ID cards doomed, say officials

July 9th, 2006

David Leppard

TONY BLAIR’S flagship identity cards scheme is set to fail and may not be introduced for a generation, according to leaked Whitehall e-mails from the senior officials responsible for the multi-billion-pound project.

The problems are so serious that ministers have been forced to draw up plans for a scaled-down “face-saving” version to meet their pledge of phasing in the cards from 2008.

However, civil servants say there is no evidence that even this compromise is “remotely feasible” and accuse ministers of “ignoring reality” by pressing ahead.

One official warns of a “botched operation” that could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation. He added: “I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail.” Another admits he is planning Home Office strategy around the possibility that the scheme could be “canned completely”.

In one e-mail the prime minister is personally blamed for the fiasco with his proposal for a scaled-down or “early variant” version. “It was a Mr Blair apparently who wanted the ‘early variant’ card. Not my idea,” writes a top Home Office civil servant.

The e-mails expose another crisis for John Reid, the home secretary, who has already labelled his department as “not fit for purpose” following the recent foreign prisoners scandal.

The correspondence has been leaked by a senior official close to the Treasury. He acknowledges that the documents will infuriate ministers because they contradict the government’s public statements on ID cards.

Blair has repeatedly trumpeted the scheme as a centrepiece of the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, illegal immigration and crime. Ministers have rounded on critics who say the government has underestimated the cost and complexity of the technology.

Last year ministers rubbished claims by the London School of Economics that the scheme was too unwieldy and would cost as much as £19 billion, compared with the government’s estimate of £6 billion.

The government proposes that all Britain’s 50m adults will eventually carry the cards, which will include biometric data such as digitally encoded fingerprints or iris scans that could be checked against a huge database. The cards are to be introduced voluntarily from 2008 but, if re-elected, Labour proposes to make them compulsory for everyone over 16.

The e-mail correspondence last month was between Peter Smith, acting commercial director at the Identity and Passport Service, the Home Office agency set up to bring in the cards, and David Foord, the ID card project director at the Office of Government Commerce, which is responsible for vetting the project to ensure that the Treasury gets value for taxpayers’ money.

They reveal that the government is “rethinking” the entire scheme with an alternative “face-saving” compromise, which Smith blames on Blair. This “early variant” plan appears to involve collecting and storing biometric data on a temporary ID register but makes no mention of actually using it on cards.

However, officials doubt that this will work. Foord writes: “Just because ministers say do something does not mean we ignore reality — which is what seems to have happened on ID cards until [the contracts were due] to be issued and then reality could not be ignored any longer.”

He adds: “Even if everything went perfectly (which it will not) it is very debatable (given performance of government IT projects) whether whatever [the register] turns out to be (and that is a worry in itself) can be procured, delivered, tested and rolled out in just over two years and whether the resources exist within government and industry to run two overlapping procurements.

“What benchmark in the Home Office do we have that suggests that this is even remotely feasible? I conclude that we are setting ourselves up to fail.”

He reveals that the contracts for the ID card scheme are under threat because of “the amount of rethinking going on about identity management”. He also says they are “[un]affordable”; “lack clear benefits from which to demonstrate a return on investment”; and suffer from a “very serious shortage of appropriately qualified staff”.

Foord says: “I do not have a problem with ministers wanting a face-saving solution but we need to be clear with . . . senior officials, special advisers and ministers just what this implies.” He then warns of a “botched introduction” of the scheme, adding: “If it is subject to a media feeding frenzy, which it might well be close to a general election, [it] could put back the introduction of ID cards for a generation and won’t do much for IPS credibility nor for the government’s election chances.”

Acknowledging these concerns, Smith says his IPS agency is planning around the possibility that the entire protect will fail. In a June 8 e-mail he writes: “We are designing the strategy so that [other contracts such as a contact centre for passport queries] are all sensible and viable contracts in their own right EVEN IF the ID card gets canned completely.”

In public, ministers have so far given no hint of any private fears about the viability of the scheme. But senior officials admit privately that the Home Office has abandoned its timetable for introducing cards.

Foord writes: “This has all the inauspicious signs of a project continuing to be driven by an arbitrary end date rather than reality. The early variant idea introduces huge risk on many levels.”

The problems in designing a workable system have meant a delay until March 2007 in putting out contracts to tender to private companies to build and manage the scheme. They had been due this summer.

Another official involved in the project said: “Nobody expects this programme to work. It is basically on hold while ministers rethink their options. It’s impossible to imagine the full scheme being brought in before 2026.”

The disclosures will be seized on by critics who say it is too expensive, unworkable and a breach of privacy. The Tories plan to scrap the cards and use the money to build prisons.

Simon Davies, a member of the LSE team that said costs could rise to £19 billion, said the rethink was “a vindication of all the concerns we have expressed about the costs and viability” of the scheme.

Last night the Home Office said it remained committed to an ID card scheme but had always maintained its introduction would be an “incremental” process. The cards are expected to cost about £93, which each citizen must pay when getting a new passport from 2010. […],,176-2262437_2,00.html

My emphasis.

Note that there are no references to how the public will totally reject ID cards; their only concerns are their own complete incompetence, lact of trained staff and the unworkability of the project.

Note how they say that they will not be able to introduce the cards for a generation. This means that the steady Eloiification of the population will intersect with a point in the future where computers are absolutely ubiqutous and such a roll out will be not only possible, but easy. Computer literacy in that generation will be far more widespread, so there will be many people who are able to staff the project at all levels.

Now is the time for alternatives to document security to be pushed hard to the public; ones that do not rely on a central database, ones that are not contingent upon expensive and unreliable commercial and bespoke software from third parties. Hmmm.

