who intends to work, study or stay in Britain for more than six months will be expected from 2008 to provide their fingerprints and photograph before they travel.
The biometric details of visitors from 108 countries of the 169 that have a visa agreement with Britain will also have to be provided, even if they are coming to the UK just for one day. Already 450,000 people have been refused entry to Britain last year for failing this pre-departure test.
Mr Reid said this extension abroad of the national identity scheme would mean that "people we are concerned about will be stopped from coming here before they travel" and it would make illegal working in Britain much more difficult. But critics claim that Mr Reid is building a "database state" in which ministers are trying to use computers to manage people by watching them. The director of human rights group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, said: "Nothing short of repeal of this act will do."
2007 Biometric visas issued at 150 posts abroad; new passport readers at key airports; tenders invited for first phase of ID databases.
2008 Fingerprints and photos taken of all foreign nationals applying for visas: compulsory biometric ID cards for foreign nationals living, working or studying in the UK.
2009 Fingerprinting for ID cards starts and first Icards issued to British citizens; electronic background checks on 120m passengers (60%) before they travel to Britain; UK employers start online identity checks of foreign staff.
2010 Electronic background checks on 190 million travellers (95%) coming to Britain.
2011? Parliament votes on making ID cards compulsory for all British residents plus all foreign nationals living in Britain.
19 February 2007
Tony Blair has written an emailed reply to more than 27,000 people who signed a petition against the introduction of identity cards.
The petition on the Downing Street website stated:
Read the detailed response:
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards. The introduction of ID cards will not prevent terrorism or crime, as is claimed. It will be yet another indirect tax on all law-abiding citizens of the UK."
CANBERRA (Reuters) - A lorry driver who was once jailed for armed robbery posed as an army officer, mixed with the top brass and talked his way into high-level security meetings, an Australian court has been told.
Peter Bennett, 54, started his 10-month fantasy military career in September 2005 when he wore formal military dress to gain entry to an air force base dinner, where he chatted to Australia's air force chief, Air Vice-Marshal Geoffrey Shepherd.Melbourne's Age newspaper said: over the following months, Bennett joined meetings of Operation Acolyte, the defence force's security operation for last year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and was issued with a defence force identity card.
"To his boot straps, he was simply a cheeky civilian with a good tailor and a foot locker brimming with confidence that enabled him to parachute behind friendly lines," the Age said on Thursday.
A court official told Reuters Bennett had pleaded guilty in a local magistrate's court to impersonating a public official and making a false declaration.
He will re-appear in court on May 16 when the magistrate will be presented with a psychological assessment, the official said.
Bennett had tried to join the army in 1971, but was rejected as medically unfit to serve.
It admitted 10,000 passports were wrongly given in the past year, but said plans to interview applicants would combat such fraud.
One of the men was convicted of a bombing in Morocco, and the other of planning a major attack in the UK.
The Conservatives called the admission "shocking".
The figures were revealed as the Identity and Passport Service gave details of plans for interviews for passports at a network of new offices.
Face-to-face interviews for adults applying for a passport for the first time would be gradually introduced from May, it said.
The two men who obtained false passports were Dhiren Barot and Salaheddine Benyaich.
A former Hindu who converted to Islam
Sentenced to life after pleading guilty to conspiracy to murder
Planned radioactive "dirty" bomb
Planned attacks on Heathrow Express and Tube under Thames
The Stock Exchange in New York was another target
Police say he was a very important figure in al Qaeda
Had seven passports in his true identity and two in false identities
Barot, from London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to murder at Woolwich Crown Court in December and was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serve 40 years.
He had seven passports in his true identity and two further passports in fraudulent identities.
The IPS said he would not have been able to obtain the latter two passports in fraudulent identities if he had been interviewed.
Moroccan national Benyaich had two British passports in the name of a British citizen born in Brighton. He is currently serving 18 years in Morocco for terrorist offences.
The IPS said a face-to-face interview would have stopped his application.
Home Office minister Joan Ryan said the IPS had 16,500 fraudulent applications during the 12 month period to September 2006 - 10,000 of which went undetected.
She said that represented a level of undetected fraud of about 0.15% of the planned 6.6 million passports issued per year.
NEW PASSPORT APPLICATIONS
Interviews phased in gradually from May to end of year
For applicants over the age of 16 who have not held a passport in their own name before
Assessments take 30 minutes, including an interview of 10-20 minutes
The first new offices will be in Peterborough, Belfast, Glasgow and Newport
Another 65 offices across the UK by the end of the year
Offices close at 6pm, all will be open on Saturdays
Video conferencing for those in remote communities
Six week wait for a passport, compared to three or four now
Shadow home secretary David Davis said: "This is a shocking admission which betrays chaos at the heart of the passport system."
