18 February, 2010

17 Are passports an expensive scam? Do they enhance security? A lesson from History

Governments have raised the costs of passports enormously. The new biometric passports with hidden electronic data were supposed to be really, really secure. The Dubai incident shows that all these super-sophisticated passports have been BUST. Private data has been stolen. British, French, Irish and German passports have been falsified. Where is your personal data being sold to? If not to national or foreign governments for their spies, are the Mafia, organised crime and terrorist groups involved in this lucrative market? A cartel operation of governments has pocketed additional millions without blocking fraud. They have perhaps created a new danger, more difficult to resolve. A war of blood, killings, scams and passports possibly using YOUR personal data.

A Hamas terrorist was found dead. He was staying at a plush hotel. He had a passport that did not have his family name. Where did his very generous expense account come from? Who gave him a false passport? Two Palestinians were arrested. As for the falsified European passports, the Dubai police chief would not say who had falsified them, nor who he thought was responsible. Some of the passports contain the real personal data of Europeans but false photographs.

This is nothing new. In 1985 the French President authorized an operation involving forged Swiss passports. French Intelligence operatives attached two explosive bombs to the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, in New Zealand, killing one person. The operatives were later promoted.

The citizen who is faced with this governmental monopoly practice, must ask: Is this another rip-off? A system uniquely in the hands of governments has no absolute security because quite often the governments do not respect their own rules. No one is there to check them. The monopoly fabrication and sale of passports are an anomaly in what should be a Single Market. It has created a secret black market with much higher pickings in the murky world of terrorism, hi-tech crime and spies.

The uncomfortable truth is that citizens are living under a technocracy -- where passport "experts" dictate how citizens should be made secure. Are they infallible? Obviously not. Further millions are wasted on airport security systems -- which do not work in practice to catch suicide terrorists. That is scare politics -- spending money on machines out of public fears and insecurities. But the citizen is paying for technology that does not do the job! That is a scam. Normally, court action would be expected. Instead the innocent public -- nearly 100 percent of travellers -- is humiliated by both searches and "expert" systems.

The founding fathers warned that a democracy -- the public -- must always be in charge of the policy not "passport experts". See http://www.schuman.info/passport.htm. The experts like to consider everyone guilty until their machine says no. Is that a healthy attitude?

The European founders wanted to regain real freedoms for the citizens after the restrictions of WW2. They wanted to break down unnecessary barriers. Before the First World War, citizens travelled without the need of passports -- even though there were major problems of terrorism.

These Statesmen established the Council of Europe in 1949, the basis for our Human Rights today. Schuman and the other founders set another goal to roll back unhealthy State power: get rid of passports wherever possible. Remember these Statesmen made this proposal at the worst time of the Cold War scare, when some even feared that an Red Army invasion was imminent. They did not see a contradiction with eliminating passports and making Europeans more secure.

'Why create a European passport,' asked Britain's Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin. 'Wouldn't it be simpler and more efficient to eliminate all existing passports?' The first efforts to make common passports were held up by committees of national ‘experts on passports’. Italy's Foreign Minister, Count Sforza, said prophetically: 'What on earth are 'passport experts'? If you put administrative people who make them inside a committee, you will never solve the problem. They will show that it is impossible to get rid of passports!'

Sure enough, it reached a bureaucratic logjam. The committee of experts had started complicating matters which both ministers and parliamentarians had just succeeded in simplifying. Then some enlightened politicians including Belgium’s Paul-Henri Spaak insisted that the technocratic horse should not be leading the political masters. ‘Once democratic politicians have decided that something must be done, experts have the duty to find the means to do it. If they raise technical objections, they must then find the remedies.’

But the technocrats persisted. A new generation forgot that citizens actually have a choice. They should be the masters. 'Passport experts' became guardians of this technocratic heritage.
Governments brought in new universal biometric passports -- without having a discussion on the alternatives. Yes, there are alternatives. And if citizens were given the choice about how to spend the enormous amount of money that firms and taxpayers spend on the system, they might come up with cheaper and more effective means of security. We now know what has been apparent for a long time. Mechanical security will always fail because of the human factor.

Interpol has in its database over 11 million stolen or lost passports. These passports are being used, fraudulently altered and are being given to terrorists, war criminals, drug traffickers, human traffickers, says Interpol chief Ronald K Noble. The solution, he said, is better intelligence, and better intelligence sharing, among countries.

Under a Community system as envisaged by the founding fathers, there would at least be a public debate on the misuse of passport data by governments. A functioning Parliament and Economic and Social Committee would have their word in any abuse of power. Technocratic dictators would have to answer some pretty probing questions by other technical experts representing consumers who were equally technically competent -- and did not have commercial, profesional or personal prestige interests to promote.

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