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Gordon Brown hand waves on biometrics and multiple terrorist identities etc.

No doubt the full text of Gordon Brown's speech to the Royal United Services Institute today will eventually be available online.

UPDATED: The text of the speech is now available on the HM Treasury website

Some first impressions:

Gordon Brown dispelled any vague hopes by Labour supporters that he might somehow seek to cancel the controversial Identity Cards scheme if he ever became Prime Minister, After this speech it would seem like a very damaging political U-turn.

Gordon Brown started off by referring to the founder of the Royal United Services Institute, back in 1831, the Duke of Wellington, referring to "The Iron Duke", presumably hoping for an association with his own self styled nickname of "The Iron Chancellor". He even quoted the Duke's phrase

"publish and be damned".

What sprang to mind was the Duke of Wellington's other famous quote:

"lies, damned lies and statistics"

Gordon Brown then quoted George Orwell

"But the thing that I saw in your face no power can disinherit: No bomb that ever burst shatters the crystal spirit."

Eric Blair (George Orwell) must be spinning in his grave after being quoted by such a control freak authoritarian as Gordon Brown, who was presumably trying to tap into Orwell's intellectual legacy.

Then we got the previously leaked reference to Bletchley Park and the the Enigmna codebreakers of World War 2, in reference to more plans for even more snooping on international financial transactions through "forensic accounting". As we have commented before, the fact that this was delivered at RUSI, a Defence and Intelligence think tank, with an audience which included people like Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of the Security Service MI5 , to whom he referred in his speech, must mean that many people will assume that he was announcing some sort of intelligence agency attack on the privacy and security of the world's financial data networks, such as SWIFT or VisaNet etc.as was mounted by the (West) German Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) in Operation Rahab several years ago.

Surely this must have an effect on the reputation of the City of London as a world financial centre: more red tape, more bureaucracy, more snooping means an increased cost of doing business here.

Gordon Brown claimed that Al Quaeda was the "first global terrorist organisation", an intellectually insulting claim to make in front of the RUSI audience. What exactly was the Soviet Communist Comintern, which sponsored Marxist guerilla movements and terrorist groups "on every continent" throughout the Cold War ?

This selective re-writing of history was especially noticiable, when , later on, he claimed that an anti-Communist style "hearts and minds" campaign of ideas through culture, media and the arts was needed to take on the "roots of terrorism".

Previosuly announced and previously leaked statistics were brought out in Gordon Brown's speech.e.g. "by 2008" i.e. not this year or next year, there is meant to be extra spending on Counter Terrorism:

  • £75 million extra for the Metropolitan Police
  • £135 million for the Regions
  • £230 million nationwide (not sure if this includes the previous two figures)
  • Spending on the Security Service MI5 to have doubled (up to about £2 billion)
  • £ 2 billion a year on Counter Terrorism and Resilence (again how much of this figure includes the previous one is unclear)

The leaked figure of £80 million of frozen terrorist assests in the UK since September 2001 , belonging to 100 Al Queda linked organisations, was uttered

This is in direct contradiction to the Treasury Written Answer of 22nd March 2005, which claimed that only £380,000 had been frozen , see our previous blog posting

Are we meant to believe that all £80 million was frozen since March last year ?

Or perhaps most of it was the result of freezing the assets of the "Al Quaeda linked" Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a recently proscribed terrorist group opposed to the Gadaffi dictatorship in Libya, whose assets were apparently frozen "3 days ago", including "4 UK property companies".

UPDATE: Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Dr, Vincent Cable, MP for Twickenham, has now tabled a Parliamentary Question:

5 Dr Vincent Cable (Twickenham): To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will list those organisations found to have links with Al Qaeda where funds have been frozen; how much was involved in each case; and if he will make a statement. (53564)

He also referred to 3 unspecified terrorists attacks which have been supposedly thwarted since July last year. Until there are some details of these, then on the basis of the previous hype and disinformation, we must remain extremely sceptical that such plots were actually viable attacks in progress, rather than vague chatter and plotting by people without access to weapons or explosives or money or even to fellow conspirators.

