ID cards: Aviation workers being 'used politically'

ID cards: Aviation workers being 'used politically'

Summary: The British Air Transport Association says the government is using aviation workers to introduce ID cards incrementally and lend the scheme credibility

TOPICS: Security

Representatives of the aviation industry have said they are being used as political pawns to further the government's ID cards programme.

The British Air Transport Association (Bata) said aviation workers were being used as guinea pigs for the scheme. ID cards for 'airside' workers — those who work beyond airport security checks — will become compulsory in 2009.

"We do feel we're being used politically," Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of Bata told on Friday. "The government intends a creeping introduction, to [lend the cards credibility]. We will be the first industry to have compulsory ID passes, even before the voluntary scheme is in place."

Wiltshire's comments follow a Bata letter of protest sent to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, this week, signed by the chief executives of British Airways, BMI, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic.

The letter lambasted the government over ID card security issues, saying that "first and foremost, no additional security benefits have been identified". Wiltshire said that Bata did not feel that the scheme would enhance security at all. "The current process for vetting staff is incredibly rigorous, and includes a criminal-records check. ID cards will not add value."

However, James Hall, chief executive of the Identity and Passport Service, maintained that the cards would enhance airport security. "We think ID cards can be a sensible enhancement of pre-employment checking," Hall told "We understand that the industry has concerns."

Shadow security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones criticised the government for its "creeping" introduction of ID cards. "I would not approve of any creeping means of introducing a national ID card by the back door," she said.

Campaigners against ID cards told that the idea the cards would enhance security was "crazy".

"The vetting of people with secure airside access will go way beyond the ID card checks," said Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of No2ID. "One assumes people would be checked on police databases. To try to say ID cards would be more secure is crazy. If the government hasn't been able to convince the air industry that ID cards will bring security benefits, then what the hell are the things for?"

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • Creeping to where, for what and by whom?

    Not sure what all the fuss is about here? Something
  • Wow !

    Hi there Mr. Thinkfeeldo,

    You really have drunk the coolaid huh? Eitehr that or this is a pure Troll .. well for the benefit at least of those that read your comment and felt moved to agree ......

    Time and again we are told by senior security service officers, police officers, security theory academics and now the airline industry as well that this system will not work as presented and will certainly not improve on the systems they already have in place airside.

    Your thesis seems to be that anything is better than what we already have. You seem utterly convinced that a grilling at the new IPS interrogation centres will improve on the vetting process already in place when the people who actually run the airports and airlines and the unions who represent the professionals actually involved vociferously disagree.

    We have recently been treated to an admission from those responsible that they cannot guarantee the security of the information in the database.

    We have local authorities all over the country stating publicly, in the form of binding motions, that they want no part of this scheme.

    We have a majority of the population saying that they dislike and distrust this scheme and a significant number taking the no2id pledge that they will refuse to have one of these things, even on pain of fines and imprisonment. An MP took this pledge the other day.

    Why then do you think all this is inevitable?

    It is pure security theatre, all the way down the line. Same as the nit-picky, pointless new regulations about what you can and can't take on a plane in hand luggage. It is there, quite simply, to make the traveling public feel like "Something" is being done; exactly like they asked. What they should have have asked for is that something "*Useful*" be done. That may well have happened as well, but these regs and most certainly the ID card and database are very much NOT a part of the useful variant.

    I think you are suffering from a variation of NIMBYism in that you believe all these heinous things they are proposing to now allow will happen in someone else's back yard and not in yours. You after all are a model citizen aren't you. No way could any of this stuff apply to you?

    Well it seems to have applied to people down my neck of the woods who's crime is having two houses, one of which wasn't in the catchment for the school their kid went to. The local authorities used their new anti-terror (sic) powers to spend tax money spying on them and having them followed.

    It seems to have applied to an old man. A Labour stalwart, who had the criminal (apparently) audacity to say "Rubbish" during a speach by one of our untouchable senior politicos.

    The laws will apply to you friend, in the same way that they WON'T apply to the jokers who made them. You will, if the scheme doesn't collapse before then, have to supply reams of info about yourself to an admittedly insecure database and be scanned and collected. This will then be used to hook into a whole pile of other databases, making a near complete photograph of every aspect of your life. That pile of data will then be available to every tom dick and harry who takes a shilling from HMG. I have heard expert estimates that one in ten of the working population will be able to access the database legally, that's how big "The State" is these days. So take your street; on average somebody in every 6th or 7th house will be able to get chapter and verse on you. Do they need it. Oh that's need to know (wink wink). Will they use it responsibly? Welllllllll, of course they will. No government employee has ever been found guilty of misusing ... erm ... ah .. well actually a few might have been. Well, actually quite a lot have been. OK there's been a positive epidemic of data leaks through both malicious intent and pure incompetence.

