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Robert Brodie Clark
|Born||16 June 1951|
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow|
|Occupation||Head of UK Border Force (resigned)|
Jennifer Taylor (m. 1976)
- 1 Career
- 1.1 HM Prison Service
- 1.2 UK Border Agency
- 1.3 Suspension and resignation
- 1.4 Home Affairs Committee
- 1.5 Biometric checks
- 1.6 Warnings Index
- 2 References
HM Prison Service
Brodie Clark started his career in Her Majesty's Prison Service in 1973 as assistant governor HM Borstal Wetherby, from 1977 to 1981 he was at Acklington prison and from 1981 to 1994 had appointments as governor at Gartree, Bedford prisons and in 1992 he successfully commissioned, opened and governed the New Generation Prison at Milton Keynes, Woodhill prison.
In 1994 he was appointed governor to the troubled Whitemoor top security jail. Later that year, six prisoners including Paul Magee and other IRA members, escaped from the prison's Special Secure Unit. All were immediately recaptured. Clark and his top team led the security upgrade at Whitemoor, which set the template for security procedures, practice and technologies across the High Security Prison Estate.
In 1999, he was appointed as the Director of High Security Prisons, the 10 Top Security Prisons in England and Wales and from 2000 to 2003 he held the post of Director of Security for the Prison Service. He led a major programme in tightening security arrangements across the prison estate and he made a significant contribution to the reduction of suicides across the prison system.
UK Border Agency
Following some well publicised problems within the Immigration Detention Estate – which culminated in the devastating fire at the Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in February 2002, Clark moved from the Prison Service to join the Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office (now UKBA) in 2003 to manage the Detention estate and the Accommodation Centre Programme. A year later he was appointed to head up the UK Immigration Service, whilst retaining his Detention Centre responsibilities. During this period he successfully led the work on the Ministerial target of 'Tipping the Balance' which saw the removal of failed asylum seekers exceed the new monthly stock; he consolidated the border control operation in Northern France (detecting and preventing some 25,000 individuals from making (in some cases repeated) clandestine attempts to reach the UK in 2009 alone) and he built important international links to enhance the global reach of the UK's border control efforts.
In April 2008 he was appointed as the Head of UK Border Control and in 2009, following the 'Security in a Global Hub' Review he was charged with the responsibility of integrating the front line border customs operation (HMRC) with the border Immigration operation, thus delivering a more effective policing capability against illegal activity spanning people and goods. By 2010 the 9000 strong multiskilled Border Force was in place.
In 2010, with Ministerial approval, he began to introduce a more risk-based approach to delivering improved front line detection – partly to increase the efficiency of the overall operation, partly to manage and mitigate the impact of an £85m running cost reduction and partly to line up more effectively with other policing operational approaches.
Suspension and resignation
In summer 2011, the Home Office gave permission for the UK Border Force to introduce a more risk based approach relating to persons entering the United Kingdom on European passports, to ensure a better and more effective use of resources. This procedure was then extended to non-EU citizens, a move which Home Secretary Theresa May said had been undertaken without her knowledge. The Home Secretary made a statement to the House on 7 November 2011 setting out the causes for concern as follows:
- First, biometric checks on EEA nationals and Warnings Index checks on EEA national children were abandoned on a regular basis, without ministerial approval.
- Biometric checks on non-EEA nationals were also thought to have been abandoned on occasions, without ministerial approval.
- Second, adults were not checked against the Warnings Index at Calais, without ministerial approval.
- Third, the verification of the fingerprints of non-EEA nationals from countries that require a visa was stopped, without ministerial approval.
The Home Office suspended Clark, and carried out a precautionary suspension for two of Clark's senior team: Carole Upshall, director of the Border Force South and Europe ; and Graeme Kyle, director of operations at Heathrow Airport. The BBC reported that staff may have been told not to scan biometric passports at certain times. These contain a digital image of the holder's face which can be used to compare with the printed version and check the passport has not been forged. It is also believed that "warning index checks" at Heathrow Airport and the port of Calais, which would have applied strict security checks against official watchlists of terrorists, criminals, and deported illegal immigrants were also suspended.
- One by Dave Wood, ex-Metropolitan Police detective, the UKBA's head of enforcement and crime group. This was a two-week inquiry designed to discover to what extent checks were scaled down, and what the security implications might have been. It was alleged that a draft copy of Mr Wood's report was leaked to the Daily Mail.
- One by Mike Anderson, an ex-MI6 official, director general of the strategy, immigration and international group at the Home Office. This was to investigate wider issues relating to the performance of UKBA.
