Limited Taxation & Government
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"Your I.D. Card . . . Please!"
By Chip Ford

Reprinted from the June 1997 issue of CLT&G's The Activist News

"There is much to do here, but I was just saying to Ted [Kennedy] before he left, a hearing like this fifteen years ago, would have torn the building down. And here we are today, just a bunch of us, kind of sitting around and no media, no nothing. This is fine with me. I get tired of them on this issue."

U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), May 10, 1995
U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Immigration hearing;
"Verification of Applicant Identity for the Purposes
of Employment and Public Assistance"

"Just as the original restrictions on the use of the Social Security card have been all but eliminated, limits on a national I.D. number or card would be ignored or legislated away. There would be an irresistible temptation to use the data for purposes for which it was never intended, including government surveillance. Former Senator Alan Cranston has described the national I.D. card as 'a primary tool of totalitarian governments to restrict the freedom of their citizens.' "While the Social Security Act originally contained strict prohibitions against use of the Social Security card for unrelated purposes, over the past 50 years those prohibitions have been ignored or legislated into oblivion and restrictions on a national I.D. card would follow the same path."

American Civil Liberties Union
"Why Does the ACLU Oppose a National I.D. Card System?"

In 1935, when the Social Security Act was being debated in Congress, totalitarians Hitler and Stalin were on the rise to ruthless power. Most American citizens and legislators alike feared that unique identifying numbers attached to individuals -- a national identification number -- could quickly become a system containing vast amounts of personal information that could be used by the government. Concern was so high and the debate so intense that the Act was passed only by promising that this unique number would be used exclusively by the Social Security system. That "guarantee" was the first regulation issued by the Social Security Board.

Fifty-five years later, a 1990 opinion survey by Louis Harris found that 56 percent of those questioned still opposed the idea of a national identification card, even to distinguish illegal aliens, resident aliens, and citizens. But four years later, when President Clinton proposed the National Health Security Identification Card, for the first time a majority of Americans favored it. Health care reform, controlling illegal aliens, enforcing welfare reform, catching "deadbeat dads," gun control; the government's excuses are limitless.

During the 1995 Senate Subcommittee on Immigration hearing, Robert Razor of the Secret Service Financial Crimes Division gave an explanation of the emerging technological role in personal identification. He said, "The use of biometrics is the means by which an individual may be conclusively identified. There are two types of biometric identifiers: physical and behavioral characteristics. Physiological biometrics include facial features, hand geometry, retinal and iris patterns, DNA, and fingerprints. Behavioral characteristics include voice characteristics and signature analysis."

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a subcommittee member and author of the national I.D. law, explained in a Capitol Hill magazine that it was her intention to see Congress immediately implement a national identity system where every American is required to carry a card with a "magnetic strip on it which the bearer's unique voice, retina pattern, or fingerprint is digitally encoded."

Last year [1996], the 104th Congress quietly attached a national I.D. card mandate to the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act.   Section 657 of Public Law 104-208, "Development of Prototype of Counterfeit-Resistant Social Security Card," states:

"The Commissioner of Social Security shall ... develop a prototype of a counterfeit-resistant social security card. Such prototype card --

(A) shall be made of a durable, tamper-resistant material such as plastic or polyester;

(B) shall employ technologies that provide security features, such as magnetic stripes, holograms, and integrated circuits; and

(C) shall be developed so as to provide individuals with reliable proof of citizenship or legal resident alien status."

The law requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, through bribes of federal grants to the states or penalties of withheld federal funds, to encourage states to "issue birth certificates that conform to the standards set forth in the regulation ... establish the fact of death of every individual dying in the State within 24 hours," and develop "the capability to match birth and death records."

It instructs the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to use the same federal carrot-and-stick to encourage the states to issue drivers licenses that "shall contain a social security account number that can be read visually or by electronic means.... The form shall contain security features designed to limit tampering, counterfeiting, photocopying, or otherwise duplicating."

All this, by federal law, must be accomplished by October 1, 2000, and it's already being implemented. The new Georgia drivers license requires fingerprinting. Last year the requirement passed the Georgia state legislature with virtually no public or media attention. The first that citizens heard about it was when the local Atlanta news announced it would take effect last October.

The Coalition to Repeal the Fingerprint Law was quickly formed and is campaigning to repeal the law.

In response to the federal mandate to create a state registry of new employees, the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee was quick to condemn. Sen. Mike Harris of Wichita, the committee chairman said, "This is the most potentially significant, far-reaching piece of legislation that has come through this committee." Legislators from both parties referred to "Big Brother" and George Orwell's novel, 1984.

Kansas state Sen. Paul Feleciano said, "If ever we give witness to Big Brother watching over us, this is the beginning of it." State Sen. Ed Pugh said, "I don't see how it can be drafted by someone in a free society. It's a perfect example of the ends justifying the means." He added that it is a "wholesale assault on Constitutional rights."

Though we haven't heard a peep from our state legislators -- "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy" -- if you doubt Big Brother has arrived here, just pull out your new drivers license and take a look.

Massachusetts drivers licenses now carry a computer-generated digital photo on the front, and a magnetic strip and a barcode on the back. You have taken the first step into maw of Big Brother's all-knowing Washington database.

According to Bernie Pigeon, a CLT&G member and project manager in the license division at the state Registry of Motor Vehicles, the barcode contains your drivers license number and can't carry much else; the magnetic data strip presently contains only the information in data form from the front of your license. However, he acknowledges that it has the potential to carry much more information that could be read by an officer running your license through his mobile reader. It is unclear whether adding more data would require a vote of the Legislature.

It all seems so innocuous, a simple crime-control tool, rather than the introduction to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World or Orwell's 1984. But heed this warning from one of this nation's great jurists:

"They [the founders] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the Government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a violation of the Fourth Amendment...

"Of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves not merely protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers, from the inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all others would lose half their value...

"[I]t is better that a few criminals escape than that the privacies of life of all the people be exposed to the agents of the government, who will act at their own discretion, the honest and the dishonest, unauthorized and unrestrained by the courts...

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

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