Friday, May 06, 2005

More Orwell

Last month, I posted this in reaction to the US Government's latest attempt to save us from terrorists. I suggested that it appeared the technology and the will was now in place to start the march toward National Identification Cards. It appears that my paranoia was not so displaced after all.

Up until this point, individual states have had the power to regulate the issuance of driver's licenses, but

both Houses of Congress have now voted to change that. Negotiators are working out the details of a plan to set strict national standards for licenses that would deny the permits to some non-citizens. The new requirements were attached to a spending bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They would force states to require proof of citizenship or legal presence, a bona fide U.S. address, and a Social Security number. Officials issuing the licenses would also be required to check the legal status of non-citizens against a national immigration database, save copies of any documents provided, and store a digital photograph of each applicant.

I find it interesting that this amendment was tucked inside a military appropriations bill, one that is on its face bullet-proof. I suppose the rationale offered for this nifty move is that the amendment also involved the security of Americans. After all, the 9/11 bombers had valid state driver's licenses, even though many of them were at the time in the US illegally.

I suppose a federal government has to be involved in the whole illegal immigration 'problem' we face, but I strongly believe much more is behind this.
So does the ACLU . Timothy Sparapani, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, had this to say about the amendment:

"The Real ID Act was sold as an illegal-immigration fix bill, when in fact it reduces every American’s freedom. The provisions of this bill could not have passed on their own. Sadly, their inclusion in a ‘must pass’ bill means that immigrants and citizens alike will face an unnecessary loss of freedom and privacy."

It is clear that once the federal government can regulate the issuance of documents necessary to prove one's identity, the next step has to be an actually federally issued ID. Tied to that little card with its little chips embedded within will be everything the government knows about the individual carrying it: medical history, travel history, employment history, credit history, purchasing history, and on and on.

The most obvious problem with such a central repository of data is the fact that identity theft, far too easy to commit already, now can become a permanent slam dunk. However, there is, to my way of thinking, a more serious threat: complete loss of privacy. I'm sorry, 9/11 didn't change things that much.

And, given the way my luck has been running lately, I'll probably get stuck with one that has a number ending in -666.


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