- It was announced on 5 November 2011 by Theresa May that an independent inquiry would also be undertaken, led by the Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, John Vine. Mr Vine completed his report on 7 February 2012 and it was published on 20 February 2012.
In the event, the Anderson enquiry did not proceed. An additional and separate 'leak enquiry' was also commissioned into the circumstances around damaging and critical information and misinformation reaching the press about Clark and, separately, a draft of the Woods enquiry allegedly being provided to the press.
The Vine Report was a public document, published in February 2012 – highlighting the need for a more effective operating mandate between Ministers and officials; flagging up poor record keeping within the Border Force and requiring Ministers to be clearer on their requirements in respect of standards, policy and decisions.
Neither the Wood Report nor the leak enquiry have been published and the Home Office has been rigorous in refusing to declare the findings. Mark Reckless, (MP for Rochester and Strood) a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee wrote in The Mail on Sunday of 28 April 2013, ' unfortunately for Mrs May, an investigation later found that Mr Clark had referred to his relaxation of controls, both in a presentation to the UK Border Agency board, and in a number of reports written for her and others....
On 8 November 2011 Clark formally resigned from the UK Border Agency insisting that comments made by the Home Secretary, Theresa May amounted to constructive dismissal and that he would launch legal proceedings.
In mid-March 2012, it was reported that Mr Clark had reached an out-of-court settlement with the Home Office, avoiding the need for both parties to go to an Employment Tribunal. It was also reported that under the settlement, neither Mr Clark nor the Home Office admitted any liability or wrongdoing, and that the amount of the settlement would not be disclosed. It was further reported that while the sum of money paid to Mr Clark to settle the case was undisclosed, and that while the settlement might save time and legal costs for the Government, it also meant that the full account of what had happened – which had led to the UK Border Agency's being split in two – might never be disclosed.
On 12 July 2012, a note on page 33 of the UK Border Agency's Annual Report and Accounts 2011–2012 made the following declaration: "Mr Clark resigned on 8 November 2011. A settlement payment of £225,000 was subsequently made without an admission of liability or wrongdoing from either side. The costs associated with Mr Clark are included within the accounts of the Home Office along with the other costs of Border Force, which became a directorate of the Home Office on 1 March".
On 26 July 2012, BBC News reported Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, as saying in hindsight that Mr Clark's departure had been "totally unnecessary" and had happened because "everyone panicked". Mr Vaz (in an apparent vindication of Mr Clark's risk-based approach to checks and queue management) was further reported as saying that "the home secretary's decision to suspend the risk-based approach was wrong ... I think we need to leave it to experienced officers to decide whether or not they need to check everybody 100%".
Home Affairs Committee
The Home Affairs Committee took evidence from several of the people involved in the matter of Brodie Clark's suspension:
- 8 November 2011 – Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Home Secretary
- 15 November 2011 – Brodie Clark, former Head of the Border Force and Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, UKBA
- 22 November 2011 – Damian Green MP, Immigration Minister and Dame Helen Ghosh DCB, Permanent Secretary, Home Office
- 8 December 2011 – Jonathan Sedgwick, acting Chief Executive, UKBA, in charge after Lin Homer left to become Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport and before the appointment of Rob Whiteman. On the same day, the Committee published some written evidence submitted by Brodie Clark.
On 19 January 2012, the Committee published its report, Inquiry into the provision of UK Border Controls. The main burden of its findings was that the Committee could reach no reasoned conclusions because, despite first promising to do so, the Home Office eventually refused to make relevant information available to the Committee (para.27):
- ... we would normally expect a Government of any party to acquiesce to such a request from a Select Committee. We recommend that the Home Secretary deposit copies of all the documents that have been made available to the three internal investigations in the Library of this House. This will allow this Committee to reach an informed conclusion of our own and would be consistent with the Government's commitment to transparency and accountability ...
This section may stray from the topic of the article. (October 2016)
In January 2004, Professor John Daugman reported that faces and fingerprints have too few degrees of freedom to be used to identify people in a large population. UKBA employ two types of biometric check at the border, which is crossed 140 million times a year – face recognition and flat print fingerprints.
At selected UK airports, travellers with an ePassport (electronic passport) enter a so-called "smart gate" and their face is photographed. The image is compared with the template stored in their ePassport. If the two images match, the traveller is allowed through the gate.
Newspaper coverage of smart gates was critical:
- BBC, 19 August 2008: Passengers test new face scanners.
- Daily Telegraph, 4 October 2008: Security fear over airport face scanners
- Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2009: Airport face scanners 'cannot tell the difference between Osama bin Laden and Winona Ryder'
John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of the UK Border Agency, inspected Manchester Airport between 5 and 7 May 2010. In his report, Mr Vine noted that:
- 5.29 We could find no overall plan to evaluate the success or otherwise of the facial recognition gates at Manchester Airport and would urge the Agency to do so [as] soon as possible.
