- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

The White House has ruled out creating a national identity card system as a counterterrorism measure.
Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan said President Bush is not even considering the idea though many in and out of government are, and the debate over the old issue has flared anew.
There are no current legislative proposals to require such cards. And they are not requested in the package of national security measures the administration is asking Congress to pass.
Yet Rep. George W. Gekas said yesterday lawmakers are being flooded with calls from constituents who suggest the government require each person to carry standard, federally issued proof of identification. Mr. Gekas, a Pennsylvania Republican, chairs the a House subcommittee on immigration.
Prominent among those arguing for a national identity card is Larry Ellison, head of Oracle Corp., the Redwood Shores, Calif., software company. In a radio interview last week, Mr. Ellison called for creating a national identification system, and he offered to donate the tools for creating ID cards that contain a digitized thumbprint and photograph of each legal resident. The cards could be quickly read by scanners.
The public seems to favor the concept. At least it did in the days immediately after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Seventy percent favor issuing a national identity card as one measure "for curbing terrorism," 26 percent opposed the idea and 4 percent had no opinion, according to a nationwide telephone survey of 1,200 persons between Sept. 13 and 17. It was done by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
Edward Crane, founder and president of the libertarian CATO Institute, is clearly among the 26 percent.
"A national identity card is not a good idea. It's contrary to the spirit of America," said Mr. Crane. "We live in a free society and our first right is a certain level of privacy. We shouldn't be forced to show our papers wherever we go."
The director of the CATO Institute's criminal justice project, Tim Lynch, a lawyer, is more specific:
"A national identity system is a threat to freedom because, once a system is in place, it's the equivalent to governmental prior restraint. Before an employer hires a person, he runs the card past agencies in Washington. Before a person buys a gun, or opens, or closes a bank account, there's a check with Washington there's a ripple effect throughout society. Besides, government agencies will share the information about the cardholder. That's how our privacy is threatened."
Those favoring a national ID system accept the threat. They tend to see a national ID card as a way to uncover potential terrorists, crooks and illegal border crossers. They see it as a way of preventing credit-card and identity theft, which is a frequent practice among illegal aliens.
Dan Stein, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which pushes for tight immigration regulation, earlier told The Washington Times:
"In a large and highly mobile society, we need a way to prove who we are. We lose the ability to determine who's who, who is a citizen, who deserves to be here and who deserves benefits," unless we have as uniform way to identify ourselves.
The proponents of a national ID system typically argue that people must prove their identity now, using a driver's license and Social Security number; yet both are forged rather easily. Besides, they say, advances in technology have already made the identity of practically every American available, and the driver's license is practically a national identity document.
Indeed, the Arlington-based American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators confirms that 24 states and the U.S. military have adopted its recommendations for creating a standard driver's license and more are interested. The suggested cards have computer-readable stripes and bar codes that contain a digitized photo and data about the card's owner. The codes on the cards could be read by the same kind of scanners found in grocery stores.
There is no question the technology for implementing a national identity system is there.
But as Mr. Gekas' spokesman, Kent Wissinger, said, "There's just no push for it."

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