Schneier on Security
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July 18, 2006
Fake IDs Save Lives in Iraq
At least, according to CATO.
Posted on July 18, 2006 at 12:37 PM
• 32 Comments
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There we are trying to stop false documentation to prevent terorisum etc, and on the ground people need it to pretect themselves from the protectors...
It would be funny if it was not so sick.
MAny years ago Australia looked at getting national ID Cards, and at first there appeared to be no real objection from people in general. However when people realised that the things can actually harm you (as in this case) a ground swell of resisitance to the ID quickly spread. The result was that the idea was (at that time) dropped.
It is a lesson that is not new it is known that religeous and other minorities have regularly been victimised and murdered in many countries simply because they could be identified (think Rwanda for instance).
The simple fact is that ID Cards of any form will end up being bad for your health, all the suposed positive sociatal points for them are always going to be outweighed by the negative personal points such as being persicuted in one form or another upto and including the loss of your life.
Yes, the government we installed in Iraq runs death squads that will kill people for the offense of being named Omar (a common name that marks you as a Sunni).
Sure, fake IDs help when the people in power are the bad guys (and right now, the various nutcase factions have enough power to kill). However, in the civilized world, the people in power are the elected gov', so fake IDs would be A Bad Thing(tm). Yes, it's that simple.
Where is this civilized world you speak of, I think I'd like to move there.
Think about ID as a weapon. Whether you convince someone to use an ID that you can exploit or taking advantage of what's out there. Think about an anonymous uinique ID where you get the minimum information you require and have access to. Think about a new drivers license. The liquor store scans it for an "over 21" check. Result: pass/fail. The police office scans it and can see your photo on his computer screen.
An example of an ID card that's a very bad thing is your auto insurance card in your car (US). Steal the car and it's trivial to drive to the owner's location and exploit whatever was found in the car.
"However, in the civilized world, the people in power are the elected gov"
You call voting civilized?
Buying and selling is civilized, voting is essentially an advanced auction of stolen goods, it is two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner.
Bruce it would be better if you just titled it: "governments kill, markets save lives".
"Sure, fake IDs help when the people in power are the bad guys"
The people in power are always the bad guys. How can it be otherwise? Their job is to steal money and hand it out based on their own value judgments, not yours. The fact that they claim that it's good for you should not mask the blatant fact that it's not, unless being a slave is a suitable existence for you.
The issue here is not the ID cards per se. It is the fact that the identity data carries (or implies) other data with it: in this case religious/political affliliation.
Having multiple valid IDs or allowances for obscuring the "secindary important data" (important enough for some people to be killing others about) while allowing a form of identity to be displayed seems to be the issue at hand.
Now understanding that this is a centuries old tradition around naming, and therefore not subject to change, at least not easily nor quickly, then what solution exists for them to obscure their religious affiliation except change their names or use fake ones?
I'm not sure I'd care if the government knows who I am, but I get vastly more worried when they start "connecting the dots" from who I am to what I do or who I know etc.
Identity is important for security (IMO) but it can be the starting point for making those dangerous associations to behavior or belief that tend to get folks in trouble.
"Sure, fake IDs help when the people in power are the bad guys."
When you issue an ID right now - how do you guarantee that there will never, ever, be bad guys in power?
The ID systems that get built today will be available for years to come. Are you defending the actions of governments not yet elected?
Just another irony in Iraq. Fake IDs save lives. And a people "liberated from oppression" are once again oppressed by the centuries-old sectarian violence that only a brutal dictatorship could hold at bay.
Arguing in favor of fake IDs is in effect arguing against any IDs. If everyone knows IDs can be easily faked, they won't trust any of them.
There was also a recent video by Salam Pax on Newsnight that extolled the virtues of carrying multiple identification cards in the new Iraq.
"If everyone knows IDs can be easily faked, they won't trust any of them."
Not realy true, in the UK there was no real reliable form of ID as in most countries (including those with ID Cards such as France etc). Banks and other people used multiple forms of ID and other supporting documentation (such as paid bills for land tax etc) to establish a probable ID, which was usually acceptable. In most cases the documents would not be to difficult to forge in of themselves, but the multiplicity tends to make their combined effect stronger than the sum of their individual reliability.
