'Your Papers, Please':
National ID, 2002
of the aftereffects of 9-11 has been the return-with-a-vengeance
of efforts to give every U.S. citizen a de facto national
ID card. The latest effort is H.R. 4633, introduced into Congress
last May by Jim Moran and Tom Davis, both of Virginia. The Moran-Davis
bill, currently in committee, is euphemistically named the Driverís
License Modernization Act of 2002. The fact that Moran is a Democrat
while Davis is a Republican illustrates how Democrats and Republicans
stage partisan squabbles before television cameras for public consumption
but cooperate closely on the kinds of measures that are slowly demolishing
liberty in this country.
4633 would "amend title 23, United States Code, to establish
standards for State programs for the issuance of driversí licenses
and identification cards, and for other purposes" (italics
mine). The stated reason for this bill stems, of course, from the
9-11 attacks, especially the fact that at least eight of the 19
hijackers had fake state-issued driversí licenses; this "illuminated
many flaws in the Nationís domestic security, especially in its
identification system." H.R. 4633 thus calls openly for the
use of "new technology Ö that can accommodate other government
and private applications [that] will provide the best return on
the investment in the new cards."
new technology includes biometric identification. According to the
bill, "Not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of
this section, each State shall have in effect a driverís license
and identification card program under which the State meets the
following requirements." This includes embedded programmable
computer chips, creating what have become known as smart cards.
"A State shall embed a computer chip in each new or renewed
driverís license or identification card issued by the state"
which shall contain "in electronic form, all text data written
on the license or card; Ö encoded biometric data matching the holder
of the license or card; Ö [and] encryption and security software
or hardware (or both) that prevents access to data stored on the
chip without the express consent of the individual to whom the data
applies, other than access by a Federal, State, or local agency
(including a court or law enforcement agency) in carrying out its
functions, or by a private entity acting on behalf of a Federal,
State, or local agency in carrying out its functions;Ö"
pause there. The first thing to note is that this bill federalizes
the drivers license, which under the Tenth Amendment has been a
province of states since Rhode Island passed the first drivers license
law in 1908. H.R. 4633 speaks openly of biometric ID, whereas previous
efforts had spoken only of "unique identifiers." It doesnít
tell us what kind of biometric information will be used. Fingerprints
have long been popular among bureaucrats. Retinal scans have also
been suggested. The final lengthy provision above looks as if it
is intended to protect the ID-card bearerís privacy. Read it closely,
though. Its encryption measures protect our privacy unless someone
in a "Federal, State, or local agency (including a court or
law enforcement agency) in carrying out its functions" wants
it. Moreover, these measures do not protect an individual from
private access if the "private entity [is] acting on behalf
of a Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out its functions,"
these again being left unspecified. In short, this bill does not
protect your privacy at all. These exceptions-clauses can be fleshed
out any way the bureaucrats want, and all an employer (for example)
would have to do is cook up a reason why access to an employeeís
encoded information "carries out the functions" of a government
agency. Drag your feet, and you lose your job.
bill establishes two other requirements, that the ID card "accept
data or software written to the license or card by non-governmental
devices if the data transfer is authorized by the holder of the
license or card; Ö" and here is another real kicker
the card must "conform to any other standards issued
by the Secretary." Conform to any other standards issued
by the Secretary? What the dickens does that mean? Again, in practice
it could mean anything a bureaucrat wants it to mean.
4633 also mandates linking up databases, a lot of which already
exist and are hooked up with law enforcement divisions so that routine
traffic stops can be turned into criminal checks. "A State
shall participate in a program to link State motor vehicle databases
in order to provide electronic access by a State to information
contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other States."
The result, of course, would be a single large federal database,
whether called that or not, as the most convenient way for bureaucrats
based in a given state to access a personís information in any other
state. H.R. 4633, it is true, repudiates the idea of a "central
database." The 1964 Civil Rights Act repudiated preferential
treatment of minorities. In other words, tell me another one.
