Bordering on the Ridiculous 58

The media is rabid that border surveillance may have been insufficiently paranoid for a period last summer. David Cameron’s defence of Teresa May rests on a curious paradox: he says that she instituted a pilot scheme on more targeted checks which was a tremendous success: detection rates of various categories of malefactor jumped up by figures ranging from ten to one hundred per cent.

On the other hand, Brodie Clark had extended this fantastically successful scheme without authorisation, and that was grossly negligent and indeed terribly dangerous.

Meantime New Labour ask ridiculous questions, determined as ever to show that they can be more rabidly right wing than the Tories. Just how many foreign terrorists, rapists and illegal immigrants had entered the UK last summer? Ha, she can’t say!

Meanwhile the streets are positively littered with the dead bodies of the victims of these dastardly foreigners, presumably.

The truth is that at no stage were passport checks stopped. Passports and visas wewre checked and questions asked, as always. What was stopped was routinely opening up the digital photo to compare it with the physical photo, to make sure that the physical photo had not been swapped. Instead this was only done where there was other reason to be suspicious.

Forget the hype. To replace a physical passport photo in such a way as not to damage the passport, undetectably, is very difficult indeed with modern passports and takes a real expert and a lot of effort. The things are designed so you can’t do that. Very, very few people are going to the massive effort of an undetectable photo swap on a digital passport, which also contains the encoded original photo which is probably going to be looked at. The digital photo is a massive effective deterrent to such behaviour.

They also stopped routinely checking everyone against suspect lists, again only checking those they had reason to suspect. That is exactly how they should behave anyhow. The ridiculous assumption that everyone is a terrorist, requires levels of surveillance that are unacceptable and make life unbearable, as regular air travellers well know.

The scapegoating of officials is typical bad behaviour by politicians. What worries me more is the way this is being used, yet again, to ramp up xenophobia. “Paranoid excessive passport controls were relaxed – and nothing happened” would be a better headline. You won’t see it.

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58 thoughts on “Bordering on the Ridiculous

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  • jjb

    The irony of it all is that when something happens (and barring a change on the current trends, something WILL happen) it is almost sure be done by british nationals, with impecable valid passports.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    I wonder Craig if this ‘demonophobia’ is electioneering or something darker such as xenophobic violence. To me it is obvious that this type of xenophobia is now growing from a diffused sentiment in the underground to one that is gaining political strength with potentially far reaching consequences.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    “Paranoid excessive passport controls were relaxed – and nothing happened”
    If only this could be real headline.
    On the other hand there are number of fake IDs including passports and people use them constantly. I am not sure how good they are and will they work on border control but few people of whom I know have managed to get a work with fake EU passports.
    And to add to this that even states use fake passports when committing crimes. Or has everyone forgotten about fake British passports that Mossad have used when assassinated one of the Hezbollah leaders in UAE?

  • Eddie-G

    And obviously part of the coalition manifesto requires the Libdems to bite their tongues when the Tories go nativist.

  • Vronsky

    “it is almost sure be done by british nationals, with impecable valid passports.”
    Yup. MI5. Again.

  • Franz

    The Government is warming the population up for the next – and last – global war. Although this war will be over oil and gas, the ostensible trigger will be some outrageous act of terrorism, apparently by people from in a country that happens to be sitting on a lot of stuff we want.

    Often I wonder if it’s worth putting up a fight. Perhaps what matters in the end is not winning, but knowing you were on the right side.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Yes, but this fetishisation of ‘security’ that has transformed out world since 9/11 is not really meant to make us safer, is it? It’s to control us. You’ve more chance of being struck by lightning than of becoming the victim of terrorism. Although you’d never guess that from watching the endless stream dickhead ‘security experts’ on the BBC.

  • Tom Welsh

    “Very, very few people are going to the massive effort of an undetectable photo swap on a digital passport, which also contains the encoded original photo which is probably going to be looked at”.

    And most of those will be Mossad agents, whom we don’t WANT to detect.

  • Iain Orr

    Ah! – right back on form with a fusillade scoring bulls-eyes on many targets. For Labour (and many Tories in their hearts) to attack the Home Secretary for a sensible initiative reminds me of Evelyn Waugh observing when his friend Randolph Churchill had a benign tumour removed: “How typical of doctors to find the one part of Randolph’s body which is not malignant and to cut it out.”

    But how typical, also, that May and Cameron should then undermine that initiative by failing to appreciate the lessons from it, including the way less intrusive blanket checking can reduce public resentment, save scarce resources and produce better results. If the Home Secretary wants to test daft ways of preventing crime to destruction, I suggest she tackles shoplifting by asking police auxiliaries to check the contents of every supermarket shopper’s bags against their receipts.

  • Komodo

    The security wonks’ explanation is that there have been few terrorist attacks because the security is so good. Reminds me of the elephant traps I built in Orkney; 100% effective. There are no elephants in Orkney now.
    The Border Agency’s lapse (failing to bait the elephant traps) was deplorable, but guess what? No elephants.
    But would not refraining from invading Elephantistan, which encouraged it to export elephants, have been a better idea still?