When face recognition was tested in the UK Passport Service Biometrics Enrolment Trial conducted in 2004, it failed with 31% of able-bodied participants and with 52% of disabled participants (para.220.127.116.11).
On 5 February 2012, the Financial Times newspaper reported that the deployment of smart gates at UK airports had been "slowed", pending the findings of John Vine's report into the Brodie Clark affair.
Flat Print Fingerprints
When flat print fingerprints were tested in the UK Passport Service Biometrics Enrolment Trial conducted in 2004, they failed with 19% of able-bodied participants and with 20% of disabled participants (para.18.104.22.168).
In a six-minute passage of his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee given on 15 November 2011, Brodie Clark said between 12:18 and 12:24 that:
- Fingerprint evidence is the least reliable security/identity check made at the border.
- The fingerprint check is the ninth and bottom priority check.
- He approved of his staff's decision to halt fingerprint checks when the number of travellers in the marshalling area was potentially dangerous ...
- ... a procedure which it is "very sensible" to follow.
Fingerprint-checking by the UK Border Force is known as "Secure ID" and had been implemented in 2009–10, two years before the Brodie Clark affair. John Vine's report records that in two years, Secure ID had yielded only about seven "hits" (para.3.13):
- We examined correspondence from the former Head of Border Force in June 2010 which showed that he had asked for work to be progressed to determine whether Secure ID should continue to be mandatory or altered to a discretionary check. This further analysis was requested because “The number of hits have been low (I think, 7 to date) and I am not sure I can continue to justify the additional queuing time and problems at port on this basis”.
Freedom Of Information Request No.13728
On 7 October 2009, it was announced that the biometric technology required would be supplied by Sagem Sécurité, acting as sub-contractors to IBM. NBIS had by then been renamed, to NIAS (National Identity Assurance Service). Sagem Sécurité (now Morpho) had been chosen on the basis of a technology test conducted by IBM.
Freedom of Information Request No.13728 was submitted on 6 January 2010 asking the Home Office to publish IBM's technology test report.
The Home Office declined to publish the report and, following normal procedures, a complaint was submitted to the Information Commissioner's Office. On 1 March 2011, the ICO published their Decision No.FS50320566 agreeing with the Home Office that the IBM report should not be published. On 28 March 2011, following normal procedures, an Appeal against the ICO's Decision was submitted to the Information Rights Tribunal (First Tier), Appeal No.EA/2011/0081. The progress of this Appeal is charted on the Tribunal's website.
At the time of Brodie Clark's suspension, the Appeal in front of the Tribunal was still "awaiting decision", nearly two years after the Freedom of Information Request was first submitted.
Immigration & Asylum Biometric System (IABS)
NBIS/NIAS is the name of the contract between the Home Office and IBM. The service based on that contract which is used by UKBA to make biometric checks is called IABS.
In the March 2011 issue of UK Border Agency News (p. 5) it was announced that "biometrics are used overseas, at the border and in country to establish a unique identity for each applicant". By March 2011, it was rare to see that claim made, since Professor John Daugman had pointed out in September 2008 that any attempt to prove uniqueness would drown in a sea of false positives.
The planned implementation date for IABS was 31 December 2011. The November 2011 edition of UK Border Agency News[permanent dead link] (Issue 10, page 5) reported that implementation had slipped to February 2012 for most of IABS, and March 2012 for the components intended to enhance the safety of the 2012 London Olympics.
Biometrics Consultancy Advice
In February 2003, the Home Office took advice on biometrics from Tony Mansfield and Marek Rejman-Greene. Their report, Feasibility study on the use of biometrics in an entitlement scheme, includes this: "Face recognition on its own is a long way from achieving the accuracy required for identifying one person in 50 million" (p. 11), and "even under relatively good conditions, face recognition fails to approach the required performance" (p. 15), and "facial recognition is not a feasible option" (p. 15).
Marek Rejman-Greene subsequently joined the Home Office Scientific Development Branch, which provides internal consultancy advice to the Home Office on projects like identity cards, residence permits, visas, passports and the Cabinet Office's Identity Assurance Service.
PA's advice in 2004 was that biometrics is "mostly hype", an opinion they illustrated on p. 3 of their paper entitled Biometrics – Is that really you?.
They subsequently changed their mind, and started Helping the UK Border Agency International Group to deliver a world-class biometric visa service.
At that conference, Jim Wayman, Antonio Possolo and Tony Mansfield delivered a paper (No.59) entitled Fundamental issues in biometric performance testing: A modern statistical and philosophical framework for uncertainty assessment.
