I watch his questions to Parliament by subscription through 'TheyWorkForYou' and have learned that he cuts to the chase; that there is always a whole lot more behind a question than the few words it is made of.
As an example, TheyWorkForYou quotes this:
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the total value was of contracts entered into by his Department with Science Applications International Corporation in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement.
Wonderful. Off I go then, to Google this company and discover that Science Applications International, aka SAIC is a massive, American intelligence corporation which, as soon as you visit its site, makes a big selling point of 'keeping America safe' and 'defeating global terrorism' in flash animated graphics over pretty shots of ports and people, in the first five seconds. Right, so, thats clear, then.
This doesn't mean they're bad. Not even with all that CorpWatch has to say about them.
The question is (and its a question dear Mr Baker has beaten me to by miles); what in Hell's name has Blair's Labour Government in dear old Blighty (or at least the Department concerned with internal affairs and law and order) been paying these people to provide?
And for what?
And at what cost?
Norman Baker got half an answer - the breakdown, into years, of approximately £8 million in expenditure. It seems the biggest wodge of dosh by far went out of the coffers in 2002, way before we as a nation overtly stepped up the security measures. As there was no 'statement' to go with the figures; nothing to say what was purchased, I am left to imagine. The primary software for the damnable ID cards perhaps? Or the DNA profiling system the police now use?
This little quote from CorpWatch set me wondering:
Today two of SAIC's most valuable products are: TeraText and Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) data-mining programs that are used by intelligence agencies to sift the immense volumes of data they now collect by monitoring phone calls, faxes, e-mails, and other types of electronic communications.
So there you have it. I remember a 'wind up' that went round about fifteen years ago, suggesting that if you had ever signed anything political then MI5 had a copy, but that if you also had a high IQ, you were completely screwed. It seems there are potential subversives, and then there are potential intelligent subversives; the latter being allegedly far more dangerous.
Right. I was so scared I nearly let my Mensa magazine subscription expire. I nearly stopped going on jolly days out with geeks flying kites and jolly nights out with geeks slurping real ale or repetitively and enthusiastically waving the ankle encased in the one green sock (you'd have to understand to understand; sorry). Nearly, anyway.
There was a concurrent whisper (for 'whisper' read geeky Mensan idea of a joke) that if you wanted to really screw with the Government then all you had to do was say the word 'Plutonium' at the end of a phone call, to have your phone tapped and your 'movements shadowed'. Yes, OK, we did ponder whether that meant someone dressed like Secret Squirrel was going to come over with a 5B pencil and add depth to poo.
All this was back in the days of Thatcher.
Then it seemed silly.
Now I am not so sure.
So I am asking you to help me experiment, by using as many different phones as possible over the next week and saying one (or all - whatever butters your bloomers) of the following words/phrases in each and every phonecall. Just in case:-
Blair is a ninny, na-na-ner-na-na
Bush is a retard, wobble wobble boing.
Are we on? :-)