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

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    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

    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.

    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.

    20, 2010

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

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