- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2001

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 70 percent of the public favors issuing a national identity card as a means to curb terrorism. Keep in mind that poll was taken Sept. 13-17, during the aftershocks of the attacks on New York and Washington. Since then, all manner have folks have weighed in on the same side, including Oracle CEO Larry Ellison who's gone so far as to say he'd develop the necessary software free of charge. While this idea of a national ID card is but one in an endless stream of security measures shoved toward President Bush in recent weeks, its smell, fortunately, led him to the shake his head.

"The White House has ruled out creating a national identity card," August Gribbin of The Washington Times reported Sept. 27. "Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Mr. Bush is not even considering the idea." Thank heaven for blessings large and small.

Indeed, there are so many reasons why we don't need Big Brother storing our identities in a central database. For one, it would be a threat to everyone's privacy, and, for another, it would run "contrary to the spirit of America," as Edward Crane, founder and president of the CATO Institute, told Mr. Gribbin.

Want to know why such a government-run ID system would be a threat? Tim Lynch, director of CATO's criminal justice project, explained the "ripple effect" as follows: "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."

Now Mr. Ellison, whose very lifeline is large, national databases and middleware (and warfare with Bill Gates), said national ID cards should be used at airports to confirm travelers' identities, and he gave a raspberry to our serious concerns regarding breaches of privacy, calling privacy "an illusion." "Right now," he told San Franciso's KPIX-TV in an interview broadcast Sept. 21, "you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment."

And what Mr. Ellison said about Internet searches is absolutely right. What he didn't say, however, is that much of the American public has serious privacy concerns about the Internet, too. Blessedly, our president does as well.

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