Immigration and Information: Big Brother May Get His Wish

I just wrote my essay for Lew on LRC on the latest immigration debacle. Well, after just submitting my column and seeing it published on LRC, I had a vague suspicion I had missed an important nexus in the story. Plenty of conservatives and libertarians are scratching their heads and wondering why Bush would forward such a nakedly wrong proposal for simple electoral gain (Did Karl Rove do the math on the supercomputers in the White House Situation Room and figure the net gain in illegals voting for the GOP would outweigh the disaffected Republican voters who would stay home out of disgust?). What crisis could the government create to foment an overwhelming call for a national ID card? Grant de facto amnesty to millions of illegal invaders and use the national security shibboleth to press for the ID cards to ensure any potential terrorists are thwarted through the usual efficient government methods. Richard Perle and David Frum called for a national ID in their new book, An End to Evil, so their national greatness fever dream may see an important component added to their vision of empire.

Even Bush the Younger has needed a pretense for this instead of risking an Executive Order to make it so. All the methodologies are in place including Congressional authorization in the form of HR 4633, "The Driver's License Modernization Act," a particularly odious effort to nationalize databases to make it easier for bureaucrats to track American individuals. Tom Ridge has been itching to tattoo all American so his lads can better protect the flock of sheep called Americans. If you think identity theft is a problem now, wait until the Feds get their claws into data compilation and collating. The abuses at the IRS will pale in comparison.

Remember the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) promise to revolutionize crime prevention under the Brady Bill? Let's ask a simple question. Does NICS have a positive or negative database? A positive database is a universal compendium of every American citizen (not illegal, unregistered aliens or invaders). As much as the Feds would like that, they aren't there yet. Witness Poindexter's Total Information Awareness debacle. The NICS database is a negative database in the sense that it only lists criminal convictions of applicants, which are retrieved when a gun sale purchase is made. Yet, if said criminal applicant uses a fake ID or gives a false name, he will come out clean and able to purchase the weapon after filling out the BATF Form 4473 (the infamous yellow form). The FBI and BATF will then, of course, violate supposed Congressional proscriptions against record keeping and store the purchase information in the alphabet agency's memory hole. Well, Tom Ridge may have a late Christmas present for all the alphabet agencies in the Federal government.

The National ID system will obviate this inconvenience to our rulers. At last, the usual suspects in the halls of power will have the means to track, identify and persecute the malcontents and criminals they so urgently need to monitor for all manner of reasons. This administration has been itching to find a reason to institute this Orwellian device and some of corporate America has been clamoring to get in on the action. To readers of LRC, the privacy and liberty ramifications are obvious and this will be the knockout blow. Mark my words; the Bush administration will use the immigration initiative to justify a national ID card for all Americans. Whether this is the true purpose behind the initiative, I don't know, but watch for the trial balloons to crowd the skies over the Capitol and the polluted fever swamps in the Beltway media complex.

January 19, 2004