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National ID: An American horror story

By Tom DeWeese
web posted July 29, 2002

"Show me your papers. Where have you been? Where are you going? What authorization do you have to be here? Please come with me." Lines from an old World War II movie about Nazi Germany? Dialog from the old Soviet Union? An American nightmare? All three, actually.

A nation must first issue identification papers before it can demand to see them. The first part of the coming nightmare is now proceeding at full speed.

Jim Moran Tom Davis
Moran and Davis

Two Northern Virginia Congressmen, Jim Moran (D) and Tom Davis (R) have teamed up to introduce the "Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002" (H.R.4633). The bill calls for state driver's licenses to include a computer chip with the owner's fingerprint or eye scan. Moran and Davis say they just want to help prevent "identity theft" and, by the way, "we think what happened on September 11th makes a compelling case to do it now."

Under the Clinton Administration, Americans were continuously told that intrusive government regulations were for the "good of the children." Since September 11th massive moves by the government against civil liberties are all wrapped in the "fight against terrorism." H.R. 4633 is nothing new. It just carries a couple of new excuses for shackling the American people with 24-hour surveillance of their every move.

The truth is the Moran-Davis bill has absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism. A national "smart driver's license" would be worthless in that effort. This bill has its roots deeply imbedded in the effort to establish a national ID card back in 1996. That year, national identification card provisions were quietly placed in three key bills, including the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act, the Welfare Reform Act and the Kennedy-Kassenbaum Health Care Reform Act.

In each bill, identical language called for the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) to coordinate with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) to standardize each state's driver's license to contain a unique numeric identifier for the purposes of becoming a national identification card. The law was supposed to go into effect on October 1, 2000.

The legislation called for the new ID cards to be used for obtaining services including buying a plane ticket, opening a bank account, obtaining employment, obtaining medical care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and buying firearms. The reasons given for the creation of the card varied from protecting medical privacy to stopping illegal immigration, to catching deadbeat dads. The law was quietly stopped just months before it was to go into effect by an amendment from Alabama Senator Richard Shelby.

However, the bureaucrats had already completed the basic plan for a national ID, and the apparatus was in place. Since it was stopped in 1999, various efforts have been undertaken to put the national ID back on track. Those efforts were failing regularly, until September 11th.

Under the bill, states would have five years to begin issuing licenses with computer chips that would store "biometric" data, including either a fingerprint or retinal scan. A business or government agency that wanted to check the cardholder's identity could take a reading from the person and compare it with the image on the chip. The bill would also mandate the establishment of standards for documents accepted by states to "better establish the identity of the person applying for a driver's license or non-driver ID card." Nothing in this bill is different from the 1996 game plan that was thwarted.

Why is the idea so frightening to all who love liberty? Why should all Americans rise up and oppose the implementation of a national identification card? Some ask, how can we afford to be so cavalier about security when "terrorists lurk in every metro tunnel and nuclear power plant?"

It won't serve only to convince most Americans why national ID's are America's coming nightmare simply by saying government tracking of its citizens is contrary to a free society and that absolute power by the government means absolute control of the citizens. That argument should be enough, but since most Americans have now been conditioned to look to government for every solution, instead of to themselves, we now have to be shown why the mechanics of a national ID won't save us from terrorism.

One: the government can't handle the workload it already has. Thirty percent of all the information in current federal data banks is incorrect. Getting it corrected forces one to interface with bureaucrats who order you to stand in line (or wait on hold), take a number and prove your case. The free American citizen can only stand back and wait and hope that the problem was solved. If not, the process begins again.

Two: Now, consider that same process when your entire life is wrapped up in a "smart" card that contains the ability to access your bank accounts, credit card, ATM card, personal information (including taxes), business records, employment records, education records, even traffic tickets. What happens if your records are mixed up with a felon's? You are stopped for a routine traffic violation; the policeman's onboard computer flashes a warrant for your arrest, but it's only a mistake. Who do you call? How do you prove who you are? The official computer is law.

Three: Those who support this bill think that by inserting all kinds of high-tech uses of biometrics that they are making the card fool-proof. They are only fooling themselves while shackling honest people. Criminals, especially terrorists backed by rich nations know how to trick biometrics scanners. Recently, the Fraunhofer Research Institute in Darmstadt, Germany set out to see if it could beat such security systems. It did, easily.

Americans are being stampeded into accepting false solutions to the war on terrorism. A national ID card is only a challenge for terrorists to overcome, but it will be a nightmare for honest American citizens.

Politicians continue to deny they intend to implement such a system, but a reading of plans already drawn up by the AAMVA clearly show the intention to unite the data banks of every DMV in the nation with those of federal agencies. Those plans have been supported by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. The details are spelled out in the Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002 (H.R. 4633).

Despite denials, it all leads to a national identification system that will become the big-brother nightmare of government snooping and authorizing every move Americans make. The loss of our freedom to travel and to keep our personal lives to ourselves will be lost. The national ID is the greatest threat to freedom. H.R. 4633 is that threat in legislative form.H.R., There is no middle ground. Americans must choose which America they want and send that message to Washington now.

Tom DeWeese is the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and president of the American Policy Center. The Center is headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia and maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. (c) Tom DeWeese, 2002

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