No Federal ID Cards

Dan Crytser

INTRODUCTION

Most of us carry driver’s licenses as sufficient identification, but some federal lawmakers want to establish a national ID card. Despite their efforts, the United States has not and should not implement a national ID system.

INHERENCY

The 9/11 Commission recommended the implementation of a federal identification card, along with a system of identification checkpoints throughout our nation. In 2005, President Bush signed the REAL ID act, into law, which will create a de facto national ID card similar to those used in other nations. Because of protests, it has not been enforced. Many states, including Washington, have outlawed the enforcement of the REAL ID act, but there are still lawmakers pushing for a national ID card. Their efforts pose a threat to our security and liberty.

DISADVANTAGES

1) A federal I.D. system would be unnecessary, as all US citizens already have sufficient identification.

According to Amitai Etzioni, a professor at George Washington University, “Americans increasingly recognize that one cannot fly, drive, go overseas, enter many public buildings, or, often, even cash a check without identification. To say that these are voluntary ID cards is a joke to anyone who must drive to work or fly to conduct business. IDs are so widely required that motor vehicle departments issue nondrivers licenses.”

2) A federal I.D. system would be expensive and unwieldy.

According to the ACLU, an American civil liberties group, “A national ID system would cost at least $4 billion….A national ID would require a governmental database of every person in the U.S. containing continually updated identifying information. It would likely contain many errors, any one of which could render someone unemployable and possibly much worse until they get their “file” straightened out.”

(National ID Cards - 5 Reasons Why They Should Be Rejected http://www.aclu.org/privacy/gen/14898res20030908.html

According to security specialist Bruce Schneier, “The main problem with any ID system is that it requires the existence of a database. In this case it would have to be an immense database of private and sensitive information on every American -- one widely and instantaneously accessible from airline check-in stations, police cars, schools, and so on.

The security risks are enormous. Such a database would be a kludge of existing databases; databases that are incompatible, full of erroneous data, and unreliable.”

Crypto-Gram Newsletter

3) Furthermore, a federal I.D. system would not make us safer from terrorism.

According to Henry Porter of the Guardian: “No act of terror has been stopped by ID cards. No terror support group has been penetrated or monitored because of ID cards. The Madrid train bombers all had Spanish ID cards. Al-Qaeda support groups in Italy all had ID cards. Identity is patently not a concern for suicide terrorists. Two of the 9/11 attackers were in the US phone book under their own names.”

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/henry_porter/2006/11/post_581.html

In a 2004 editorial, Texas Senator Ron Paul said that: “Those who are willing to allow the government to establish a Soviet-style internal passport system because they think it will make us safer are terribly mistaken. Subjecting every citizen to surveillance and "screening points" will actually make us less safe, not in the least because it will divert resources away from tracking and apprehending terrorists and deploy them against innocent Americans!”

(Texas Straight Talk - 6 September 2004 http://www.house.gov/paul/tst/tst2004/tst090604.htm)

According to Jim Harper of the ALEC Policy Forum, “"Identification is a powerful force for willing participants in our economy and society, but it will generally have little influence over terrorists.  They neither seek the benefits of our society nor are they deterred by knowing they will be held accountable after they act.  Identifying people merely tells you who they are.  It does not reveal terror attacks beforehand."

(http://www.realnightmare.org/images/File/ALEC%20Real%20ID%20policy%20piece1(1).pdf)

4) A forged federal I.D. could be more dangerous than any other forged document. Again, according to security expert Bruce Schneier:

"...There are security benefits in having a variety of different ID documents. A single national ID is an exceedingly valuable document, and accordingly there's greater incentive to forge it. There is more security in alert guards paying attention to subtle social cues than bored minimum-wage guards blindly checking IDs.  That's why, when someone asks me to rate the security of a national ID card on a scale of one to 10, I can't give an answer. It doesn't even belong on a scale."

(http://www.schneier.com/crypto-gram-0404.html#1) Crypto-Gram Newsletter 15 April 2004

5) Lastly, a federal ID system would encourage discrimination against Muslims and other minorities.

