Central to a new immigration bill is a national ID proposal, which, if instituted, would undermine personal liberty and expand government surveillance abilities.
by Austin Raynor
With the stated intent of combating illegal immigration, Senators Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) are crafting new legislation to institute a national identification card. The card would be required in order to be eligible for employment, and would in turn enable employers to identify and reject illegal immigrants who are seeking work.
The card would be biometric, i.e., containing identifying characteristics unique to the physiology of the cardholder. In this case the biometrics would most likely be comprised of either a fingerprint or a scan of the veins on the back of the hand. This is not the first time a biometric card has been proposed: in the wake of 9-11, there was a strong push for a national ID card on the basis of national security.
Schumer and Graham claim that the institution of a national ID would not be accompanied by the creation of a complementary database; however, no national identification system has ever operated independently of a database. It would be impossible to run a national ID system without a corresponding database available for purposes of verification.
Thus, although the card would initially include only biometric and citizenship data, such a national ID system would be the backbone of a virtually limitless government-run database comprised of citizens’ personal information. Networked with other sources of government information, a national ID system would allow the government to create expansive personal profiles of every individual in the United States.
The appeal of the national ID card, apart from its supposed efficacy in excluding illegal immigrants from the workforce, is that it provides an efficient means of identification and simplifies processes requiring identification. The ID card, for instance, could potentially be used at borders, in security clearance checks, and in streamlining government distribution of entitlements.
But there is little reason to believe that a national ID system, once instituted, would be confined to these original functions. It is far more likely that the national ID would come to serve, as the ACLU has argued, as an “internal passport,” allowing government to track law-abiding citizens as they go about their daily business. It is plausible, even, that the national ID could eventually supplant all other forms of identification and be employed in virtually every transaction.
Under such a scenario, whenever you make a purchase, you swipe your national ID card for verification. To check out a book at the library you use your ID card. To swipe into your office, or even your home, you simply use your ID card. At toll booths, you swipe your ID card. In the name of security and efficiency, the ID card could be employed as a means of identity verification in virtually every situation the individual takes part in throughout an average day.
As the proprietor of the card, the government would have access to this data and funnel it into its ever-expanding database. The government would then have an extensive record of countless transactions in which the average American engages. In short, the national ID and its corresponding database would form the backbone of a totalitarian surveillance state.
The card is a gateway to East German-style monitoring of individuals’ personal lives. Every act would be subject to governmental scrutiny. Many aspects of personal liberty have not heretofore been legislated simply because relevant laws would be unenforceable. But if the government were endowed with complete surveillance power, every facet of human life would be opened up to regulation and intrusion.
As has been the case in the past concerning national ID legislation, the issue here concerns the competing interests of privacy and law enforcement. The question of properly balancing these has posed a perpetual problem for a country committed to the safety and freedom of its people.
The real problem, however, arises when methods adopted for the purposes of law enforcement are instead appropriated in the employment of less savory programs. Creating political structures that endow leaders with vast control over the personal lives of citizens is to invite abuse: leaders with no scruples concerning personal liberty have no qualms employing government power to oppress the people.
What is important, then, in cases involving security and the collection of personal data (similar observations apply to wiretapping) is to maintain due process of law. The avenues of information available to government must be tightly controlled and subject to strict judicial scrutiny. In most cases this takes the form of warrants.
A warrant strikes a balance between liberty and security: it typically allows the government access to information, but does so only after forcing it to submit to procedural safeguards and the objective evaluation of a judge.
The problem with a national ID card and a federal database is that there are no procedural safeguards. In other areas these procedural safeguards have been eroded (for instance, by the Patriot Act), but with a national database no such safeguards would exist from the start. The government does not need a warrant to access its own database.
The power to track every citizen and monitor his daily behavior is a power that could not wisely be trusted to any individual. Even socialist England has rejected a national ID, largely on the basis of privacy concerns. The goal of law enforcement is certainly admirable. But the potential benefits of a national ID pale in comparison to the abuses possible at the hands of a government with unchecked surveillance powers.
Real ID, PASS Act Deadline Extension - Nick Coons
Have We Learned Nothing? - Kimberly Ruff
Socialism: A System of Hubris and Avarice - Austin Raynor
Marc, on 4/08/2010 at 10:16pm, said:
Idiotic comment... The whole of Europe (except UK) ha a national ID and it doesn't seem to me European states like Spain, Germany, Denmark, Sweden etc are totalitarian.