One of the greatest weeknesses of "reliable" ID systems is that it makes a criminals life easier not harder in that only one item needs to be forged, and therefore they can devote their attention to it. Especially when there is no easy way to verify the legitimacy of the card as with most National ID Cards (Try phoning up the office responsable for issuing pasports and asking them to verify pasport number 1234xyz and see how far you get).
It has also been found (with photos on credit / bank / work cards) that ordinary people (most shop / bank / security staff) cannot be relied upon to check them. So it is equally possible if the card looks right the photo will not be checked....
All in all ID Cards don't work for the individual only for those in charge (and for all the wrong reasons). And as pointed out they might be acceptable at the moment but they probably won't in a few years.
We citizens need the same kind of anonymizing identity protection that police forces give their officers.
All we'd need to do is flash our badges and the cops would know they had to afford us all the protections of any other citizen, and that their rights stop where ours begin. If they think they need to know more about us, they would have to go to the citizen department, put in an application for that information, then be subject to searches, background checks, checks for wants and warrants, their record of prior arrests and convictions, complaints against them, disciplinary actions taken, civil suits against them and the outcomes. Then if the citizen hierarchy approves the application all the way to the top, the applicant must go before a judge and jury to make his case.
Sounds reasonable to me. After all, turnabout is fair play.
There's an old joke. Back when Ireland, particularly Belfast, was an extremely dangerous place. A man is walking down a street in a dangerous part of town. He walks by an alley and hears the unmistakable sound of a gun being readied. A voice from the alley asks "Be ye protestant or be ye catholic?" Knowing he had a 50/50 chance of being killed, he replies, "Have mercy on a poor little Jew!" The gunman laughed and let him go.
And then there's the variant:
... Knowing he had a 50/50 chance of being killed, he replies, "Have mercy on a poor little Jew!" The gunman laughed and says "gee I must be the luckiest muslim in the world today!".
Sorry for the long post but the CATO is always good for a laugh...and I have to suggest some much needed perspective to their extreme views:
"The major groups in Iraq are not distinguishable by physical traits, but they are by name. To avoid being killed, people are getting false identification cards."
Major groups? Does that rule out the groups that settled in Iraq who perhaps were most distinguishable by their physical traits (e.g. Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians) and who were traditionally most at risk of discrimination?
In any case I think it important to realize that names have been a source of ethnic tension in Iraq for decades if not centuries. Anyone claiming to be an Iraqi under Saddam was forced to swear their ethnic identity as Arab as well as register with the Ba'th party and join military service. In fact, the Human Rights Watch calls out the fact that by 2000 the Iraqi government required babies be given either Iraqi, Arab or Islamic names.
Sadly, the next chapter, and one of the tragic consequences of the Bush administration's ill-conceived strategy after occupation, was the US policy to dismiss anyone who had any ties to the Ba'th party. Thus if a person had been able to survive expulsion from the country (often not just the person charged, but their entire extended family) they were now part of an undesireable Ba'th legacy (regardless of their real role or aptitude) and forced to leave the country to survive the reverse discrimination from mob-rule/terrorist threats that filled the vaccuum of authority created as a result.
"Central planning that deprives people of control over their lives can be deadly–literally–in surprising and unpredictable ways."
Refutation of this is simple. Unrepresentative and unfair central control is bad, but without *any* central planning you can also create a mob rule scenario that again deprives people of control over their lives. See above for an example. In other words when you let the majority of people control the identity of others without any fair representation (through central planning) to help defend an individual's self-definition, what do you end up with?
Here's a hint: Piggie dies.
Existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre suggested that you can strive to define yourself all you want but the lack a fair environment through which people can interpret and field judgement is dangerous...well, let's just say central planning is also known as the governance that brings you freedom and without that (or military power) you could easily end up on the sharp end of a stick or under a boot. Moreover, even on an individual level, when you let people try to establish totally new and self-beneficial identities, is there a cost to others (like overlapping claims to a "homeland")? When you take away all the weapons of destabilization, how do you decide the rights of an identity unless you have built a central system to handle the concept of common or at least relative values?
The Ivory Coast civil war and their recent negotiations are a good study of a fight over who should regulate identities and how. Some even say this conflict shadows the Iraq war since you have similar forces at hand.