Downing Street said the multi-billion-pound plans for biometric ID cards would help in the fight against fraudulent applications.
But Mr Davis said it undermined the government's case for its "expensive" ID card system because false passport holders could use the document to get a genuine ID card.
The Liberal Democrats accused the government of using the "bad news" about false passports to back its case for ID cards.
Nick Clegg, the party's home affairs spokesman, said more security features on passports and targeted interviews were a better way of tackling passport fraud.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, and the campaign group NO2ID both said that the interviews would inconvenience millions of law-abiding people, while criminal gangs would find it easy to get round the new safeguards.
The prime minister's official spokesman said each fraud case was being followed up and the problem was being addressed by the interviews.
Ms Ryan said the main threats of fraud came from first-time adult applicants, followed by first-time child applications.
"It appears that the level of attempted fraud is increasing and getting more sophisticated," she said.
IPS executive director Bernard Herdan said applicants would be expected to know answers from a pool of around 200 questions about their personal and financial history, such as previous addresses and when their parents were born.
"We will not ask questions to which we don't know the answers," he said.
"Before the interview takes place, we will have cross-checked that individual against various databases in order to uncover information about them."
Dear Prime MinisterI believe it is a mistake to think that to substantially enhance public security and ensure the proper governance of this country, ID cards must be universal and compulsory. On the contrary, any attempt to achieve perfection in this respect would tend to compromise the level of validity and authenticity of cards. It would also render the introduction extremely expensive, highly contentious and impossible to implement in the time scale required.
There are those who claim that because cards can be lost or stolen or forged, their introduction would cause many new problems and give criminals a new way to commit crimes including terrorism, just as credit and debit cards as used by the UK today have been used. I believe that these objections can be realistically rebutted on a sustainable basis by the proper application of the scheme and the proper use of technology.
In order to allow the day to day activities of travel and assembly on which the prosperity of our western democracies now depend, it essential that security procedures that verify the bona fides, or the identity, or the history of individuals passing through any check point, or availing themselves of services, do not take so long, or demand such a level of expert human intervention, that the economic and logistic penalties are unsupportable.
On the security side, it has been suggested that if everyone in the UK had an ID card it would not stop all terrorist acts. Here again the fundamental point is being missed. The prevention of such an act does not depend only on the single act of stopping one or more men on the one day a terrorist act is planned. Nor does it depend only on the prevention of weapons being, for example, smuggled aboard an aircraft or train by passengers when these can be placed in advance by cleaners or engineers in league with the terrorists or subject to major bribery or blackmail.
The way to get ID cards to be really effective is to make them voluntary, and at nil or low cost to the applicant. They should be issued free to asylum seekers, but the quid-pro-quo would be that for asylum seekers they would be compulsory. In addition to basic identity details, the applicant must be able to put as much data on the card from a list of options as they wish. The data would be in defined categories, and could include many sorts of references such as family members, current and previous jobs, military service, referees, driving licence, passport, nat insurance numbers, address, education, qualifications, a fingerprint, signature, membership of organisations, photograph of face.
The data on the card would also be held in a database, which would also have a unique pin, matching the card, established at the time of registration and encrypted. I emphasise again - the carriage of the card would be voluntary, the amount of data other than the very basic Name and Nationality would be at the discretion of the holder. There would be no charge at all for the establishment of a basic ID card. It would be paid for by government out of general taxation. However every item of data entered would need to be verified, and entry would be done at only at special centres, where the individual would need to appear in person. A charge could be made for additional data entry that would enable the card to be used for services or license details or higher security access for certain jobs.
Let us now suppose that there is a bit of a security flap on at Heathrow. Those people in possession of ID cards will take the strain to a significant extent off the security staff, as they can be passed through a stream that will take less time. This will leave more staff to process those without cards, who will therefore also benefit.
Let us suppose that there is a threat from crop-spraying aircraft. The persons running training courses in crop-spraying would be told to ask for ID cards from all those who enter the airfield, every day. Any new arrival applying for training would be asked for an ID card with a level of data stipulated by the government. Training establishments could be informed instantly of any change in level required. Anyone without a card or with a card with insufficient data would have to supply this data from other verifiable sources. This would take them some time, but not bar them from access.
A newcomer applies for a job as a baggage handler at Heathrow. For this job, an ID card will now be required. The level of data would be decided in consultation with the relevant trade union. The card will be required for daily check-in.