He again raised the spectre of the the disgraceful "No Ricin" plot, in which dubious information, obtained from a suspect interrogated by the brutal Algerian authorities, where MI% did not dare to ask if torture had been used, and to whom the UK Police were denied access, and who did not testify in person at the trial, led to the arrest of 12 people, mostly illegaql immigrants. They were mostly aquitted of any crimanal charges, apart from the chief protagonist Kamel Bourgass, who later murdered a policeman, during his bungled arrest (after having been released from handcuffs and allowed to grab a kitchen knife).

No ricin, not even minute amounts of it were actually discovered during this alleged "biochemical weapons plot".

Gordon Brown referred to the "120 assumed identities", that these "no ricin" arrestees were using, neglecting to mention that almost all of these involved faked or falsely applied for foreign identity documents, not British ones, which are all that the proposed UK ID card scheme could ever hope to control,.

He did not mention either that foreigners will have up to 3 months in the UK before they would have to register under the scheme, and that there will be no compulsion to actually carry the ID card or present it to a Policeman during a stop and search. How this can be of any use against terrorists is therefore a mystery, even to the Police.

There were also some other unsubstatiated statistics such as:

  • 1 in 4 criminals in the UK use false identities
  • 1 in 5 British companies suffer from Identity Fraud
    li>the New Home Office estimate of £1.7 billion a year of Identity Fraud - a figure which is so obviously wrong, that it casts severe doubts on the Chancellor's numeracy skills, and fitness to run the British economy

Where is the statistical justification for any of these claims ?

Gordon Brown even dragged in a mention of Sir Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, to apparently claim that biometric fingerprint scanners will be used for access to mobile phones, the internet and MP3 players by 2010, neglecting the obvious fact that you leave your fingerprints over such prtable equipment, which means that if it is stolen, it is actually easier to access than with a traditional password , which can at least be changed if it is compromised or disclosed.

Gordon Brown must have been impressed by the IBM salesmen, because he quoted that over 1 million IBM laptop computers had been sold with fingerprint scanners, Are IBM angling for part of the multi-billion pound National Identity Register contracts ?

He also cited a Californian supermarket, where customers pay for goods via their fingerprint scan instead of the "inconvenience" of having to carry a credit card.

He also cited a Japanses ATM cash machine wich also asks for a fingerprint.

None of these pilot scheme examples justify sharing the , for all practical purpose permanently fixed biometric identifier "keys", such as fingerprint, between the supposedly secure centralised, biometric database National Identity Register and the patently insecure private sector applications of biometrics.

A compromise of one such system e.g. the sneaky capture of fingerprints, will lead to the compromise of the other systems which rely on the same fingerprints. Will Gordon Brown pay financial compenstion to credit card companies or to banks for the losses incurred to their "biometric security protected" systems because of failures of the National Identity Register ?

Gordon Brown talked of a public / private sector partnership whith banks, computer companies etc. which would somehow reduce the cost of the whole identity scheme, presuimably by selling off our private data, in one form or another.

Gordon Brown also wittered on about the need to extend the detention without charge period from 28 days (some time in the future), basing his arguments on those in the discredited Andy Hayman letter, which failed to convince the Commons or the Lords of the case for 90 days detention without charge.

The Chancellor even claimed that the "safeguard" of having to re-apply to a "senior judge" every 7 days, was a good idea, neglecting to mention, that as originally presented by the Government, this protection did not appear in the Terrorism Bill 2005, and is a result of Opposition amendments.

Hopefully this gives our readers a flavour of what Gordon Brown said.

We would welcome your comments, with probably different impressions and opinions about this "I want to be seen as a Prime Minister" speech.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Gordon Brown hand waves on biometrics and multiple terrorist identities etc.:

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» Gordon Brown's Chatham House speech part 1 from Spy Blog
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I think the Orwell quote that Brown was really looking for is this one:

"All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals."

Or maybe this one:

"A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic."

Or maybe even this one:

"Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face for ever."

