Britain expels diplomat over faked passports in Hamas hit row

Spy games

Will biometric passports undo spies?

This misuse of Western passports by the hit squad suspects has raised questions about whether forged biometric passports, meant to prevent impersonation, were misused in the assassination. Both the Foreign Office and Australian authorities have said the suspect passports were forgeries of older passports without biometric chips.

What isn't clear is whether cloned or more simply forged passports were used by the Dubai hit squad. Retired UK Ambassador Charles Crawford explains the important distinction between faked or cloned UK Passports, and fraudulently obtained genuinely issued passports in a blog post here.

Spy Blog has an excellent essay on what the hit may be able to tell us about the effectiveness of biometrics in passports and other travel documents here. The upshot is that biometrics however good won't stop the trade in fraudulent passports - just make it much more difficult and expensive. Meanwhile, future Jason Bournes would (in theory) only be good for one-off missions.

Manhunt

In other developments, international police agency Interpol said it was joining a Dubai-based international task force investigating the murder of al-Mabhouh earlier this month.

A ‘thorough’ investigation by Dubai police had established ‘clear’ links through passport records and video surveillance of individuals and groups, as well as through DNA analysis, witness interviews and hotel, credit card, phone and transport records.

Dubai police have also agreed to enter into Interpol's international databases all relevant evidence related to the investigation, including DNA profiles recovered from the scene.

Interpol has issued 27 red (stop and detain) notices against suspects in the case at the request of Dubai police, who think two ‘teams’ of suspects plotted al-Mabhouh’s murder. A team of 17 laid the groundwork for the hit, carried out by a smaller team of 11, investigators reckon. ®

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