Wednesday, December 22, 2004

National ID Card

On NPR last night, they had on two guests discussing the issue of creating a national ID card in the US. One, a supposed "conservative liberatarian" from the ACLU, was in favor of the creation of such a card, while some guy from a gun owners' group was opposed.

What is this world coming to when I agree with the guy from the gun owners' group and think the guy from the ACLU is crazy? (To be fair, I don't think his view on the issue is representative of the ACLU as a whole).

The ACLU guy kept talking about how we could create the ID and then put "strong safeguards on how the information is used." Yeah, right. That always works so well. It's not like Congress can just change those rules any time it wants once the government has all that information. Say, for instance, trying to sneak a provision into an omnibus spending bill to allow the release of citizens' tax information.

And it's not like the government will not just go ahead and use the information however it wants anyway. After all, they do that now. And the worst that can happen is that they get taken to court and told to stop it, which just means they'll do it secretly, and doesn't really help the person whose information has already been misused.

The gun owners' group guy put it perfectly, calling it "mission creep," and pointing out that the best way to make sure the government can't misuse our personal information is to stop them from collecting it in the first place. He correctly said, as I did above, that once the government has the information, they will use it for greater and greater invasions of our privacy, and we'll just keep getting used to it until we have no right to privacy at all. He pointed out that his Social Security card still says on it: Not to be used as identification. In case you're not old enough to remember, the government made all these promises about how Social Security numbers would never, never, ever be used as a national ID number. But now, you can't do anything without giving your Social Security number. Even private organizations, like banks and insurance companies, require your Social Security number to open an account or get a policy. The same thing will happen with the national ID card.

Also, the ACLU guy kept talking about how you could make this national ID card hard to forge, unlike drivers' licenses and passports now. Yeah, right. Because the bad guys have been foiled by our counter-forgery efforts so well to this point.

Also, what are you going to do to people when the police say, "Papers, please!" and they don't have them? You're out on a jog and don't have your wallet and the police stop you. Are they going to throw you in jail? I mean, if there's no consequence to not carrying your ID card, then there's no reason to have them, but what kind of liberty do we have if you can get thrown in the slammer for forgetting your card? After all, if you do like they do now with drivers' licenses, give you like a couple weeks to come to the police office and show them you have one, it won't really help catch illegals and terrorists at all, since they just won't come back.

And I fail to see what a national ID card is going to accomplish. It's not going to stop stuff like the Oklahoma City bombing. It probably wouldn't have stopped 9/11, since those guys were here legally. Really, the only thing it is going to do, is let the government keep even greater track of average citizens who haven't done anything wrong.

I hope the same conservatives who have been using this logic against gun control and a national gun registry come out against the national ID card. This guy from the gun owners' group did. We'll see if the rest of the conservatives have the same intellectual honesty. And we'll see if the Democrats are willing to sell out our civil liberties because fighting terrorism is popular right now, rather than telling people the truth, that these cards won't help fight terrorism but will be the first step towards putting bar codes on your neck or a chip in your head.


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