Regina, on 4/08/2010 at 11:13pm, said:
Marc: The European states you named are not totalitarian. But with this kind of tracking, with our multitude of crackpot extremists, the US would quickly become totalitarian. The dangers far exceed the benefits.
Guy Herbert (General Secretary, NO2ID), on 4/08/2010 at 11:32pm, said:
Marc: The whole of Europe doesn't. European systems vary. Denmark doesn't have an ID card, though it does have a population register. Ireland doesn't have either. The French ID card is a bit of card and it is voluntary.
Regina: Many European countries, while not totalitarian in the brutal dictatorship sense, do have massively more intrusive government than US citizens are used to. Most of their ID systems are successors to ones established under fascist or communist domination.
If you want an example of the tools of the totalitarian state being developed in plain sight in a "free country" then look at what is going on in the UK. See www.no2id.net
The UK scheme is being pushed on the same populist basis of immigration control, all other arguments having failed.
Nick Coons, on 4/09/2010 at 9:42am, said:
While I agree with the overall sentiment of the article, I feel the need to pick a few nits, because that's just what I do :-).
Judges are not objective, they are not third parties. They are a part of the same government that has an interest in obtaining a warrant so there's no reason to believe that they aren't biased when issuing warrants.
There is no balance between liberty and security. That statement identifies liberty and security as being on opposite sides of a spectrum, when in fact there's a rather direct correlation that when liberty increases, so does security. And it's important to keep in mind that one's security involves protection from government as well as other threats. Given that governments have killed more people worldwide than all non-government murderers combined, security from government should be the first target.
Liberty Beat, on 4/09/2010 at 1:15pm, said:
One safeguard against government excesses built into the American system is the federalism - a federal/state rivalry. A national ID tampers with this structure and shifts greater power to the central government.
Good blog entry. Check out my new report on suspicious activity reporting, \\
Steve, on 4/10/2010 at 12:32pm, said:
Yes, oh yes let's give total control to the government.
Ralph , on 4/12/2010 at 7:58pm, said:
To Marc and others. It is the normal ploy of the resistant to attack the messenger if they do not agree with the message.
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Barbara Haas, on 4/15/2010 at 12:04pm, said:
If those two ***holes want to live in a government controlled country I encourage them to give up their US citizenship and move, before they do more damage to our constitution.
jbakerjonathan, on 4/16/2010 at 8:24am, said:
I think that Nick Coons has made very important observations: that “governments” have destroyed more lives than all non-government murders, combined; that we are secure when we have protection from government; that our first goal should be protection from government.
Another good point that he makes is that judges are not objective, being part of government. Look at how judges enforce “non-law” tax code of the IRS, supporting the IRS as it crushes those who do not “voluntarily” pay an income tax. Or how the Supreme Court stopped the Florida recount and caused Bush to be declared the winner, prematurely, when, as we now know, completion of the counting would have shown Gore the winner had the court not interfered.
We should be extremely wary when government declares that it is necessary to give up freedom for the sake of security. By its very nature, government demands the power to control, so that it can bring order to society. It is imperative that sovereign people not give up their liberties too readily lest they become completely controlled by the government they have created. One only has to look at communist China, fascist Italy, Nazi Germany or communist Russia (USSR), to see examples of governments that trampled the sovereign rights of its peoples.
Already we are sliding down the slippery slope toward total control by our government. The Patriot Act tramples our sovereignty with its authorization of warrantless searches of citizens’ homes and businesses, telephone, email and financial records. The extrajudicial murder of American citizens abroad when specifically authorized – rather than being brought to trial in an American court, where proof of a crime must be shown, is another example. The Federal Reserve spends taxpayer money without our knowing any of the details of where the money is spent, this with the authorization of government.
The momentum toward total control is increasing. We can continue to play fat, dumb and happy or we can support political candidates who want to change the direction in which we are headed. Let us not forget that we created government to serve us, not so that we serve the government. We are sovereign individuals. Let us remain so.
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James Leonard Park, on 7/25/2012 at 3:55am, said:
Yes, any such efforts should be restrained to prevent excesses as noted. The enabling legislation could define exactly what data would be collected into the database and what 'facts' would not be permitted. And each individual could check as frequently as he or she wished to see that no impermissible data has been included. Strict punishments should be imposed for each of the six possible violations of the National Identity Bureau: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/NIB-PEN.html
James Leonard Park, on 7/25/2012 at 4:01am, said:
Here is the complete proposal for a National Identity Bureau: http://www.tc.umn.edu/~parkx032/CY-NID.html.
Are the safeguards included sufficient?
If not, what additional safeguards would protect our civil liberties?
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