There are many other examples which can be shown to prove that:
(1). Only a voluntary system of ID cards can be introduced progressively within the time to be useful and at an acceptable cost. (2). Only a voluntary system can guarantee the high level of security and authenticity to make it reliable. (3). A voluntary system can speed up the processing of regular travellers and attenders who opt for the system. (4). A voluntary system can allow security staff to speed up the processing of travellers/attenders who do NOT have such cards.
What happens when an individual loses their card? It's not the end of the world. They report it missing. To get a new one they have to report in person to an issuing centre, but for reasons I need not go into here the system itself will make it easier, not harder, for them to manage life in the meantime.
What can a criminal or terrorist do with a stolen card before it has been reported missing? If it is a serendipitous theft, in the short term, not a lot. If the card is being used in a serious security check, it would have photo and other data that would not match the thief. If it was a card stolen to order, unreported, it is possible to imagine that there will be those who might attempt to use it in some way. However I must emphasise that the reason for the level of crime associated with all sorts of cards used so far is that the design and application of the technology used was very inadequate, and the fault can be traced to business politics that do not cover those involved with glory. There is no need to make a pig’s ear of it, as long as the decisions are taken right out of the hands of all those with vested interests. It is quite reasonable to envisage a system where the last thing anyone in possession of a stolen ID card would do is try use it or copy or reprogram it, even if it had not been reported stolen.
Providing there is agreement on certain standards, each EU country can operate its own system, for which it takes responsibility, while making it available for the verification of their ID card holders when travelling abroad. There need be no 'ID-Day' for the introduction. Card readers can be introduced as and when possible at each port, airport, in police cars, conference halls, public buildings etc.
There should be no objection to a scheme such as the above as it does not infringe anyone's civil liberties. It is in essence a time-and-labour-saving device to enable security checks which may need to be carried out from time to time to be completed within the time and cost limits imposed by nature on the techno-cultural complex within which we co-evolve.
As time goes by, it is likely that more and more people would take out official ID cards. But it is quite possible they may never be compulsory in the UK unless the individual wishes to avail him or her self of certain privileges.
UPDATE APRIL 27th 2004
UPDATE APRIL 27th 2004
The fundamental objection
on civil liberties grounds is based on a failure to understand the
level of privilege that citizens of the developed world now possess as
a right. We have as individuals more power and privilege than a king or
queen of 1000 years ago. We can travel on a whim to the other side of
the world in a few hours. We expect to have the state at our service,
to pass through airports without delay, to travel on roads that are
safe, to board trains anywhere to go anywhere, to collect social
security or national health treatment. We are not exercising freedoms
here, we are exercising incredible privilege, and the least we can do
is make the administration of all this possible. At the moment we
expect too much of those who we hold responsible for our well being.
As for those who say
ID cards would not have prevented the Madrid bombings, they cannot
possibly know. Having a properly conceived and running ID system could
very well mean that more time and personnel could be applied to human
intelligence, and this can prevent just such events, though obviously
|In this report we consider the Government’s proposals for an identity cards scheme and the draft Identity Cards Bill.|
|The report provides a brief history of UK identity cards.|
|We outline international developments in identity documents and the experience of a number of countries inside and outside Europe. International experience clearly indicates that identity cards and population registers operate with public support and without significant problems in the rest of Europe. However, given the variety in social, political and legal culture and history, it cannot be assumed that any given approach will work in this country, nor is there any significant international experience to draw on for the use of biometrics on the scale proposed. We outline the implications of the Government’s decision to use passports and driving licences for the design and use of a UK identity card system.|
|We consider the objections of principle raised to identity card schemes. We conclude that objections of principle should not be lightly dismissed and that the Government’s proposed scheme would represent a significant change in the relationship between state and individual in this country. But we do not believe that identity cards should be rejected on constitutional grounds alone: the test should be whether the costs are proportionate to the benefits of an ID card system.|
|We examine evidence that the proposals would not work or would be unacceptably risky.|
|The proposed scheme is unprecedentedly large and complex and will handle sensitive personal data and we conclude that measures to ensure its integrity must be built into all aspects of its development. We express concern about the Government’s lack of clarity about the scheme’s scope and practical operation, and the current procurement process.|
|We set out the aims of the scheme given by the Government and assess how the scheme might contribute to the stated aims. We note that the Government’s stated aims have changed over time and indicate where further clarity is still required.|
|We conclude that ID cards can make a significant contribution to tackling illegal working, but only when accompanied by wider enforcement measures. ID cards could make a contribution to reducing illegal immigration, but only if the scheme is properly enforced and complemented by action on access to public services.|