    Please, please bear in mind that Star Trek is fiction. Life doesn't work like that in reality. You maybe want to have another look at the old masters ... 1984 and A Brave New World to name but two. Like graphic novels? Try V for Victory.

    I challenge you.


    and come back with some real reasons why the arguments given (by actual experts mark you) to oppose the scheme are false.

    I look forward to your response.
    Andrew Meredith
  • response


    First of all, I see you like to post comments here yet not provide the slightest bit of info on what it is you do. Not really of any concern, though it would help define your level of understanding on this particular issue. I have already outlined some of my thoughts on the move towards ID awareness at various discussion lists (particularly Dec 07).

    I will however review your link first and get back to you shortly.

    In the meantime:,1000001161,39290141-39001108c-20089176o,00.htm

  • And you ..

    .. seem to have provided us all with a nice advert for your services, but no actual name. As for what I do, I'm just not that hard to find online, seeing as I do tend to comment under my own name.

    Do please review the link I gave and come back to us.

    Andrew Meredith
  • Identity

    The information provided is not an advert! Am more than happy to remove it. As for my name...

    It is unfortunate that a pseudonym is now considered unprofessional even if one has been using it for many years. Anyone who may find my comments or posts of interest is more than welcome to google me and find information dating back to 2001 when the TFD pseudonym
    was first launched.

    Though I have nothing to hide nor secrets to bear, I am nonetheless, by sheer professional virtue, aware of the need to, at times, protect ones identity from a potential deluge of irrelevant or 'help seeking'
    messages which can flood an inbox.

    As I do not know much of this site and its overall workings within the online community, other than my own interaction with it, I am reticent at this time to reveal my identity until I am satisfied, as a potential longer-term member, that what is offered here is in fact what I seek.

    My professional history, which provides some insight to my level of interest, activity and understanding of communications design and development, along with what I post, is really what I should be judged on.

    Any need at this point to know who I am is, in my thinking, unnecessary. In fact, I wonder why it bothers you?

    For now, I shall remain faithfully yours,

  • Ho Hum

    > In fact, I wonder why it bothers you?

    I doesn't bother me in the slightest.

    I in turn wonder why you were so upset that I haven't published my life history on what is at the end of the day a newspaper comment site. Particularly as people can take my name and location and find my online CV and all sorts of other stuff.

    So, enough of this complete diversion, anyone would think that you were trying to avoid the issue. You undertook to read and comment on the no2id link and tell us all where they have gone wrong in their thinking in the ID Card/NIR system.

    I have read the comment you linked earlier. I will refrain from comment on it at this stage as I would like to hear your qualified comments as based on the no2id text.

    Andrew Meredith
  • reply

    Ok Andrew. I'll get back to after reviewing the link as promised. And just 4 the record I'm not 'upset' that you haven't posted your life story! Just enjoy the discourse.

  • No2ID or No2NIR?


    Since you asked, here are my initial thoughts in respect of No2ID and more importantly, the proposed NIR (National Identity Register) System.

    1. I
  • That is the question


    Thanks for taking up the challenge.

    Here are my responses to yours:

    1 - I tend to agree with your points here, but would add that your "biometrics" are not just yours and yours alone as you rightly say, but they are also immutable. When someone has grabbed, for example, your fingerprint it has been shown to be very easy to create gel-caps to use at crime scenes and spread your dabs about.

    2 - I'm not sure that they have made any specific claims about the system's prophylactic properties. They certainly haven't proposed any collect/analyse/predict/prevent mechanisms. The first round is purely focused on identification.

    3 - Ministers have actually said several times that in fact the NIR et al would not have prevented the London bombs, or indeed the Madrid ones or the ones in the US. This is apparently not what ID Cards do best. (Obvious question left hanging)

    4 - The NIR in and of itself would never be able to affect the "Doctor Shopping" issue of which you speak and the extra bits that would be necessary have not even been proposed.

    Your next (unnumbered) paragraph asks what the terrorists' dead would give away in terms of civil liberties to be alive. An emotive question certainly, but based on a false premiss. You assume that the existence of the NIR would have any effect. Would your logic play as well in the tabloids if the remedy, instead of being the NIR was to walk round with a traffic cone on your head. It would have roughly the same level of effect on the problem, but would be a lot cheaper. Now replay your paragraph substituting one for the other. Bear in mind that this "link and moral blackmail" trick is not of my doing but the Home Office.

    You next talk about a system to predict the future based on our present data and collected actions. This system has yet to be proposed, but I don't doubt that they would love to try and build it and would legislate to have one in a flash if anyone was even half pretending they could do it. This is also not what the NIR is currently about.