According to Privacy International, a human rights and civil liberties group, "The irony of the ID card option is that it invites discrimination by definition. Discriminatory practices are an inherent part of the function of an ID card. ...French police have been accused of overzealous use of the ID card against blacks, and particularly against Algerians. Greek authorities have been accused of using data on religious affiliation on its national card to discriminate against people who are not Greek Orthodox."

(http://www.privacy.org/pi/activities/idcard/idcard_faq.html#10)

Again, according to the ACLU, "Rather than eliminating discrimination, as some have claimed, a national identity card would foster new forms of discrimination and harassment of anyone perceived as looking or sounding "foreign." ... A national ID card would have the same effect on a massive scale, as Latinos, Asians, Caribbeans and other minorities became subject to ceaseless status and identity checks from police, banks, merchants and others. Failure to carry a national I.D. card would likely come to be viewed as a reason for search, detention or arrest of minorities. The stigma and humiliation of constantly having to prove that they are Americans or legal immigrants would weigh heavily on such groups. "

CONCLUSION

Clearly, the costs of a national ID card outweigh any possible benefits. I urge you to petition your representatives in Congress to reject any efforts towards establishing a national ID card.

RESPONSES

Federal I.D. cards would prevent terrorism.

No, they would not prevent terrorism. Since a national ID card would be based off of existing documents, like a birth certificate or a drivers license, which the 9/11 terrorists had, terrorists would be able to acquire a national ID.

According to Simon Davies of the Telegraph, “But the technology gap between governments and organised crime has narrowed so much that even the most highly secure cards are available as blanks, weeks after their official introduction. Criminals and terrorists can move more freely and more safely with several fake identities than they ever could in a country with multiple forms of ID…No one has been able to identify any country where cards have deterred terrorists.”

Federal I.D. cards would help clamp down on crime.

Having a federal ID would enable forgers to create something that criminals could use to terrible effect.

Use above quotation, or Adam Thierer, of the Cato Institute: “In light of the fact that teenagers are able to so easily forge new identities merely in an attempt to get into a nightclub, imagine what individuals with truly malevolent intentions would be able to do with national ID cards.

Moreover, bureaucrats could also be bribed or forcibly coerced into divulging information or producing fake ID cards. More realistically, hackers could invade centralized databases and distort or steal personal information. In any event, human error is a real possibility. “

<http://www.cato.org/tech/tk/010928-tk.html>

I.D. cards will increase efficiency.

Having to present documentation at every step in order to prove that you are an American citizen can hardly be expected to increase efficiency.

According to the New Alliance, a civil liberties watchdog group, “The experience of a country like Spain is that ID cards are a bureaucratic inconvenience to the law-abiding majority.

Would you be happy, as a law-abiding person, to queue up at a police station to have your eyes scanned, and fingerprints taken like a criminal? Is there a better use of precious police time - like tackling drink-drivers or burglars?”

<http://www.iits.dircon.co.uk/newalliance/idcards.htm>

Federal IDs will keep out illegal immigrants

This is not the case. There will be the same level of identification available for immigrants as before, and as we all know employers hire illegal immigrants now. According to the Cato institute, a libertarian thinktank, "Many employers hire illegal aliens, even though they know that they are breaking the law. There is no reason to believe that they will suddenly start to comply with federal laws regarding national identification. And the vast majority of employers--who do not hire illegal immigrants--will face yet another regulatory obstacle."

Federal IDs will save us money

Federal ID systems will not ever save us money. According to the Cato institute, a libertarian thinktank, "Costs to employers and taxpayers. The Social Security Administration acknowledges that a full-blown national ID system would cost at least $3 billion to $6 billion--about 10 to 20 times more than the proponents of a worker registry have estimated. The system might also impose compliance costs of at least several hundred dollars on every employer if it required the purchase of verification equipment. The costs for many employers would shoot into the thousands of dollars. By injecting government into the equation, an ID system would also cause undue delays in hiring."