- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 20, 2002

The fight against terrorism should not entail a police state, or even the precursors of one. That is the heartening message contained in Thursday's rejection by the House Select Committee on Homeland Security of proposals for a mandatory national ID "smart card" and of the proposal to use ordinary Americans, such as postal workers and utility meter readers, for "domestic surveillance."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who is chairman of the committee, included language in the markup of homeland-security legislation to nix the so-called Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS). The bill would have empowered the Justice Department to set up what would amount to a vast network of snitches. It seems there's a good deal of bipartisan opposition to this terrible idea, which could have involved 1 million informants initially and, perhaps, several fold that number as the program expanded.
There is simply no need or justification for such an Orwellian program. If a person sees something suspicious, he can contact the authorities. Federalizing good citizenship adds nothing to this, but would create a highly worrisome precedent for a state of affairs the world has seen enough of already in Soviet Russia, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and the People's Republic of China. Citizen-spying is the hallmark of closed societies where suspicion and fear are the natural order.
Talk about a national ID card grew louder after September 11, but fighting terrorism should not mean that Americans become de facto terror suspects. There is no single thing more emblematic of unfree countries than having to produce one's "papers" at the whim of an all-powerful government.
Mr. Armey is to be commended for snipping this hydra's head.


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