A Voluntary National ID Makes Sense
James Hall, From the Left
There was a time when most Americans hated the idea of a reliable national
identification system. But since 9/11, many people have become more concerned about Big Terror than Big Brother.
The question is, will a better ID system do more harm than good? The honest answer is, we don't know, and therefore,
any such system of identification ought to be voluntary and matched to our needs.
There are risks--well-documented risks--to today's vague system of identification.
September 11 terrorists were able to get false IDs easily from the states of Virginia and Florida, were little is done with
background checks. Undocumented aliens can obtain false or stolen documentation, including Social Security numbers and
licenses with little trouble in most major cities or border towns, which allows them to blend into the general population.
This means that known terrorists in the country illegally can circulate throughout the country with little fear of being caught.
And there are other costs to inadequate and easily falsified IDs. Foreign
nationals can enter on short term visas and then disappear easily with newly assumed identification. With fake IDs, they are
able to open bank accounts, lease or buy long-term lodging, obtain pilot training and pilot licenses, buy firearms and get
weapons training, buy materials for explosives, apply for licenses carrying hazardous materials or work for private security
firms guarding important economic targets.
Domestically, some 300,000 escaped prisoners are estimated to have taken
advantage of the loose American, ID system. The system is implicated in identity theft, which causes Americans hundreds
of millions of dollars each year. Thousands of child molesters and sex offenders use it to avoid detection, and it's
implicated in income tax fraud and welfare fraud. These problems can be mitigated by doing away with inadequate identification
cards and substituting better forms of identification.
One of the charges levied against national IDs is that they are no less
susceptible to tampering or fraud than the current system. But great strides have been taken in making reliable IDs.
Laser holography makes cards difficult to duplicate. Biometrics, the measurement of body features like fingerprints
and irises, makes it impossible for one person to use another's identity when added to an identity card. Embedded microchips
create "smart cards" which when crosslinked to databases make it possible to produce an ID card that's difficult to duplicate
and easy to cross-check at airports, stores, or traffic stops.
But should we then make these IDs mandatory? No. The right to privacy,
to be let alone in one's person should imply that a citizen's anonymity be guaranteed if he or she desires it. If American
citizens are willing to forgo some of the things which might require reliable identification--forms of air travel that require
positive identification, the ownership and use of credit cards, the right to drive on public roads, etc., they ought not be
required to have a form of positive identification. If they are willing to accept the possibility of ID theft, then
they ought not to be forced to obtain such a form of ID.
But the public also has the right to insist that identification systems
be made reliable. Some may argue that this is an insufficient protection for privacy, that an outright ban on reliable
identification is required. This, however, would go against the desires of a majority of Americans who are willing to
trade a portion of their privacy for better security. The regular airline traveler wants to be assured that no known
terrorist rides his airplane; the credit card user that no thief can steal his number and use it. This is a more concrete
and realistic fear for them than the fear that Big Brother may one day use his ID against him.
The reality is that technology will continue to advance, and private
companies like banks and airlines and security firms will lead the charge in improving the reliability of identification if
they want to succeed economically. The technical improvements that they develop, like biometrics, laser holography,
and "smart cards," will inevitably make the transition from private identification and credit cards to driver's licenses.
The solution isn't to fight a reliable form of identification but to restrict the government's ability to require its use.
I like "The Prisoner," too--Patrick McGoohan's a favorite actor of
mine. I especially enjoyed the cool ending with those prison bars coming up and--clang!--we're all prisoners.
But fictional t.v. series aside, let's consider what's really happening here. Credit fraud, identity theft, and--oh,
yes--terrorist massacres are fueling improvements in identity detection. People want their property to be safe from
fraud and the nation wants to put an end to airliners converted into weapons of mass destruction--both reasonable requests.
Mr. Sartre pooh-poohs these considerations and tells us they are
of no consequence compared to his concerns over privacy. But who's to say that his fear of Big Brother is more important
than the public's fear of America's jets turned into missiles? Or of gasoline tankers turned into bombs? An America
under successful attack by thieves and terrorists is an America of diminished liberties, too.
It would be nice if passports were sufficient as forms of national
ID, as Sartre suggests. But they suffer from the same defects as other current forms of ID. False or duplicate
birth certificates are easily obtained without proof of identity, and anyone in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, can purchase
a passport for $25. Terrorists frequently travel with several false visas and passports. And then there'd be the
spectacle of Americans having to show passports for travel inside the USA, much as Soviet citizens were required to do during
the Cold War. Far better to use existing required IDs like state driver's licenses--and make them reliable forms of
identification. Or do the same with passports.
Secure identity depends on several factors--1) A card that can't
be easily duplicated or tampered with; 2) Biometric elements like the picture of a face or retina that can be compared to
the card's bearer; and 3) The ability to have the card quickly cross-checked with a database that would prove the card isn't
a forgery and which might contain information on the identified person's background pertinent to the check. The key
to using these reliable IDs, while protecting a Constitutional right to privacy, is to require the government to get a warrant
to make use of identity information required for other purposes, just as warrants are required to search homes or get records
of telephone calls.
Another key to privacy is to make them voluntary IDs, just as driver's
licenses or passports are voluntary today. Those Americans who fear the loss of their privacy will then have the option
of choosing anonymity or identification in a national network. As Sartre indicates, the price may be high for anonymity
in this increasingly hi-tech world--can't rent a car, can't reserve a hotel room, can't fly in a commercial airline, can't
travel abroad--but for those willing to pay the price, the option ought to remain, and no good reason exists to compel Americans
to submit to identification otherwise. To that, even Patrick McGoohan would agree.