    You say that you must take assurances that the NIR will not contain medical data etc at face value. I quite agree in as far as the NIR itself will only contain identifying information. However, the point that others are making is that the other databases that already, or are proposed to contain this info will have an additional key field added; the NIR number of the patient/claimant/suspect/driver and will thereafter be subject to direct index lead searches. No more will they need to spend ages on each search working out the cross reference between this person on the NIR and that person on the NHS mega-database, the indexes will already be there. They will be able to scoop up all the relevant stuff from the other linked databases into one big result. So no, the medical stuff will not be on the NIR, but to all practical effect it might as well be. Carefully examine Home Office denials, the wording is careful not to deny the above, just that the NIR *itself* won't have this info.

    You end the paragraph by suggesting no2id should come up with alternative models. I am not very high up in no2id, but without forcing words into their mouths, I suspect that the answer would be along similar lines to asking an anti-death-penalty campaigner to propose an alternative to the headsman's axe for decapitating convicts.

    I obviously agree with your statements about the NIR being a dystopian nightmare; my words.

    I obviously disagree with Mr McNealy. It wouldn't be a factor in his logic I'm sure that his company would be full square in line for the hardware and OS contracts for the kit to run these leviathans. There's a lot of information out there about each of us, quite true, but it's not the same thing as saying we have no privacy left. Kind of like saying "Oh look she's fallen in the water and is all wet and choking; ahh well, might as well just let her drown now."

    Your closing arguments about tweaking the current arrangements to be a bit "better" and about this just being the first of many attempts to control us through a succession of panopticon inspired snooper-bases I think miss the mark slightly. There are so many pessimistic people; "Well it's inevitable, you might as well just give up". I think not thanks. At the moment they have not won the argument about the efficacy of even this general approach and certainly not the details. In fact all they have done to justify the current plan is to drop large hints that link NIR to immigration, or terrorism, or anything else they think somebody might swallow without thinking about it; but when directly challenged dissemble and mumble and move on to the next question please. They need to clearly justify what this monster is for and how it is supposed to achieve that end. We can then have the conversation balancing rights and privacy with potential benefits. As it stands, there *are* no clear benefits to have that conversation about.

    In closing, I would like you to think through the actual practical "Street Level" back story, post NIR, of how your working Bobby is going to use ID cards to nab a suspected terrorists/illegal/.

    Most of those conversations go:

    PC P: Excuse me suspicious looking geezer, can I see your ID card.

    Dodgy One: Sorry ociffer, I don't carry one.

    PC P: ........
    Andrew Meredith
  • Further thoughts on ID cards and Government databases

    Having read this extended dialogue between Thinkfeeldo and Andrew I tend, on balance, to come down strongly on the side of Andrew who, I think, expresses more accurately the dangers that could lie ahead if we cannot restrain the enthusiasm this extreme right wing reactionary government's desire for total control.

    However I would like to add a few points of my own, not necessarily covered in your exchanges.

    Firstly, a utopian and perfect world is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, unattainable. We have to deal with reality. The reality is that these proposals are abusive whilst ultimately not achieving the objective of creating a better society for the future generations, our own children and grandchildren, that is.

    Secondly, risk cannot be eliminated. The nature of risk and it's consequences can be altered, as demonstrated for example, by UK's 'adventure' in Iraq, perhaps emiliorated, as demonstrated by a reduction in smoking or better eating habits, but not eliminated. So the attempt to do so is not well founded.

    Thirdly, unintended or unfortunate consequences such as the recent news concerning a lady in her later mid twenties denied a place at University nursing course following her CRB check, which exposed a foolishness when she was only sixteen years old and for which she received a conditional discharge. The new CRB check raises the serious issue of being branded for life, no possibility of rehabilitation, with all the consequences to society that carries with it.

    I personally have experience of unfortunate consequences, very close to home, of the system protecting the guilty while failing to provide (obstructing) protection for the innocent (victim), something we read about quite often in the papers. There are already many unintended consequences in family life, where the state seeks to interpose and take responsibility, quite often with damaging consequences.

    Fourthly, I think we have to question motive. Why exactly is the government so hell bent on pursuing these policies, for the stated reasons, however poorly reasoned, or a hidden agenda.

    Fifthly, do not these proposals strike at the roots of democracy or, in fact, will they not be the beginning of the end of democracy? Scare mongering, I don't think so!
    The Former Moley
  • Re: Moley

    Yup .. and what he said as well :-)
    Andrew Meredith
  • The 'program of programs'

    Andrew and Moley.

    I will respond in more detail shortly. In the meantime, there is already a program in existence (or in trial) that may do just what it is you both think doesn't exist - even if in the guise of something else.

  • Oh I didn't say that

    I only said that the NIR program wasn't the same thing as a TIA system and that that wasn't the system outlined in the ID Cards Act. I certainly wouldn't say that it wasn't being done anywhere else .. and if it was going to be done anywhere then The Land of the Formerly Free would have been my guess.

