Given the poor reputation of the Independent on Sunday regarding the accuracy of their reporting on technical matters like WiFi radio network health risks etc., this story needs to be treated with some caution.
However, the article, by their Whitehall Editor does have quotes from a "senior Ministry of Justice official" and from a "senior Minister".
Is this a typical NuLabour / Whitehall leak or anonymous briefing to a Sunday Newspaper, to test the strength of public or political or media opposition to their ill conceived ideas, instead of publishing a proper public consultation document, a detailed cost benefit analysis and regulatory and privacy and security impact assessments ?
The newly retired former Government Chief Scientist Professor Sir David King described, in Saturday's edition of The Times, the "scientific vacuum" amongst the higher echelons of the Whitehall Sir Humphreys and Labour Ministers, especially at the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Presumably, some of the 200 senior Home Office staff and the ex-Home Office Ministers i.e. the ones in charge of Prisons, who were described by the former Home Secretary John Reid as "not fit for purpose" have now further infected the newly created Ministry of Justice with their ignorance.
Prisoners 'to be chipped like dogs'
Hi-tech 'satellite' tagging planned in order to create more space in jails
Civil rights groups and probation officers furious at 'degrading' scheme
By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor
Published: 13 January 2008
Ministers are planning to implant "machine-readable" microchips under the skin of thousands of offenders as part of an expansion of the electronic tagging scheme that would create more space in British jails.
Amid concerns about the security of existing tagging systems and prison overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice is investigating the use of satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor criminals.
But, instead of being contained in bracelets worn around the ankle, the tiny chips would be surgically inserted under the skin of offenders in the community, to help enforce home curfews. The radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, as long as two grains of rice, are able to carry scanable personal information about individuals, including their identities, address and offending record.
Read on below for some obvious objections to this evil idea.
The tags, labelled "spychips" by privacy campaigners, are already used around the world to keep track of dogs, cats, cattle and airport luggage, but there is no record of the technology being used to monitor offenders in the community. The chips are also being considered as a method of helping to keep order within prisons.
A senior Ministry of Justice official last night confirmed that the department hoped to go even further, by extending the geographical range of the internal chips through a link-up with satellite-tracking similar to the system used to trace stolen vehicles. "All the options are on the table, and this is one we would like to pursue," the source added.
This is nonsense!
There is no way that Global Positioning Satellite or even Mobile Phone technology can be made small enough to be implanted in the human body under the skin.
It has nothing to do with the size of the alleged electronic integrated circuit chip, and everything to do with the laws of physics which govern the size and power characteristics of radio antennas and batteries.
The subcutaneous RFID identity chip transponders which are implanted in lots of of pets such as a cats or dogs or in prize commercial livestock like cattle or horses, use low frequency radio signals, typically only 125KHz, primarily because the higher microwave frequencies, which give longer ranges, just get absorbed by living tissue. The same is true for the VeriChips mentioned later in this article.
The secure RFID reader infrastructure needed to be able to track thousands of people throughout the country would be need to be enormous, since the RFID implant reading range is less than one metre, and there is no way to increase this, by using higher radio frequencies.
There would have to be a Government RFID reader, linked to a central system, at every doorway to every building in the country, to even come close to replicating the by no means foolproof system of the existing mobile phone / GPS electronic ankle tags.
It should have been obvious, to even the dimmest Labour politician or civil servant, that such technology may just work for dumb animals, or for volunteers who have no incentive to try to shield, remove, or electronically spoof, clone or simply destroy an implanted ID chip, the same cannot be true for criminals or innocent people who are forced to be implanted.
The move is in line with a proposal from Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), that electronic chips should be surgically implanted into convicted paedophiles and sex offenders in order to track them more easily. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is seen as the favoured method of monitoring such offenders to prevent them going near "forbidden" zones such as primary schools.
"We have wanted to take advantage of this technology for several years, because it seems a sensible solution to the problems we are facing in this area," a senior minister said last night. "We have looked at it and gone back to it and worried about the practicalities and the ethics, but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come."
Who is this idiotic "senior Minister" ? There must either be criminal incompetence amongst his briefing officials, or there is some sort of undue lobbyist influence.
More than 17,000 individuals, including criminals and suspects released on bail, are subject to electronic monitoring at any one time, under curfews requiring them to stay at home up to 12 hours a day. But official figures reveal that almost 2,000 offenders a year escape monitoring by tampering with ankle tags or tearing them off. Curfew breaches rose from 11,435 in 2005 to 43,843 in 2006 – up 283 per cent. The monitoring system, which relies on mobile-phone technology, can fail if the network crashes.
A multimillion-pound pilot of satellite monitoring of offenders was shelved last year after a report revealed many criminals simply ditched the ankle tag and separate portable tracking unit issued to them. The "prison without bars" project also failed to track offenders when they were in the shadow of tall buildings.
We pointed out all of these obvious problems as soon as the original scheme was announced by the notorious and technologically inept disgraced Home Secretary David Blunkett ! See Daily Mirror: leaked report on the Home Office satellite electronic tagging trial failure - exactly as we predicted, except with coverup and media spin as well ! and Blunkett's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" satellite tracking pilot
The notorious VeriChip company has misleadingly hyped, over the years, the promise of some never forthcoming implantable GPS position tracking device.