The authors argued that biometrics as a discipline was currently out of statistical control, by which they meant among other things that technology tests (such as IBM's) gave no indication of how well or badly the biometrics would perform in live operation, and that they consequently proved nothing:
- ... technology testing on artificial or simulated databases tells us only about the performance of a software package on that data. There is nothing in a technology test that can validate the simulated data as a proxy for the “real world”, beyond a comparison to the real world data actually available. In other words, technology testing on simulated data cannot logically serve as a proxy for software performance over large, unseen, operational datasets.
- We lack metrics for assessing the expected variability of these quantities between tests and [we lack] models for converting that variability to uncertainty in measurands [the quantities intended here are false positives and negatives, failure to acquire and enrol, and throughput].
- ... each specific recognition technology (iris, face, voice, fingerprint, hand, etc.) will have specific factors that must be within a state of statistical control. This list of factors is not well understood, although ample work in this area is continuing. For example, recent analysis of iris and face recognition test results shows us that to report false match and false non-match performance metrics for such systems without reporting on the percentage of data subjects wearing contact lenses, the period of time between collection of the compared image sets, the commercial systems used in the collection process, pupil dilation, and lighting direction is to report "nothing at all". Our reported measurements cannot be expected to be repeatable or reproducible without knowledge and control of these factors.
- ... the test repeatability and reproducibility observed in technology tests are lost in scenario testing due to the loss of statistical control over a wide range of influence quantities.
- ... Our inability to apply concepts of statistical control to any or all of these factors will increase the level of uncertainty in our results and translate to loss of both repeatability and reproducibility.
- ... Test data from scenario evaluations should not be used as input to mathematical models of operational environments that require high levels of certainty for validity.
This section may stray from the topic of the article. (October 2016)
In March 2007, the Home Office published Securing the UK Border – Our vision and strategy for the future, a paper describing what is commonly known as the "eBorders" scheme. eBorders maintains the Warnings Index, the seat of intelligence-led border security.
On 22 July 2010, the Financial Times reported that Raytheon had been fired by Rt Hon Theresa May MP from the £750 million eBorders scheme: "Raytheon has been removed from its lead role overseeing a £750m project to provide a secure border control system for the UK after the British government said it had 'no confidence' in the US defence and security company". Raytheon were replaced by IBM.
On 12 and 17 July 2011, BBC Radio 4 broadcast their File on 4 programme, Open Borders? detailing problems with eBorders. This followed news that Sheikh Raed Salah had entered the UK despite being on the Warnings Index.
On 25 August 2011, the Daily Telegraph reported that Raytheon were suing the British government for £500 million.
On 23 November 2011, BBC Radio 4's Today programme reported a number of problems with eBorders, including allegations that all too often the information on the Warnings Index is false.
Level 2 Pilot
The Home Secretary approved a trial or pilot of new procedures to be followed by the UK Border Force whereby certain identity/security checks could be relaxed in favour of pursuing more "intelligence-led" or "risk-based" procedures. The idea of the trial was to see if this "Level 2 pilot", as John Vine correctly calls it in Chapter 4 of his report, would be a better use of the UK Border Agency's stretched resources.
There was some doubt how well understood this trial was, see question 33 in the Home Affairs Committee enquiry (Q33):
- Q33 Michael Ellis: ... can you elaborate on what is meant by intelligence-led security measures? ...
- Theresa May: Indeed. The basis on which the pilot was to operate was that it was to enable a greater focus on those who were at higher risk. Intelligence-led, led also at the discretion of the officers at the border so that they would be assessing within the two categories of EEA nationals and the biometric chips, and EEA national children-
The trial was poorly conceived, according to Mr Vine. In particular, the tools to measure the success or failure of the trial were not in place (para.4.104):
- We believe that the systems put in place by the Agency to evaluate the effectiveness of the Level 2 pilot were inadequate. The difficulty in separating out results that could be directly attributable to the pilot made the reporting to Ministers less reliable.
There was a clear desire on the part of the Home Office to reduce costs by introducing technology and cutting back on staff, as noted during the Home Affairs Committee enquiry—in response to question 358 (Q358), Dame Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary, said:
- As you know, there are plans, over the SR10 period [the five years to 31 March 2015], to reduce the staff of the Border Force by around 900 people, from almost 8,000 people at the start of the period. But that is driven as much by technological introductions like e-gates, as well as a risk-based approach.
As with the deployment of smart gates at UK airports, what John Vine revealed once again in the case of the Level 2 pilot is the unclear way the Home Office conducts trials.
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