Central planning can be deadly, but so can a lack of central planning. The trend to create self-empowered systems of identity (users "determine what they can reveal about themselves") are foolish to pretend that we can all just get along and do not depend on an agreed system of conflict resolution.
"Not realy true, in the UK there was no real reliable form of ID as in most countries (including those with ID Cards such as France etc). Banks and other people used....."
You write in the past tense for (most of) this paragraph, suggesting that the ID issue is no longer the current state of affairs.
As far as I know, we still don't have a reliable, unique ID or ID card. Long may it continue.
As far as I understand european history, the nazis could identify (and kill) jews in the netherlands only because their religion was recorded in the dutch registration offices.
And this information seems ridiculously innocent compared to the petabytes of personal data and datamining capacities available today and in future.
Times are changing, and the next holocaust might discriminate people by biometric data. "John, you have arab gene no. 6122 and your fingerprint minutiae correlate with arab patterns." ... "Ma'am, your genes are probably carrying the Wesdorn disease. In accordance with the public health act from 2031, you will be euthanized."
Or by surveillance records. "Sir, we have tapes showing you have been approached by democratic terrorists at least two times over the last 22 years; the tribunal convicts you to die." ... "Mr. Smith, your consumption profile indicates that you adhere to the forbidden christian tradition. So sorry, but we have to detain you and your family."
Any bit that future dictators will know about us is a potential deadly risk.
There is nothing wrong with ID's, just the interpretation of what is on the ID's themselves.
Remember, life is hard, no one makes it out alive.
"There's an old joke. Back when Ireland, particularly Belfast, was an extremely dangerous place. A man is walking down a street in a dangerous part of town. He walks by an alley and hears the unmistakable sound of a gun being readied. A voice from the alley asks 'Be ye protestant or be ye catholic?' Knowing he had a 50/50 chance of being killed, he replies, 'Have mercy on a poor little Jew!' The gunman laughed and let him go."
Several years ago I read an essay on the violence in ireland in, I think, The New Yorker. The author was talking about how everyone is viewed as a partisan in the conflict. When he (she?) was asked if he was Protestant or Catholic, he replied "Jewish." Then, he was asked "Are you Jewish Protestant or Jewish Catholic."
This was presented as a true anecdote.
Fake ID also saved thousands of innocent lives during the Holocaust (recall Raoul Wallenberg?) and thousands of Lebanese who used the same trickery during their civil war. Reliable ID makes a lot of unimaginably, unspeakably ghastly things imaginable, speakable, and feasible.
The usuall term for a Jew in N.I. was a "four by two" and the protestant might also be known as a "prodi", catholics as "Fenians" etc., etc.
More interestingly you where either left or right footed depending on your faith. This gives rise to some humor that would otherwise be impossible to understand in some jokes from the "province".
Due to the history of the place we have some expresions such as "Beyond the pale" in the English language. In this case the pale was a pailing that would surround a protestant landowners house and his Catholic workers where looked on with at best disdade or more like Gypsies or Tramps (Bums) in other cultures.
Also to make things worse the Protestant land owner when he came to vote had 1 vote for himself, and another vote for each and every Catholic he had responsability for, hence the old cry of "One Man One vote".
The history of how the English and Scotts treated the Irish goes back well before Charles the firsts time and makes unsettaling reading in the modern world.
However as has been pointed out on many occasions "Those who fail to learn from history are condemed to relive it". With ID Cards never has this been more true, and I would urge you "the gentel reader" to study the history of Europe.
"Refutation of this is simple. Unrepresentative and unfair central control is bad, but without *any* central planning you can also create a mob rule scenario that again deprives people of control over their lives."
If it's so simple, why don't you show us the scientific link between 'no central planning' and 'mob rule'?
You have not done that, you simply used circular reasoning.
(your case has one truth to it: a mob rule may form to OPPOSE a central state [like Somalia, Ireland, Iraq, East Timor, etc])
Also, explain to me how a democracy is not representative mob rule!
"Central planning can be deadly, but so can a lack of central planning. The trend to create self-empowered systems of identity (users "determine what they can reveal about themselves") are foolish to pretend that we can all just get along and do not depend on an agreed system of conflict resolution."