4633 authorizes $300 million in federal grant money (i.e., taxpayer
dollars) to the states to enable them to implement this machinery
$100 million for the ID itself and $200 for the database
technology placing the states under the thumb of the federal
government so far as issuing driversí licenses goes. All one need
to remember is that that same principle: every federal dollar comes
with strings attached. Three hundred million dollars could attach
a lot of strings! In cases of threatened noncompliance by states,
all the feds would have to do is the same thing they did with the
so-called Motor-Voter law back in the early 1990s: threaten to withhold
federal highway money.
long and the short of it is, the Driverís License Modernization
Act of 2002 would bring us closer than ever before to establishing
a comprehensive national ID system. The present excuse is that extreme
measures are necessary to "protect us against terrorism."
Yeah, right! Those whose memories go back that far know that this
is not the first time someone in the federal government has tried
to give us all de facto national ID cards. Such efforts existed
as stealth measures what Claire Wolfe called land-mine
legislation little-noticed provisions buried in large,
omnibus bills like the Welfare Reform Act, the Illegal Immigration
Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act and the Kennedy-Kassenbaum
Health Care Reform Acts, all in 1996. The provisions were to go
into effect in October of 2000. The feds didnít think anyone would
notice until it was too late, since no one had noticed the stealth
measures that gave us civil forfeiture those nasty provisions
that allow the feds to take your car without compensation if they
find, say, a certain amount of marijuana or some other illegal substance
in it. The feds didnít count on the Internet. When the 1996 stealth
measures were revealed through email campaigns ("send this
to everyone you know on the Internet"), we were fed lines about
"identity theft," or about the need to catch deadbeat
dads. Or the favorite, given the times: "itís for the children."
In those days, national ID was fought through grass roots Internet
campaigns, along with efforts to collect personal data administered
through banks, e.g., the infamous Know-Your-Customer program. But
measures that created huge federal databases of new employees got
through, and programs akin to Know-Your-Customer are very much alive
is clear, too, that the Executive Branch is looking at ways to set
national standards for drivers licenses; this was disclosed by Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge the day after the unveiling of H.R.
4633. Supposedly, President Bush himself opposes national ID, but
is going along with the efforts to standardize driversí licenses.
The so-called Patriot Act, which Bush signed last year after 9-11,
paves the way for federal, state and local databases to be linked.
That bill authorized $150 million more for the "expansion of
the Regional Information Sharing System" that would "facilitate
federal-state-local law enforcement response related to terrorist
driverís license seems to be the favored inroad for those who want
to amass personal information on law-abiding U.S. citizens. After
all, it is hard for an adult to function in modern society without
one. Should H.R. 4633 become law, there will be just two ways to
"opt out." One is to give up your driverís license and
not drive. The other is to give up your driverís license and drive
illegally with all the risks this involves. I imagine there
will be people driving illegally to get around this after
all, blatant power grabs do not exactly encourage respect for the
rule of law. Because not everyone does have a driverís license,
the feds may eventually go beyond it and just require every citizen
to carry a smart card that could function as a drivers license or
not, depending on how the chip was programmed. "Show us your
papers, please. No papers? You better come with us." Weíd better
stop thinking it canít happen here.
arrangements in which cards have been replaced by bio-implants are
no longer limited to science fiction stories. A high-tech company
called Applied Digital Solutions
already has an implantable identification chip, usable in medical
emergencies or by those with serious conditions. The companyís VeriChip™
consists of a small radio frequency device about the size of the
point of a ballpoint pen with a unique verification number that
could be implanted in a convenient place in the human body. It could
be programmed to contain all the personal data any bureaucrat could
want. A scanning device would activate the chip and recognize the
number, enabling the person operating the scanner to retrieve the
information and compare it with the information in the central database.
Why an actual implant? Because smart cards can be lost, and the
ownerís life placed on hold for days while the card is replaced.
Serious advocates of national ID have no doubt considered such eventualities;
it would be naïve to think otherwise. Implants, unlike something
you carry in your wallet, would become a part of you for the rest
of your life. We might call it the Borging of America. An exaggeration?
