Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Passports and Bank Accounts!

Gordon Bennett!!!! Pardon the pun as my head crashed through the glass-topped table. Brownie has lost the personal and bank account details of 25 million people on child benefit. Well, not Brownie directly but someone in the merged HM Revenue and Customs department that he set up in 2005.

Two computer discs containing the info were sent by a junior minister unregistered by courier TNT to the National Audit Office...and they never arrived. Early reports point the finger of blame at the junior for downloading in breach of rules and sending unencrypted discs without postal security. But later reports intimate that the unfortunate junior was following the orders of a senior minister who ignored requests to desensitize the discs and is being made a scapegoat in a cost-cutting chaotic department where other serious errors are now emerging.

Which brings me to the related security issue of passports. And terrorism. As part of our emigration process, we went to the American embassy in London for our visa stamps. After completion of paperwork we were directed to a courier service working within the embassy to arrange for the return of our stamped passports. We signed for everything on a Friday morning and the passports arrived to a work address in Wales on Monday morning where proof of ID was given before handover.

A secure courier service dedicated to the return of passports courtesy of the American embassy.

Take British passports. When one applies for a new passport they are sent by the Passport Office in the mail, and even if by registered post - I can't remember if our passports have in the past had to be signed for - their safety is not guaranteed. I remember the heart-rending story of a family who sent their precious photos going back over several generations by special delivery to a company to digitally scan them. And they never arrived. A whole batch including, if I remember correctly, wedding photos, vanished.

To any terrorist doing his homework on the net, may I point out that there are freebies to be had in postbags. Only 33 days to Christmas? Seize the hour. Today is the day.

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