    I refer you to the BBC drama "The Last Enemy" :-)
    Andrew Meredith
  • IDEAS - Identify, Engage & Assessment Statement


    I will now respond to the following closing comments from one of your last posts to this Story. My consideration may hopefully provide some food for thought:

    .....In closing, I would like you to think through the actual practical "Street Level" back story, post NIR, of how your working Bobby is going to use ID cards to nab a suspected terrorists/illegal/.

    Most of those conversations go:

    PC P: Excuse me suspicious looking geezer, can I see your ID card.

    Dodgy One: Sorry ociffer, I don't carry one.

    PC P: ........


    My response:

    PC P (taking out hand held ID device): That's ok. Just give me your name.

    Dodgy One: John Smiff

    PC P types name into device and waits....

    PC P: What part of this universe do you reside in Mr Smiff?

    Smiff: What's it to you?

    PC P: Well there's been a robbery in this area only a few hours ago and you just happen to fit the description.

    Smiff: Yeah, well it aint me cobber!

    PC P: No probs squire. Just doin my job. So, where do you hail from?

    Smiff: Norff of 'ere?

    PC P: And where might that be?

    Smiff: Watford

    PC P: Righto! Gimme a second. Hmmm, I've got a few Smiff's in Watford. What's the name of your street?

    Smiff: Whitehall.

    PC P: Ok. Let's have a look. Here's a J. Smiff, Whitehall St, Watford.

    Smiff (looking over PC P's shoulder at device): Yeah, that's me!

    PC P: Just put your finger on the scanner here seeing as you 'aint got any ID and I'll just make a quick check to confirm that you are who you say you are. Ok?

    Smiff: Can I call my lawyer first?

    PC P: It's only routine Mr Smiff. Only routine. No need for concern.

    Smiff puts finger on scanner. They both watch as the screen produces a digital ID information card of Smiff along with brief details (DOB, address, any outstanding warrants, parking fines, criminal history, last digital transaction location).

    PC P: Hmmm. No record, no fines, no bad deeds. You seem clean to me, Smiff. We will however need to keep your ID in connection with the purported crime for the next 72hrs, as required by law, until we clear any possible connection to you. Would you like a receipt of this ID request?

    Smiff: Yeah.

    PC P: Where would you like me to send it?

    Smiff: Send it to the address you got there!

    PC P: Whitehall St, Watford?

    Smiff: Yeah! No can I go? I've got a bleedin' movie startin' in ten minutes and I'm runnin' late!

    PC P: (While pushing receipt send button on device and nodding head) Sure. Any question?

    Smiff (pointing to ID device): Can that thing spot me twenty quid?

    PC P: Not yet Smiff, but they're workin' on it! Thanking you for your cooperation. Good night.

  • .. but in a few % of cases

    PC P: Just put your finger on the scanner here seeing as you 'aint got any ID and I'll just make a quick check to confirm that you are who you say you are. Ok?

    Smiff: Can I call my lawyer first?

    PC P: It's only routine Mr Smiff. Only routine. No need for concern.

    [version 2]

    Smiff puts finger on scanner. They both watch as the screen turns bright red and starts making claxon noises. The face on the screen doesn't look much like Smiff's as it has a huge beard, but there's a passing resemblance. PC P has no choice but to arrest Smiff under the Terrorism act. 42 days later, a much thinner and more ragged looking Smiff is to be seen walking down the steps of the "Human Information Retrieval Centre". He doesn't really seem that mollified to learn that seeing as the scanners only use a few points of comparison, there is a whole percentage chance of a mismatch.


    PC P: Just put your finger on the scanner here seeing as you 'aint got any ID and I'll just make a quick check to confirm that you are who you say you are. Ok?

    Smiff: Can I call my lawyer first?

    PC P: It's only routine Mr Smiff. Only routine. No need for concern.

    [version 3]

    Smiff puts finger on scanner. They both watch as the little box makes a disappointed bink-bonk noise signifying that this person is a non-person. Probably an illegal immigrant, maybe even a terrorist!! PC P immediately jumps on him before he can run off. 42 days later, nobody has any clue where Smiff has gone. He was off to the flicks and never came back. He never even found out that that round of citrous cocktails he made for his mates at lunch were his undoing. They apparently removed sufficient ridge detail to prevent the handheld scanner from recognising his dabs. Sadly the device at the cop shop faired no better. Shame they went with the lowest bid really. The coppers briefly wonder why they get to lock up so many builders and cocktail waiters.

    Big shame for Smiff and the brickies too of course, but then if it stops just one kiddy fiddler, terrorist or drug smuggler .....
    Andrew Meredith