It is a non-sequitor to think that a single monopoly authority is needed for that. Ergo, you have not sufficiently shown that central planning is necessary. You also ignore that most of the central planning goes to fix previous central planning. This is true of every nation that ever existed.
Just like language & natural sciences do not need a central authority to function - neither does the provision of legal services in dispute resolution.
*sigh* Trolling again?
"Just like language & natural sciences do not need a central authority to function"
Function? Please, can't you see that a *functioning* ID is completely different than a "fair" or "reasonable" or "just" one? This is an important disctinction that you hopefully can appreciate.
The tatoo ID on your forearm could be proof that an authority (central or not) is functioning. However, was the decision to put it there yours or someone elses? If it was someone else's, what gave them the right to give you an ID and what is your right as an individual to influence changes to that ID going forward? Did they tatoo you because there was an opportunity for the most powerful and ruthlessly violent to make the decisions for you?
"You also ignore that most of the central planning goes to fix previous central planning."
I have no idea what you are talking about, but I suspect you're just looking for windmills to threaten with your broomstick.
Problems created by any system need to be fixed by the next system, and they *all* create problems, without exception.
@Wayne and Stuart:
According to anecdotal evidence, a person was in Lebanon and stopped at an impromptu checkpoint. They asked him if he was a Christian or a Muslim, and he responded, "I'm a tourist!".
One point for lateral thinking on his feet... (or is it just recognizing a false choice?)
It seems to me that this sectarian violence is probably being encouraged by forces that (a) don't want to see a democracy succeed in the mid-East, and (b) want to give the US a black eye. I think this is reasonable and logical. They need money, supplies, weapons, explosives... where do you suppose they're getting them? Optimisim may make you popular, but it's a hindrance when it comes to contingency planning. I find it interesting to read what Bush Sr. said about invading Iraq during GW1, and how perspicacious it was.
"*sigh* Trolling again?"
I'm not the one who makes the assertion that lack of central authority leads to mob rule because lack of central authority leads to mob rule. Why? Because.
If you can't use logic: accuse your opponent of being a troll. Seems to be a tacky M.O.
"Problems created by any system need to be fixed by the next system, and they *all* create problems, without exception."
Uhm, we're still in the same system...
Sure all of them create problems - but only one uses the threat of force as it's only tool, always and everywhere.
"This is an important distinction that you hopefully can appreciate."
I don't know why you brought this up. By functional I meant mutually beneficial.
I meant that language and natural sciences do not have a central authority - rather it is decentralized. My argument is that the same will hold true for legal systems. There is no need for any monopolist to debate whether IDs shall be issued to all, rather you get one if you want one.
"I have no idea what you are talking about, but I suspect you're just looking for windmills to threaten with your broomstick."
My point is that you made some interesting claims, and then presented them as self-evident truths.
I find it funny that a supposed 'security' blog is mostly frequented by those who do not seem see the big security hole inherent only in their beloved system, so they have to belittle the ones who do.
"The Polish parliament has approved a bill designed to remove people who collaborated with the communist secret services from public life.
The bill could lead to the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of people working in business, the media and government."
Wouldn't it be ironic if they were removed and then came back under a fake ID, or would they give up the fake one and come back with their real ID...?
"The Polish parliament has approved a bill designed to remove people who collaborated with the communist secret services from public life."
The scarry thing is that this is almost exactly what happened in the early part of the last centry in places like Russia and Germany that gave rise to the migration of Jewish people westwards.
In the process a lot of science and other "intelegensia" work was not carried out in what was these countried and the eventual culmination was the Second World War, and the development of the atom bomb in the U.S.
Supposadly in return for the help of the Jewish scientists Churchill gave a promise to set up a Jewish homeland in Palastine that was at the time a protectorate under control of Great Britain (as was).
However it looked like the promise was not going to be kept and various Jewish groups effectivly invaded Palestine and set up terorist organisations that captured and threatend to kill British soldiers....
As was once observed, those who do not study history are condemed to relive it...
it is not a question of wisdom or ethics or even safety in the end it will be a bag of silver and the dirk that deside public policy. were it not true a happy land could i show you.
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