James Hall, From the Left
James Hall from the Left makes a compelling argument as it applies to
the personal benefit that this author would receive. Consider for a moment the horror of being falsely identified as being
the 'bad seed', simply because we share the same name. Yes; that recent confusion on FreeRepublic would have never existed,
and all those odious comments would have rightly gone to the proper author. But this is one time that, your humble writer,
will defer the defense of individual rights for the good of the society.
Our argument rests, that we already have a voluntary national ID. It's
called the United States passport. Since it has long been accepted that birth records are the primary proof for origin, what
is the pressing need to go much beyond possessing such a state issued document? Surely the claims that counterfeit certificates
can be easily overcome, with the sophistication of modern technology. As for immigrants, isn't it required to have a passport
or a visa? If they become nationalized citizens, doesn't the government issue proof that they are now Americans?
Thus, a national ID polemic, relies upon the assertion that society must
have a system of identification to attain protection from those who seek to harm the community. Well, such a noble goal. But
how can this objective be reached if the ID's are voluntary?
If it is a right of privacy that we are presumed innocent until charged
and proven guilty, where is the authority to allow some of the slackers to slip under the cracks and resist the tattoo of
government to know who we are, and tract what we do? Privacy for some, while most comply, doesn't achieve community security.
So let's get it right - what is at stake and place it in the proper perspective.
Place those birth certificate implanted chips in every infant and the
discussion is done!
The issue of voluntary surrender to register for any form of national
ID, is really the codification of mandatory refusal for goods and services, if you do not have approved documents. Today,
try to rent a car or secure a room in a hotel without a credit card. Tomorrow, it will be - show the ID card or grow your
own groceries. You say that will never happen; oh, of course it can't happen here?
No more potato chips or your insurance company will cancel your policy.
Sure you can buy the snack, but don't die if your family needs the money. But it is voluntary, isn't it?
We all know that privacy has been mortally wounded, but this fact does
not justify that government has any right to monitor your patterns of behavior. Those who throw out the trial balloons of
incremental relinquishing of your rights, don't respect you as a citizen or as a sovereign person. Society can never be secure
when the means for 'so called' safety, requires the permanent loss of fundamental rights.
If the government can't give us an accurate count on illegal aliens,
do you really think that these folks will line up to get a picture of their retina? Get Real! Close the 'Open Borders' with
serious immigration control, and let ordinary citizens enjoy their dignity.
Only a fool, translation - LIBERAL; would think the real danger in losing
our privacy comes from the current threat of terrorists, and deny that government is the 'Big Terror'. When our modern day,
John Reed claims that "a majority of Americans who are willing to trade a portion of their privacy for better security", shows
how much he fails to understand the American experience. Majorities have no legitimacy for voluntary giving away of RIGHTS.
People accept abuses out of their laziness to resist and a frustration that they can't stop the juggernaut of the tyrant.
But the mindset of the Liberal sees no problem with marching to the tune of Ein Sohn des Volkes will ich sein und bleiben
(I want to Be and remain a Son of the People).
You see the seducers who use fear, have no solutions but the surrender
of your freedoms. "You have nothing to lose but your chains!", has become whistling along with the rock group Sleepyhead,
when they sing "Communist Love Songs" .
Communist Love Songs - SLEEPYHEAD
Entering into the abyss of 'giving up just a little', means that 'a
little more' is seldom missed. If you sleepyheads want security, protect your own Rights. The ID you accept now, may well
be your prison number in the gulag. The 'reformatory of conformity', is the creation of accepting the next little submission.
So what is wrong with not knowing the name and number of that stranger living next to you? Who knows their neighbor at this
The greatest program ever on television was "The Prisoner". Remember
Number Six? He is a person not a number.
James Hall aka SARTRE
That old proven adage throw out the baby with the bath water, needs
a modern day update. Give up your solitude for promises, promises and more promises . . . How many times have we heard the
justification for accepting more intrusive government provisions to secure a false security. Oh, if it was so easy as the
pundit for 'big daddy' government claims it would be, to protect the common good.
You ask: "who's to say that this fear of Big Brother is more important
than the public's fear of America's jets turning into missiles?" I say it . . . And so should every other thinking person
with an ounce of self dignity. Study the record of broken government promises and judge for yourselves if the prospects for
real security have ever been enhanced by surrendering to instant monitoring. What escapes the consciousness of the homage
paying worshipers of the State, is that criminals don't comply with the ID regulations. Only the sheep wanting to graze on
public grass, will sign up for the branding. But isn't that exactly what you want? Timid followers who only ask - would you
like to see another ID!
Voluntary is a concept that I have not seen in the law. What kind
of opiate are you using? Maybe it hasn't struck home to the suburbanite, just yet; but governments seldom ask for your permission.
Dreaming up neatly wrapped 'so called' benign proposals don't guarantee you are 'Warped'. In fact, it more closely resemble
the prognostications of those who are 'Whacked'. If the job gets done and all the threats are subdued, just how are we suppose
to get our privacy back? Will your government be as eager to restore our seclusion or will it just be a memory from the distant
past? Just waiting for the next excuse to eliminate whatever is left of our individuality.
James Hall - 'The Right'