It should be clear that H.R. 4633, coupled with this technology,
could lead to the hugest quantum leap ever in the federal governmentís
capacity to control people. If the feds really wanted to play hardball
with dissent, all they would have to do is "freeze" the
dissidentís assets by reprogramming the information in the database
so scanners would not recognize him. The person would become officially
invisible, unable to drive or work legally, have a bank account,
buy anything on credit, or even see a doctor. Do we want to trust
anyone with that kind of power?
is a testimony to how much this country has changed since 9-11 that
no one has visibly challenged H.R. 4633 as unconstitutional and
incompatible with the principles of a free society. The 1990s gave
us the obviously corrupt Clinton Regime and a significant opposition
to federal power grabs. Now itís Bush the Younger, beloved of neocons
who see him as one of their own and believe he can do no wrong.
No serious, organized opposition now appears to exist (and I would
happy as a clam to be proven wrong about that). The warmongers and
their allies in the media are now happy to paint anyone critical
of expansionist government as "abetting the terrorists."
phrases are indeed following the kind of trajectory that the word
racist followed as verbal clubs to intimidate people
into submission. Consider, too: the media coverage of 9-11 replayed
the horrific events of that day over and over until the images of
the planes striking the World Trade Center towers were permanently
implanted into the average television watcherís brain. All of a
sudden, big government was back in style. We needed it to protect
us from terrorists. We were at war! Big government began issuing
unspecific warnings of imminent threats of terrorist attacks that
never materialized, as it expanded faster and further than under
Clinton. To my knowledge, no huge al Qaeda or Iraqi-based terrorist
cells have been disrupted. Moreover, Osama bin Laden has not been
capturedóand isnít even much talked about anymore but Al
Gore has been patted down by airport security. Repeated warnings,
though, have many Americans scared of their shadows nevertheless.
A frightened population is obviously easier to manipulate and control.
real irony here is that there isnít the slightest evidence that
H.R. 4633 will protect against terrorism. Given our porous borders,
actual would-be terrorists would have their own networks and resources,
and could get around our governmentís verification technologies
without too much difficulty. I would suggest a number of different
and more basic remedies. Such as allowing pilots to bear arms, which
Bush the Youngerís regime has opposed (it would make people less
dependent on government). Such as changing our disastrous immigration
laws and making it harder for foreigners to get into this country
and stay here. Such as recalling troops from the overseas extensions
of the U.S. Empire and deploying them against our border with Mexico,
if necessary, since it is well known that Arabs who might mean to
harm Americans are entering the country with illegals from Mexico.
Allow neocons, other globalists and cultural Marxists to scream
isolationist all they want. Needless to say, Bush the Youngerís
regime is not pursuing anything like this, because (1) Bush is basically
a globalist from a family of globalists, in an Administration chock
full of globalists; and (2) this would be taking the fight against
terrorism seriously without also dismantling the liberties of native-born
U.S. citizens, a necessary condition for eventually ending U.S.
sovereignty and subordinating this country to a global government.
recently I ran
across this remark attributed to Sen. Gary Hart, made at a Council
on Foreign Relations meeting three days after 9-11. "There
is a chance for the President of the United States to use this disaster
to carry out what his father a phrase his father used I think
only once, and it hasnít been used since and that is a new
world order." Clearly, the slow encirclement of law-abiding
U.S. citizens with national ID technology would advance such a cause
while doing little if anything to safeguard us against terrorism.
Unfortunately, given the compliant mood of the country, if H.R.
4633 becomes law, when it comes time for the federalized state drivers
license agencies to implement it, coercion might not be necessary.
The sheeple may very will stand in line to get their biometrically-encoded
national ID cards, having been persuaded that with this legislation
firmly in place "we are now protected by our government from
Yates [send him mail]
has a PhD in philosophy and is a Margaret "Peg" Rowley Fellow
at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
He is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994), and numerous articles and reviews. At any given time
he is at work on any number of articles and book projects, including
a science fiction novel.
© 2002 LewRockwell.com