July 12, 2002
By Mike Krause
A congressional scheme to implement a National ID card is sitting in the House Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards. Where hopefully it will die, never to be heard from again.
HR 4633, the “Drivers License Modernization Act of 2002” is a $300 million federal takeover of State issued drivers license and ID card issuance and standards which would turn the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles into a satellite office of the federal Department of Transportation. Yep, the same folks who seize tweezers from little old ladies boarding airplanes would be in charge of the new national ID card.
The DMV would be changed from an agency which licenses qualified drivers, to one which validates our existence and holds centralized control over anything requiring identity verification.
The National ID scheme requires all drivers licenses and state ID cards be issued with a computer chip containing among other things, encoded biometric data on the holder, encrypted to allow access by any “Federal, State, or local agency in carrying out it functions”. This was the same standardany agency for any reasonwhich was originally applied to the Colorado DMVs building of a biometric database of license holders using facial recognition a standard the legislature tightened up this year to require at least some criminal suspicion.
Further, your new personal government- issue microchip is required to have “interoperability” or compatibility with lots of different databases and the ability to “store multiple applications created by government agencies and private entities”.
The National ID will serve “any other standards decided by Secretary (of Transportation). In other words, the kind of identifiers and information collected, and who will have access and for what reason will be decided by a federal bureaucrat rather than the legislatureor even you or I.
For those who might balk at carrying around a government (and favored private interests) monitoring device, be careful. The bill calls for fines and imprisonment of “not more than 20 years” for anyone who “tampers with, alters or destroys a computer chip embedded in a drivers license or identification card, or data contained on the computer chip”.
If anyone is wondering what any of this has to do with your ability to operate a motor vehicle, wait, it gets weirder.
The bill provides grant money for an “innovative uses pilot program” for states that come up with nifty new ways to utilize your national ID to “enhance government services”. While the bill uses food stamps and voter registration as examples, there is no end to the creative uses a true nanny state bureaucrat could come up with, such as electronic logging of cash transactions by merchants
Terrorism, of course, is driving the bill “The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001, illuminated many flaws in the Nations domestic security, especially in its identification system.
There is little argument that there are flaws in our domestic security, but it is an illusion that a national ID will somehow thwart terrorists. As a broad coalition of over 40 conservative, leftist and libertarian groups state in a letter to President Bush opposing a National ID, “Terrorists and criminals will continue to obtainby legal and illegal meansthe documents needed to get a government ID”. Moreover “A national ID would create a false sense of security because it would enable individuals with an IDwho may in fact be terroriststo avoid heightened security measures”.
The bill also assumes that by the magic of nationalizing DMVs “identity theft will be severely reduced”.
But this is specious at best, absurd at worst. Far reaching government control of personal information is part of the problem in the first place.
A recent GAO report on government use of Social Security numbers (the current identifier of choice for ID thieves) found that “Although agencies that use SSNs to provide benefits and services are taking steps to safeguard the numbers from improper disclosure, our survey identified potential weaknesses in the security of information at all levels of government”.
Reporting on the GAO audit, Insight Magazine makes the point that such weaknesses reflect on bureaucrats who care more about collecting data on citizens than about protecting the privacy of the citizens to whom the data relate.
From almost the moment the Social Security number was introduced for the legal purpose of administering social security benefits, government began using it for other purposes, and well over half a century later they are still “taking steps” to protect its integrity. Just imagine at what speed our new government computer chip and biometric identifiers will experience purpose creep and systemic abusethe possibilities are practically endless.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has made the point that “Centralizing authority over personal identity necessarily increases both the risk of ID theft as well as the scope of harm when ID theft occurs.
Whether terrorism or identity theft, we should reject the ongoing notion that stopping those with evil intent requires that the rest of us must submit to ever greater scrutiny and intrusive government.
We still dont need no stinkin National ID card.
Copyright 2002, Independence Institute
INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.
JON CALDARA is President of the Institute.
MIKE KRAUSE is a Research Associate at the Institute.
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