Wednesday, December 20, 2006
"Intelligence Led" Security For All. Not.
Last week, a middle aged white bloke with grey hair and specs was shocked to be stopped by the police while out making a video for the Taxpayers' Alliance. But as I discovered, s44 of the 2000 Terrorism Act allows them to stop and search anyone in a wide area of central London, irrespective of whether they have reasonable suspicion. If they want to, they can do it on a whim.
So I can't say I was altogether surprised when the same thing happened again this week.
Once again, the officer - this time a member of the hitherto unheard of (by me) Ministry of Defence Police - was very polite and professional. He explained I'd been seen on CCTV and he'd have to search me.
So once again, we went through the whole 20 minute routine, and he wrote out another Stop and Search docket to add to my collection.
In this case, he told me I could go on making the video if I wanted, but he couldn't promise I wouldn't be stopped again round the corner. Night was falling, so I gave up. Certainly more of a whimper than a bang, but a definite encroachment on my civil liberties.
Has any terrorist been convicted after a s44 stop?
Er... not as far as I can tell. Although tens of thousands of police hours have been spent on them.
Not very intelligent you might think.
But at least stop and search at airports is "intelligence led". We know that because Home Office Minister Liam Byrne told us today.
He told us that's why Home Office officials failed to stop one of PC Sharon Beshenivsky's suspected killers - a highly unpleasant and dangerous Somalian- leaving the country disguised as a fully veiled woman. No intelligence y'see. What could they do?
Which is why Liam wants that biometric supercomputer. No not the NHS disaster - the other one (see many previous blogs, eg here).
Now, everybody who knows anything about this stuff seems to think at best it would be an expensive waste of money. The bad guys would be able to fake the chips as soon as they were issued. Or even better, they could use them to trigger nationality specific roadside bombs (see this blog).
But yesterday, his boss Doc "D'You Want Some?" Reid announced the whole project had been thrown up into the air (htp Cityunslicker). He reckons they've abandoned the Supercomputer itself, and are going to cobble something together by bolting various Heath Robinson style superchargers onto three separate existing systems:
"Doing something sensible is not necessarily a U-turn. We have decided it is lower risk, more efficient and faster to take the infrastructure that already exists, although the data will be drawn from other sources."
No, we don't know what he means either. It still sounds like an expensive mess.
It's probably intelligence led.
Either way, next time I want to make a vid in Westminster, I'm going to dress properly. And if anyone dares stop me, I'll report them to that Ali Desai.
Posted by Mike D at 4:16 pm