|We conclude that ID cards would make a real and important contribution to fighting organised crime and terrorism by disrupting the use of multiple identities, identity fraud and related activities like money-laundering. We note the support for an ID card scheme from law enforcement agencies. We conclude that the full benefits would come with a compulsory scheme.|
|An identity card scheme would help combat identity fraud, but we note the need for appropriate checks on the card and on biometrics. Government should clarify how and when it expects the card to be checked.|
|ID cards would make it easier to establish entitlement to public services, but action should be taken now to ensure that measures to check identity are developed across public services. The Government should review entitlements to all public services. We express concern that there may be up to four different systems for checking entitlement in different parts of the United Kingdom.|
|The scheme would improve access to public services to an extent, but in the absence of coherent proposals for improving access to a wider range of services and information, citizens may still have to carry a wide range of cards.|
|We conclude that among the issues common to the areas in which the Government expects identity cards to make a contribution are the level and nature of checks required and how the operation of services needs to be changed to take advantage of cards. In most cases cards will only be fully effective if complementary action is taken. More could be done now to check identities and there is a danger that action will be delayed until identity cards are introduced.|
|We note strong public support for the principle of identity cards, but little enthusiasm for paying fees at the level suggested. We criticise the use of the term ‘voluntary’ to describe the first phase of the scheme, but believe that an incremental approach to the introduction of cards is justified. We stress the importance of ensuring that the proposals do not impose new disadvantages on vulnerable groups and minorities.|
|We consider the design and planned operation of the scheme. It will be important to establish the right technical and managerial structure from the outset. We are concerned that the Government’s approach has not ensured adequate technical debate and public scrutiny.|
|A balance must be struck between protecting individuals from unnecessary access to information and ensuring that users of the database have the information they need. We point to the implications of, for example, a national fingerprint register, and conclude that Parliament should be to able oversee and prevent ‘function creep’ in the use of the National Identity Register.|
|The Government should clarify the operational reasons for requiring addresses on the register, given the significant administrative consequences of doing so. If addresses are included, it should be a legal requirement for landlords to register their tenants. The Government should also clarify the purpose of the number assigned to each individual on the register and its relation to other identifying numbers used by the state The security and reliability of biometrics are central to the Government’s proposals. No comparable system of this size exists. There should be exhaustive testing of the biometrics chosen and the results assessed by independent experts, perhaps led by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser.|
|9. The Committee did not recommend the introduction of a compulsorily held card,|
|noting that none of the bodies who might have been expected to be in favour, such as the|
|police and the financial and commercial sectors, had called for one. The Committee further|
|concluded that it should not become the practice for access to individual public services to|
|be made dependent on the presentation of a card. It also noted that it was common|
|ground in the evidence received that there should be no charge to the citizen if a card were|
|to be compulsory. The Committee also recommended against a unique identity number|
|for each card holder, on the grounds that the gain that might be derived from it would|
|probably be outweighed by the increased data protection risks.|
|39. On 3 July 2002 the Home Office published a consultation paper on Entitlement Cards|
|and Identity Fraud. The paper stated that:|
|“A universal entitlement card scheme would:|
|(i) provide people who are lawfully resident in the UK with a means of confirming|
|their identity to a high degree of assurance;|
|(ii) establish for official purposes a person’s identity so that there is one definitive|
|record of an identity which all Government departments can use if they wish;|
|(iii) help people gain entitlement to products and services provided by both the|
|public and private sectors, particularly those who might find it difficult to so do at|
|(iv) help public and private sector organisations to validate a person’s identity,|
to products and
services and eligibility to work in the UK.”
|40. It continued: “The Government does not wish to consult on the introduction of a|
|compulsory scheme, by which it means a card which everyone would have and be required|
|to carry at all times.” But the paper also made clear that the preferred option was a|
|“universal” entitlement card scheme, by which everyone in the country over a certain age|
|was required to register with the scheme and to obtain a card, and a card would be the only|
|way to access particular services (other than in an emergency or in cases where a card had|
|been lost or stolen).|
|41. The preferred option of a universal entitlement card scheme was described by the paper|
|as one under which:|
|“(i) it would be a requirement that all lawful residents of the UK over a certain age|
|register with a scheme and obtain a card;|
|(ii) service providers would be free to decide whether or not to use the card scheme|
|as the means to access their services;|
|(iii) service providers who did choose to use the card scheme would make the|
|scheme the exclusive way to access their services (with exceptions for emergencies|
|such as lost or stolen cards);|
|(iv) some services would rely on the database which administered the card scheme|
|rather than require production of a card if that was a more efficient and convenient|
|way to provide the service.”|