Tuesday 8 January 2013

English Defence – another success story for the UK Border Force

The leader of the English Defence League is a man called Stephen Yaxley Lennon. Or Tommy Robinson. Or Paul Harris.

Whatever his name is, he has just been sent down for ten months for trying to get into the US with a passport he borrowed from Andrew McMaster. He succeeded in leaving the UK on the McMaster passport. But they rumbled him at the US border.

The Press Association story about Mr Lennon/Robinson/Harris's trip to New York is carried by just about every media outlet in the English-speaking world. See for example the Daily Mail's Leader of far-right English Defence League jailed for 10 months for using someone else's passport to get into the U.S. And just about everyone sees in it the story they want to see.

Fraser Nelson, the esteemed editor of the Spectator, sees it as evidence that flat print fingerprinting works – that's the technology used by the Americans to discover that it was questionable whether this traveller really was Andrew McMaster:

There are good reasons to believe that Mr Nelson draws the wrong conclusion about biometrics.

There are other questions.

How did Mr Lennon/Robinson/Harris manage to leave JFK and spend the night in New York? How did he subsequently manage to fly out of the US and back to the UK? He flew in as McMaster and out as Harris. There was no record of Harris having entered the US. How did the US authorities manage to let a man who had not come into the country leave it? I-94 exit controls are supposed to match entry controls ...

Let's leave all those complicated issues to resolve themselves as and when more detail is released. Let's look at something simple.

Mr Lennon/Robinson/Harris managed to leave the UK on a false passport:
He used a self check-in kiosk to board the Virgin Atlantic flight at Heathrow, and was allowed through when the document was checked in the bag drop area.
Those "self check-in kiosks" or "eGates" or "smart gates" or whatever you want to call them have cost the British taxpayer a fortune. And they don't work. Will the UK Border Force please stop wasting our money on eGates? And will they please stop pretending that eGates provide any sort of border security?


Anonymous said...

It wasn't a false passport, it was a real one used fraudulently.

Self check-in kiosks are not the same as eGates: they are provided by the airline and supplemented by a document check at the gate by an airline staff member. Only at some UK airports are passports checked for outbound travellers by UKBA, I'm not sure about Manchester - even at the big ones it is fairly inconsistent.

UKBA's eGates such as those introduced as part of the IRIS programme are not used on outbound controls as far as I am aware.

He could have left by fraudulently using someone elses passport in the Self Check-in Kiosk and an airline staff member not noticing. He could have returned using his own passport or again used the fraudulent one and a UKBA immigration officer to notice it was for a different person.

How he entered/ exited the US and the airport I do not know. How they spotted he was not the legitimate holder of the passport used to gain entry is pretty straightforward - if his friend travelled to the US previously they would have taken his prints and associated them with that document number. Upon fraudulently presenting the document at entry, they would have looked up the previous prints and compared them with the new set taken - at which point they didn't match.

David Moss said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. I will publish a retraction.

David Moss said...

Anonymous, apology now published.

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