Up Front 08/07

My brother was the subject of an identity theft recently. His credit card and address details were used to book a ferry journey from Portsmouth to Bilbao. The thieves bought a one-way ticket, and though their car registration was noted, it has not been traced. Thanks to internet banking, (possibly the route by which his details were stolen), he spotted the illegal activity, and alerted his credit card company. Although the company will refund the money the whole episode posed a disturbing scenario for him. Had the car been involved in a crime, or indeed in a terrorist attack, my brother would have been immediately implicated. The likelihood is that he would have been arrested and interrogated. If this happened in the UK he could have been held for 28 days without charge (56 under the Prime Minister’s latest proposals). If arrested in a foreign country where he didn’t speak the language, his chances of proving his innocence would surely have been more difficult. If his identity had been used on an international flight, say to the United States, the consequences for him could have been even more disturbing. Based on evidence highlighted in a new book, Bad Men: Guant├ínamo Bay and the Secret Prisons, reviewed on page 70, he could have been taken to a secret prison and tortured, eventually admitting to anything his interrogators wanted. Much as he, I, and most people in the civilised world would be first in line to help combat terrorism, it is disconcerting to know that innocence can be such a dangerous thing.