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Those ID cards again

Posted by Helen Friday, December 31, 2004

Even without the horrific news from South-East Asia and the undoubted recriminations and misdirected funds that is the news to come, this is not the time to feel anything but depressed.

I have always found it very sad that a country that has been the by-word of liberty in the past, a people who have proudly proclaimed the joys of individual liberty, should now equally proudly proclaim that Britain is the place where every single rule, however stupid and harmful, is obeyed implicitly. Whether that is true is irrelevant. The problem is that blind obedience has taken the place of freedom as a matter for self-congratulations.

That sad little threnody brings us to the whole subject of internal passports (aka ID cards). As it happens, the Wall Street Journal Europe on Tuesday of this week carried a long article about the problem of terrorism in Europe. Its main theme was not quite as new as the two authors, David Crawford and Keith Johnson thought: there is a serious problem in all the western European countries with a few people who have lived in them for two or three generations, who were born and brought up in them, and who should, therefore, feel their immediate loyalty to those countries, actually deciding to join various terrorist organizations.

We knew this when young Britons were found fighting with the Taleban in Afghanistan or among homicide bombers in the Palestine. The Dutch found this out when a young man of Moroccan descent, one who had never lived in Morocco, brutally murdered Theo van Gogh, the film director.

The Spanish are learning to live with the fact (though they are still finding it hard to accept that they threw away an election) that the Madrid bombs were placed there by inhabitants of Spain who had formed themselves into terrorist groups and had links with Al-Quaeda before 9/11. Other terrorist groups, also mostly made up of second and third generation inhabitants of Spain have been arrested.

There are groups in France, in Belgium, in the Netherlands. In other words, in countries that already have ID cards. And, furthermore, all these young men would have had them. The idea that somehow, the introduction of ID cards in Britain would be an adequate substitute for intelligence work is being blown apart (if I may use what can sound as an unfortunate phrase in the circumstances) by the unravelling of the existing groups.

The full posting can be read here.