  • Geoff

    I could be wrong, but the Mossad incident didn’t involve fake passports, did it?
    They were genuine passports but fraudulently obtained which would put them beyond the realm of discovery at passport control whether the digital photo was checked or not.

  • the Nile of Sudan

    You should make difference between Hezbollah and Hamas, or read carefully when you are on newspapers

  • felix

    Off topic – documents suddenly found in October by “Human Rights Watch” in Tripoli “proving the Gaddafi government directly aided the extraordinary rendition program carried out by the CIA and the MI6 in Britain after the 9/11 attacks”. In the accompanying video at about 1.20 ,uploaded 5 Sept 2011,there is what looks like a fake FCO business card for an “Andy Hardie OBE, consultant in security sector reform. Shades of Werrity?

  • Jane Banalostrichwobble

    I thought the passports used by Mossad had been somehow obtained from people with dual Israeli citizenship. In which case the photos may not have matched the bearers – perhaps they wore disguises to make them look like the photos.

  • mary

    Three lonely souls attempt to assist one other.
    Early day motion 2410
    Main content
    Session: 2010-12
    Date tabled: 09.11.2011
    Primary sponsor: McDonnell, John
    Bottomley, Peter
    Russell, Bob
    Total number of signatures: 3

    That this House expresses its extreme concern at the illegal detention by Israel since 4 November 2011 of Hassan Ghani, a British journalist, who was on board the Tahrir which, along with the Soairse, was delivering aid to Gaza; and calls on the UK Government to seek the immediate release of Hassan Ghani by Israel.

    Heartily wish McDonnell had succeeded instead of Brown.

  • Komodo

    Ghani’s one brave guy. He was on the Mavi Marmara and Via Palestina. Not only that, he works for Press TV, (which is of course developing nuclear weapons and wants to wipe Israel off the map, unless I want to be called an antisemite). I guess the bastards will be treating him with the courtesy and respect for human rights for which they are widely known. Hope he gets out.

  • John Goss

    On my return from Romania last Thursday I felt sorry for non-EU passengers at Luton who had to go through a fingerprint-gathering process as though they were common criminals.

  • nuid

    Excuse the O/T please:
    Apparently the USA is leading the charge to reverse the ban on cluster bombs:
    “In 2008, over half of the world’s governments outlawed these weapons by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions. But now, shockingly, countries like France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK, who all signed the Convention, are under pressure from the US, China and Russia to run rings round the ban by signing a separate agreement that would allow them to use cluster munitions. Only Norway, Mexico, Austria and a few others are fighting this horror.”
    Avaaz has a petition here:
    “The seven Irish human rights activists due home in Ireland this afternoon at 2:25 pm were at the last minute prevented from boarding their flight out of Ben Gurion airport by Israeli armed guards. They had been taken last night to a holding cell and were ready to board their 7:40 am flight to London this morning when at the last minute they were prevented from doing so by Israeli security forces and returned to Givon prison. All seven are now being detained indefinitely, with no further news available from Israeli authorities …”
    More here {}
    It appears they are being taunted.
    Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore met the Israeli ambassador yesterday, and the Irish ambassador to Israel has been instructed to reinforce demands for their release.

  • havantaclu

    Nuid – yes, I’ve signed the petition. But it makes you wonder what the Americans are planning now …

    Re the Irish activists, perhaps the reasoning goes something like this:

    Ghaddafi supplied arms to the IRA

    All Irish activists must be Sinn Fein at least, and probably IRA as well.

    Ghaddafi’s dead – perhaps those who used to be supplied by him want revenge.

    We’ll check everyone through our [Trans]atlantic Bridge contacts

    Meanwhile, no-one’s going to notice – or if they do, they can’t do anything – Obama’ll see to that (wasn’t that a brilliantly contrived bit of disinformation? worked like a charm on them both!)

  • Komodo

    I can only imagine the outcry if Britain had detained an Israeli without consular or legal access. Would Israel have told the detainee’s father, as an FO spokesthing did on Saturday, that they had advised against visiting Gaza and that’s all you’re getting out of us?

  • Uzbek in the UK

    @ the Nile of Sudan
    Pardon. My bad. It was assassination of one of the Hamas men indeed.
    That did not stay in the news for long and also Israeli envoy was called to the FCO for explanations it did not make much of a sense. Those passport have been fake (cloned) at the border control in Israel. I imagine how much noise it would have made if any of the Russian FSB agents used fake British passport in assassination. Double standards? Hypocrisy perhaps?

  • nuid

    The thing is, they didn’t even enter Israel voluntarily. They were hijacked in international waters and brought to Israel against their will. Israel has no right in the world to hold them. Apparently Fintan Lane said: “This is a deliberate and calculated attempt by the Israelis to break our spirit. It won’t succeed.”
    Just for the record, in case anyone is curious, this is who the group are (they first few were due home today):
    Ship to Gaza co-ordinator Fintan Lane, former Leinster and Ireland rugby player Trevor Hogan, People Before Profit councillor Hugh Lewis, Siptu activist Mags O’Brien, Sinn Féin councillor Patrick Fitzgerald, University of Limerick lecturer Zoe Lawlor, Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, former Fianna Fáil TD Chris Andrews, artist Felim Egan, and Sinn Féin councillor John Hearne.

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