Good quote about the futility of ID-checking

Peter Gutmann pgut001 at
Sat Aug 21 02:04:34 EDT 2004

Yeterday I watched Gillo Pontecorvo's 1966 film "The Battle of Algiers", a
dramatisation of real events that looks at France's own "war on terror" in
Algeria in the 1950s.  The police attempt to control things by only allowing
people who can show valid ID into the european quarter of Algiers via a few
checkpoints.  When this proves completely ineffective, the French army, led by
a Colonel Mathieu, is called in.  The first thing he does is show his troops
film footage of the checkpoints and the ID checking, pointing out that this
footage is useful because it illustrates how not to do things:

  Checking identity papers is a complete waste of time.  If anyone can be
  counted on to have valid papers, it will be the terrorists.

That's actually a rather astute observation: Joe Sixpack will be lucky to
remember to bring their passport, let alone check whether it's currently valid
and every little detail is correct, but any terrorist will triple-check every
bit of it to make sure that they don't get picked out.  The best that the ID-
checking can hope to do is stop opportunists (as well as any number of
innocent Joe Sixpacks).


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