First, lets start with a word from a QC:
‘I refuse to be fingerprinted’
Nigel Rumfitt QC, terrorism specialist, explains why he is opposed to compulsory fingerprinting at Heathrow.
Everyone using the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow for domestic flights will have to be fingerprinted. Who says so? Not Parliament. The British Airports Authority, a Spanish-owned private company, and British Airways say so. Why? It’s a government requirement, they tell us. But in free societies, government requirements come in the form of laws. Who made the requirement, when and in what terms?
Fingerprinting has been around for more than 100 years. In this country it has been used only to catch and identify criminals. No doubt that is why it carries a stigma. Compulsory mass fingerprinting is regarded as “unBritish”, but the present Government seems determined to change our attitude.
A few years ago, with little publicity, the law was altered to allow the indefinite retention of fingerprints and DNA taken from suspects later acquitted or even released without charge. Police powers of arrest have been extended recently, allowing the more widespread obtaining of this data. Nonetheless, the Government has not yet dared to make mass fingerprinting compulsory. What this Government fears to do openly it tries to do by stealth.
Because you cannot be compelled to provide your fingerprints, both BAA and British Airways are saying that by choosing to fly through Terminal 5 you are “consenting” to the taking of your prints. That is disingenuous, to put it mildly. True, some people will not mind; others will object, but will not be prepared to abandon an important journey in order to register that objection. In practice, and without legislation, we will have become a nation that restricts the internal movement of its citizens by government decree.
Imagine how people would have reacted in the 1950s to the proposition that before boarding the Flying Scotsman at King’s Cross you had to provide your fingerprints because the Home Secretary thought it a good idea.
These measures, it is said, will protect us against terrorism. That is nonsense. Modern Islamist terrorists want the world to know who they are. That’s why they make video wills to show everyone exactly who has been martyred for the cause. Would any recent terrorist outrage have been prevented by ID cards or fingerprint records? If it would, why bring in vital security measures by the back door and confine them to domestic flights?
Another danger is that, at Terminal 5, illegal immigrants can swap boarding passes with domestic passengers and get into the country unchecked. This is because greedy BAA wants all passengers – domestic and international – to mingle in the same shopping mall before flying.
If this is only about verifying identity at the gate, why take four prints and not just one? Why keep these prints on file for “only” 24 hours instead of destroying them at the gate? To what use will the prints be put in that time? The Data Protection Act, quoted by BAA, in fact allows police access to this material.
This is not about security. It is about paving the way towards the database state, making it easier to force us to “consent” to giving our fingerprints when we apply for a passport. That’s the final step before the compulsory ID card.
I already refuse to visit the United States because of oppressive security and I have indicated to BAA that I shall refuse to provide fingerprints unless I can be satisfied that it has a legal right to demand them. If the law has been changed to allow BAA to behave in this way, I shall find another airline.
Nigel Rumfitt QC is a specialist in serious crime, including terrorism.
And this is the offending news:
Millions of passengers flying from British airports will be fingerprinted from next year under the latest controversial Government anti-terror plans.
The measures, which will apply to both domestic and international passengers, are being introduced despite opposition from the Information Commissioner, Britain’s privacy watchdog.
The Commissioner forced Heathrow to abandon a similar plan earlier this year after warning that it was potentially illegal under data protection laws.
Critics say the main reason for the scheme is that airport operators want to maximise profits by ensuring all passengers are able to spend money in ‘duty-free’ shops.