The National Biometric ID Card: The Mark of the Beast?

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"This
calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number
of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666." ~
Revelation 13:18

As technology
grows more sophisticated and the government and its corporate allies
further refine their methods of keeping tabs on the American people,
those of us who treasure privacy increasingly find ourselves engaged
in a struggle to maintain our freedoms in the midst of the modern
surveillance state.

Just consider
the many ways we're already being monitored and tracked: through
our Social Security numbers, bank accounts, purchases and electronic
transactions; by way of our correspondence and communications devices
— email, phone calls and mobile phones; through chips implanted
in our vehicles, identification documents, even our clothing. Data
corporations are capturing vast caches of personal information on
you so that airports, retailers, police and other government authorities
can instantly identify and track you. Add to this the fact that
businesses, schools and other facilities are relying more and more
on fingerprints and facial recognition to identify us. All the while,
banks and other financial institutions must verify the identities
of new customers and make such records of customer transactions
available to the police and government officials upon request.

In recent years,
this information glut has converged into a mandate for a national
ID card, which came to a head with Congress' passage of the REAL
ID Act in 2005. REAL ID requires states to issue machine-readable
drivers' licenses containing a wealth of personal data. However,
because the REAL ID Act has been opposed by many states due to its
cost and implementation, we have yet to be subjected to a nationwide
implementation of a national ID card. That may all change depending
on what happens with the immigration reform bill now before Congress.

A centerpiece
of the immigration bill as proposed by Senators Charles Schumer
(D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is a requirement that all
U.S. workers, citizen and resident alike, be required to obtain
and carry biometric Social Security cards (national ID cards
under a different name) in order to work within the United States.
Attempting to appease critics of a national ID card, Schumer and
Graham insist that "no government database would house everyone's
information" and that the "cards would not contain any
private information, medical information, or tracking devices."
However, those claims are blatantly false. Indeed, this proposed
biometric card is nothing more than an end-run around opposition
to a national ID card.

Civil and privacy
rights advocates, as well as liberal-, conservative-, and libertarian-leaning
organizations, have long raised concerns that a national ID card
would enable the government to track citizens and, thus, jeopardize
the privacy rights of Americans. President Reagan likened a 1981
proposal to the biblical "mark of the beast," and President
Clinton dismissed a similar plan because it smacked of Big Brother.

Most recently,
The Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union,
along with a host of other organizations, voiced their opposition
to the biometric ID card. In a letter to both the U.S. House of
Representatives and Senate Judiciary Committees, Senate Finance
Committee, House Ways and Means Committee and the White House, this
coalition of groups declared that such a national ID card would
"not only violate privacy by helping to consolidate data and
facilitate tracking of individuals, it would bring government into
the very center of our lives by serving as a government permission
slip needed by everyone in order to work. As happened with Social
Security cards decades ago, use of such ID cards would quickly spread
and be used for other purposes — from travel to voting to gun ownership."
And the national biometric ID card would "require the creation
of a bureaucracy that combines the worst elements of the Transportation
Security Administration and state Motor Vehicle Departments."

At a minimum,
these proposed cards will contain a memory device that stores distinct
— and highly personal — physical or biological information unique
to the cardholder such as fingerprints, retina scan information,
a mapping of the veins on the top of your hand, and so on. Eventually,
other information, such as personal business and financial data,
will probably also be stored on these cards. For the cards to be
effective, an information storage system and central database, which
will be managed by the government and its corporate handlers, will
be required. That means a lot of taxpayer dollars will be used to
create the ultimate tracking device to be used against American
citizens.

As journalist
Megan Carpentier reports, "The federal government wants to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars, and force employees and employers
still suffering from a recession to do the same, to create and make
accessible to every employer a national database of the fingerprints
of all Americans from the time they are 14 years old. And they want
to do it in order to keep an estimated 11.9 million unauthorized
immigrants — less than 4 percent of the total population of the
United States — from accessing the job market." Under threat
of substantial fines by the government and in what promises to be
a cumbersome, bureaucratic process, employers will have to purchase
ID card scanning devices (or visit their local DMV) in order to
scan the cards of every individual they wish to hire before that
individual can be employed. What this amounts to, essentially, is
a troubling system in which all Americans would have to get
clearance from the federal government in order to get a job.

Furthermore,
the law's requirement that machine-readable technology be incorporated
into the card opens the door for radio frequency identification
(RFID) tags to be placed on the cards. RFID is a tiny, automatic
identification system that enables data — in this case the private
information of American citizens — to be transmitted by a portable
device. This will provide the government with unprecedented access
to American citizens' personal information. In addition, RFID tags
emit radio frequency signals that allow the government to track
the movement of the cards, as well as the cardholders. In other
words, wherever your card goes, so do the government monitors.

When all is
said and done, the adoption of a national biometric ID card serves
one purpose only: to provide the government with the ultimate control
over the American people. As one commentator has remarked, this
is a "naked government power grab."

The time to
resist is now. If we don't, eventually, we will all have to possess
one of these cards in order to be a functioning citizen in American
society. Failing to have a biometric card will render you a non-person
for all intents and purposes. Your whole life will depend on this
card — your ability to work, travel, buy, sell, access health care,
and so on.

What we used
to call science fiction is now reality. And whether a national ID
card is the mark of the Beast or the long arm of Big Brother, the
outcome remains the same.

April
20, 2010

Constitutional
attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send
him mail
] is founder and president of The
Rutherford Institute
.

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