Perhaps this one:

"His voice, made metallic by the amplifiers, boomed forth an endless catalogue of atrocities, massacres, deportations, lootings, rapings, torture of prisoners, bombing of civilians, lying propaganda, unjust aggressions, broken treaties. It was almost impossible to listen to him without being first convinced and then maddened."

Nope, it's gotta be this one:

"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength"

The published text of the speech confirms what we thought we heard:

I can tell you that, by 2008, a further £75 million will be added to the Met's counter-terrorism capability and a further £135 million for regional intelligence and investigation - in total investing £230 million more nationwide.

£75 million plus £135 million equals £210 million i.e. a difference of £20 million between our simple arithmetic and Gordon Brown's "in total investing £230 million more nationwide."

Is this really how Gordon Brown runs the Treasury and the British economy ?

Does this mean more money for "see under your clothes" scanners using passve or active Millimetre Wave, TeraHertz or UltraWideBand or Backscatter X-Ray imaging ?

We will review the strategic allocation of resources to meet changing requirements - for example, detecting explosives in crowded places;

Presumably for this to work "in crowded places" such high tech snooping would be in secret, without individual informed consent ?

The Treasury have sort of answered
Dr Vincent Cable's Parliamentary Question on the dubious figure of £80 million of terrorist assets, which Gordon Brown uttered in his speech.

Written answers Monday, 27 February 2006

Vincent Cable (Twickenham, LDem):

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those organisations found to have links with Al-Qaeda where funds have been frozen; how much was involved in each case; and if he will make a statement.

Ivan Lewis (Economic Secretary, HM Treasury):

123 organisations have been designated for asset freeze under the Al Qaeda and Taliban Order (2002). A consolidated list of individuals and entities subject to UK financial sanctions is available from the Bank of England website at:


Since 2001, a total of nearly £80 million has been frozen in the UK, although a large proportion was returned to the legitimate Government of Afghanistan. The legislation does not permit the disclosure of amounts frozen for individual entities.

Freezing action also prevents the flow of funds to listed individuals and entities. Asset freezing is part of the Government's overall strategy to create a hostile environment for terrorism and to safeguard the integrity of financial systems.

Except that UN, EU and UK financial sanctions against the Taleban started in 1999, not in 2001.

Are the Treasury claiming that no such assets were frozen between 1999 and 2001 ?

Presumably the "legitimate Government of Afghanistan" is the one elected in October 2004, so why were these funds not mentioned in the Written Answer by Stephen Timms on 22 March 2005, by which time they must either have been returned to Afghanistan or were still frozen ?

What is the aggregate figure for terrorist funds which are currently still frozen today ?

Another Written Answer regarding the alleged £80 million of frozen terrorist assests:

1 Mar 2006 : Column 727W

Terrorist Groups (Financial Assets)

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the total value was of (a) financial assets and (b) non-financial assets of (i) Northern Ireland terrorist, (ii) fundamentalist Islamic, (iii) Basque separatist and (iv) other organisations, broken down by cause frozen by the Treasury in each year since 1997. [54754]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Assets with a total value of nearly £80 million have been frozen in the UK, as associated with AI-Qa'ida, the Taliban or other terrorist causes, although a large proportion was returned to the Government of Afghanistan. The legislation does not permit us to publish the analysis at the level of detail requested.

163 organisations have been designated under the Terrorism Order 2001 and the AI-Qa'ida and Taliban Order 2002. Of these, we judge six are Northern Ireland terrorist groups, 140 are Islamic and one is Basque. A consolidated list of individuals and entities subject to UK financial sanctions is available from the Bank of England website at http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/financialsanctions/current/index.htm

Freezing action also prevents the flow of funds to listed individuals and entities. Asset freezing is part of the Government's overall strategy to create a hostile environment for terrorism and safeguard financial systems. A value cannot easily be put on those wider effects.

Remmeber that the financial sanctions against the Taliban regime came into force in 1999 not 2001, so presumably any such Afghan government assets were frozen then, and not in the period claimed by the Chancellor since 2001.

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