In a perfect world, a pronouncement like this, one admitting the powerlessness of government would be the singnal to take down the surveillance network as it stands right now. All Congestion Charge cameras to be destroyed, all CCTV cameras pointing into public spaces knocked out. It is clear that these people can only do what they are doing because everyone complacently lets them. Any mass action is irresistable, wether it is the removal of all CCTV/CC cameras or the refusal to pay any tax, or register in an ID card scheme. It doesnt matter what you are talking about specifically, the numbers are the only thing that matters, and we have them and will always have them.

Sadly, there are still some people who do not understand this. I posted a package to someone the other day. The counter staffer asked me for the post code. I gave it to him. He then read out the street from his UNISYS terminal. He asked me for the street number. I gave it to him. He then read out the name of the business, and then printed out the postage sticker. “Thats cool” I said. He replied, “Yes, Big Brother is everywhere, you can’t escape it!”. Sensing an opportunity to spread the anti-ID message, I fired off, “This stuff is not the problem, ID cards are the REAL problem, and you must make sure that you don’t register for one. If everyone refuses, they can’t possibly bring them in.”. Then it started…

“Yeah, but they will bring them in anyway”
“No they won’t; it will be like the poll tax. Everyone refused to pay it and it died”
“Yeah, but they still brought it in”
“No, they did not, we pay rates today not a poll tax”
“But they still brought it in”
“The poll tax is completely different from rates; the poll tax was totally defeated. What you pay today is based on the value of your property and it has nothing to do with how many people live in your house. That is what the poll tax was. ID cards CAN be defeated, just like the poll tax was.”
“Yeah but it makes no difference to me because I’m still paying a fortune”
“If you dont want ID cards, you dont have to have them, thats the point”
“Yeah but they will still briing them in.”

Ooooo kkkkkkkkkk……..

And this, I fear, is the problem. This genial idiot is the sort of person who will be the interface between you and the NIR. They will accept anything that is put in front of them; they have no idea of literally any concept of morality or the reality of ‘the other’. They are the people who when told that pressing a button someone will recieve an electric shock, press the button without any hesitation. They are without imagination, human drones, Eloi, animals, sub human, and the worst thing about them is that they have the vote, which means that they have control by proxy over how the world evolves. This is unnaceptable to anyone with even half a brain cell.

This is undoubtedly what the NWO/PNAC brigades believe; you can cut with a knife the swelling contempt for these types they must feel when they meet the hoards of Eloi that infest the world. From their perspective these people don’t deserve rights, freedom or anything that the previous generations of real people were given, or took for themselvs. This is the licence they need to install dictatorship over the whole world; the ingnorant blathering of postmen who accept dictatorship and tyrrany as inevitable, and who will obey any order given to them without question.

Ask them to stay at work one second after 5:30 however, and you will have a revolt on your hands.

3 Responses to “ID cards doomed, say officials”

  1. meaumeau Says:

    I was looking around for something for another post and found this little nugget:

    DUANE WIGGINS: Continue this low level of programming and I will switch to TNA permanently.

    There are alot more like this. If you will just continue to watch, then why should WWE change anything? What’s turning to RAW going to do? WWE owns them both morons! The whole brand split thing was just a storyline.

    Why shouldn’t Vince just have sex with Eddie’s widow right in the ring while his kids watch? You’ll still order the PPV and buy the DVD. WWE will continue this low level of programming, they won’t clean up their act, and you will still watch anyway. WWE is your heroin, because you are too much of a pussy to buy real heroin. Complain all you want, but nothing is going to change if you’re still down on the corner waiting for your man. With twenty six dollars in your hand. Up to Lexington. One twenty five. Feel sick and dirty. More dead than alive. Waiting for your man.

    I think our readers can do the necessary word substitutions

  2. irdial Says:

    Classic, classic stuff.

    Is/was the WWF ‘political’? hmmmmm Do you remember a certain ‘Right to Censor‘ (for example)?

    They had some great writers there…including a famous ‘alternative’ rock person, whose name I cant remember off the top of my head.

    Ahhhh…’The second golden age of professional wrestling’!

  3. Alun Says:

    Chief among these policies is the plan for a national identity card, hardly touched on in parliament yesterday, but now close to some sort of collapse. Identity cards are not just problematic in principle but also because of the administrative challenge they pose. The prime minister told MPs yesterday that the ID-card scheme is on track. But emails leaked last week suggest officials are uncertain about what information is to be stored, both on the cards and in the national register. The Home Office says that getting ID cards right is more important than any arbitrary timetable, but there are reports of a slimmed-down scheme being rushed through to save face. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown last week established his own forum on identity management, whose report next year could recommend further changes. Civil servants with no idea of where the policy is going are hardly in a strong position to procure the IT – a task that Whitehall struggles with at the best of times.

    Doubts about what the system will do flow from confusion about what it is for. This is a policy increasingly in search of a rationale. Different departments appear to have held different views: a policy confusion, not an administrative one, that must be addressed. Meanwhile Mr Reid’s announcement today on criminal justice is likely to involve asking the struggling department to do even more. Managerial changes are necessary, but they will never function well if the Home Office pursues programmes that are ill-founded and inconsistent. Policy is the elephant in the room. If Mr Reid really wants to see officials run things better, he could make a good start by freeing them from the obligation to keep one particular elephant that is starting to look decidedly white.

    Leader in the Grauniad.

    It’s all going dome-shaped!

    Soon there will have been enough personnel changes in the Home Office and Cabinet that the new faces will have had so little to do with initiating the ID card fiasco that it will be a simple enough task to drop it and blame the previous incumbents.

    Will Gordon Brown spend the first years of his leadership shovelling elephant shit, or will he reach for the blunderbuss?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.