April Fools In the summer of 2001, Whitehall officials saw the UK's national identity scheme as just the first step in a "five to fifteen year" strategy to create a comprehensive surveillance society, a top secret document obtained by The Register reveals. The document, signed by top Cabinet Office mandarin Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom, was prepared for the Domestic Affairs Cabinet Committee, and describes NODISS, the proposed "National Operational Deterrence and Intelligence Surveillance System.
The NODISS plan predates the ID card scheme (consultation began on its precursor, "entitlement cards", the following year), and the reaction of ministers to Neville-Kingdom's plan - if it was ever presented to them - is not known. Many subsequent developments in UK security and surveillance systems however could be seen as possible components of a NODISS-style system, so the document can probably be seen as an accurate reflection of government thinking at the beginning of Tony Blair's second administration.
NODISS, says the document, was intended to provide "real-time data to law enforcement and designated official structures in a way which maximally utilises the range of disparate legal powers available for their acquisition, and comprehensive virtual links between hitherto isolated silos of data for intelligence exploitation."
Working with the ID Card scheme the plan envisages an audit log of ID-verified transactions. "Data-mining the Tracking Database is anticipated to yield the following types of intelligence beneficial for the prevention and detection of crime, the interests of national security, the effective and efficient provision of public services, the control of illegal working, and the enforcement of immigration provisions."
The Cabinet Office denied there was any project called NODISS and said it did not comment on leaked documents. Sources familiar with Whitehall documentation however told The Register that the document appeared to be genuine.
Bizarrely, just last month Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom became the first blogging permanent secretary, posting his first contribution to open government at Ideal Government, a blog intended as a venue for constructively critical engagement on electronic government. Neville-Kingdom was unavailable for comment when The Register attempted to quiz him about these two apparently diametrically opposed Sir Bonars. Read the full document here. ®