They have never demonstrated such as device, which would have to be akin to a heart pacemaker in terms of size and electronic complexity, with the same sort of associated health risks regarding major surgery.
VeriChip have tentatively talked about a useless device whereby the mobile phone / GPS receiver and external battery suppy are, surprise surprise carried on a belt or wrist or ankle i.e. exactly like current mobile phone and / or GPS tracking devices,
If criminals can remove these devices, and the alarrm monitoring companies and the Police and Courts continue to fail to act promptly on breaches of bail or home curfew conditions, then it makes no difference, except to waste even more public money, to introduce such VeriChip sub-dermal implants.
So, currently, such VeriChips would need to be in addition to the existing devices , which the Ministry of Justice official and the Labour Minister seem to be grasping at.
The Independent on Sunday has now established that ministers have been assessing the merits of cutting-edge technology that would make it virtually impossible for individuals to remove their electronic tags.
On whom have "ministers" been experimenting with such illegal "unnecessary surgery", which would get any British doctor or nurse struck off, if they were involved in it ?
The tags, injected into the back of the arm with a hypodermic needle, consist of a toughened glass capsule holding a computer chip, a copper antenna and a "capacitor that transmits data stored on the chip when prompted by an electromagnetic reader.
It is actually far easier to remove a VeriChip implant from under the skin,without being detected than it is to cut off an ankle tag !
The ankle tag has an alarm system built in which detects when the embedded wires have been cut or stretched - there simply cannot be anything similar with a supposedly inert VeriChip
The US market leader VeriChip Corp, whose parent company has been selling radio tags for animals for more than a decade, has sold 7,000 RFID microchips worldwide, of which about 2,000 have been implanted in humans. The company claims its VeriChips are used in more than 5,000 installations, crossing healthcare, security, government and industrial markets, but they have also been used to verify VIP membership in nightclubs, automatically gaining the carrier entry – and deducting the price of their drinks from a pre-paid account.
Despite charging around 200 US dollars for each human implantation, and conducting lots of subsidised promotional stunts, VeriChip have never yet made a profit from their totalitarian fantasy plans, which they regularly hype to the media in order to attract gullible investors.
Given that there are documented medical reports of even pet chip implants causing cancer, we foresee multi-billion dollar lawsuits against them, and against any bureaucrats and politicians who inflict such technology on humans.
Are these investors just greedy and gullible, or are some of them also reliogious fundamentalists, who are trying to "save" the world, by fullfilling the Biblical prophesies in the Book of Revelation, e.g. the re-building of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and, the notorious Mark of the Beast, which widespread abuse of VeriChip implants in humans could certainly fulfill ?
The possible value of the technology to the UK's justice system was first highlighted 18 months ago, when Acpo's Mr Jones suggested the chips could be implanted into sex offenders. The implants would be tracked by satellite, enabling authorities to set up "zones", including schools, playgrounds and former victims' homes, from which individuals would be barred.
"If we are prepared to track cars, why don't we track people?" Mr Jones said. "You could put surgical chips into those of the most dangerous sex offenders who are willing to be controlled."
These words are as idiotic and evil today, as they were 18 months ago.
The case for: 'We track cars, so why not people?'
The Government is struggling to keep track of thousands of offenders in the community and is troubled by an overcrowded prison system close to bursting. Internal tagging offers a solution that could impose curfews more effectively than at present, and extend the system by keeping sex offenders out of "forbidden areas". "If we are prepared to track cars, why don't we track people?" said Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
Officials argue that the internal tags enable the authorities to enforce thousands of court orders by ensuring offenders remain within their own walls during curfew hours – and allow the immediate verification of ID details when challenged.
The existing landline and mobile phone based ankle tags are not capable of doing this for all people who are tagged. There are massive equipment failures, and failures in procedure, and a positive financial incentive for the private sector monitoring companies not to report every breach of bail or curfew conditions.
The internal tags also have a use in maintaining order within prisons. In the United States, they are used to track the movement of gang members within jails.
There have been one trials within US prisons using external RFID bracelets, but we have never heard of any successful use of VeriChip style implants under the skin.
Offenders themselves would prefer a tag they can forget about, instead of the bulky kit carried around on the ankle.
If the implants have the same electronics and batteries, to provide the same functionality as the ankle tags, then they cannot be physically smaller than the existing ankle tags.
Implanting such large items "beneath the skin" is physically impossible, without major, risky and expensive surgery.
It would also be unethical for any British doctor or nurse to participate in such a scheme, which, as "unnecessary surgery", which has no possible health benefits, and which should lead to them being barred and struck off by their professions.
The "senior Minister" is quoted above as claiming that
"we ...worried about the practicalities and the ethics..."
If the Labour politicians and apparatchiki are stupid enough to waste public money on such an easily foiled technological magic fix of a scheme, especially if they let out anything but the least violent, least likely to re-offend prisoners, then there will be further serious crimes inflicted on the public, because of their incompetence or corruption.
We would very much like to know the identity of this senior Labour Minister, so that we can ask him to justify these extraordinary plans, which he will probably attempt to inflict on the rest of the British public as well.