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Woolwich: Lord Reid, the security industry's salesman

Former Home Secretary John Reid exploits a brutal murder to revive the Snoopers' Charter.

Anthony Barnett is right to recoil at Lord Reid's response to yesterday's murder of an off-duty soldier, 25 year old Drummer Lee Rigby:

"It is intolerable that John Reid, who secretly planned the misconceived British invasion of Helmand with untold slaughter of Afghans as well as some hundreds of British, should callously exploit yesterday's horrible murder in London," Barnett declared on OurKingdom. "But that is what he did by going on the BBC's Newsnight and calling for the total observation of all our data communications. As if he is a guardian of public safety!"

It is worse than that, for Reid is not just an authoritarian has-been keen to resurrect the awful Data Communications Bill. A bill, let's remember, that would give police and intelligence services the power to access all our email data and internet activity.

It is worse than that, because Reid is a salesman for the security industry.

How did the former Labour home secretary and minister for health, defence and transport use his BBC platform last night?

Reid asserted that mobile phone data had been crucial in foiling the 2006 plot to blow up aeroplanes using liquid explosives: "Had we not had that method of connecting people through their communications, 2,500 people would probably have been blown out of the sky over the United Kingdom. It was a vital component," he said. 

"But now people have moved on from mobile phones to internet, email, text, Skype. We don't have the means of doing what we did six years ago." 

That's why state surveillance of all our data communication is "absolutely essential for effective fighting of terrorism".

Hmmm . . .

Phone tapping may have helped disrupt the 2006 plot, even if Reid exaggerates its contribution. But the security services were not listening to everything. Yesterday's killers were apparently known to the authorities who could have obtained a warrant to monitor their communications. Already there are half a million such intercepts per annum. Reid's call for total surveillance is totalitarian. 

He is a valuable asset to the security industry.

After his ministerial career, but while he was still an MP, the security company G4S put Reid on the payroll — at £50,000-a-year. Then, they made him a director.

Here's his contribution to the Lords debate on electoral registration in January last year: “Is the Minister aware that the best protection against misuse or fraud on cyber issues is biometric protection?” he asked, forgetting to mention his commercial relationship with biometrics purveyors G4S.

Reid told the House, “With identification by your own iris or fingerprints, no one else can pretend to be you."

And here's the company's sales pitch: “A card can be duplicated or stolen, but a unique physiological characteristic cannot”.

Spot the difference.

“Can the Minister confirm that one of the fastest-growing crimes in this country is based on identity theft?" asked Reid during a Lords debate on passports in July 2012. "In the midst of identity theft, one of the largest areas is the theft of people's passports as an entry to identity," he said. This leads on to "further crimes, running from intervention in personal details through to bank accounts and right up to terrorism.”

Thank goodness for biometric security.

This past March Reid was at it again. “Crime is international and, indeed, transnational, and that trend is being accelerated by cybercrime," he told the House, urging the government to keep public funds flowing in the battle against international crime.

Reid himself is an international phenomenon.

Among his speaking gigs last year noted in the Register of Interests, Reid warned of the dangers of cybercrime in locations ranging from London, to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Washington DC. He commands £5,000 to £10,000 per speech, according to his agents JLA.

Friends of George W. Bush invited Reid to join them at the Washington-based Chertoff Group, founded by Bush’s director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. What do they do?

"Every day we analyze the unthinkable and help plan for the unspeakable. Most often, we find ways to help our clients prevent crises or minimize damage across the whole spectrum of security risks worldwide."

As a member of Chertoff's global leadership team, Reid joins other former statesmen and spooks promoting the security industry. Or, as they like to put it:

“Global leaders confronting global risk!”

His business partners include former CIA chief, General Michael Hayden, and Homeland Security alumni, Paul Schneider and Charles Allen.

Reid and his paymasters have built a home at the heart of academia, thanks to the business-friendly leadership of University College London. They've made Reid chairman of the UCL Institute for Security and Resilience Studies.

He has given a seat on the Advisory Board to his business partner Michael Chertoff, and another to Cassidian, the cybersecurity company, and another to Ultra Electronics — they're experts in data recording, analysis and surveillance, among other things.

Former MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller joins them on the Advisory Board.

The security industry claims to protect us from the bad guys. Experience suggests it aint necessarily so. At G4S's employment and vetting service, for instance, they protect clients not just from fraudulent job applications, dishonesty and security breaches, but also from exposure to "extremists" and "protest activity".

Don't worry. They're only Securing Your World.


With thanks to Anthony Barnett, and to They Work for You, the website that makes it easy to track what Parliamentarians say.


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