- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

A national ID card complete with an encoded computer chip and biometric "tags" such as fingerprints or retinal scans came one step closer to becoming a creepy reality on Wednesday when Reps. James P. Moran and Thomas M. Davis introduced legislation that would require their adoption by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Though hotly denying that their bill (and companion legislation in the Senate) would create a national ID card that could be used to monitor and track the doings and affairs of every adult American, that's exactly what Messrs. Moran and Davis have set in motion. Their bill would give the federal government unprecedented access to information about our daily lives that ought to frighten any sensible person. Every transaction we make, every trip we take, every time we produce a driver's license to conduct business would be noted and recorded in a government database. And with the national ID "smart card" almost certainly being linked at first, or after Americans get used to the idea to our financial lives in every critical respect (checking accounts, credit cards, etc.) there won't be anything the government, its myriad agencies and even private-sector contractors, won't know about us except our never-voiced thoughts the last realm of privacy that may be left to Americans a decade from now.

And what of these biometric tags that our representatives are so glibly advocating? Up to the present time, only criminals or suspected criminals have had to submit to being fingerprinted. And why? To keep track of them. Now Messrs. Moran and Davis want to treat the entire population of the United States as de facto criminals?

The best that advocates of these IDs can come up with in response to these criticisms is the simple, gratuitous assertion that, in the words of Mr. Moran, "It's not a national ID system." Well then, Mr. Moran, what exactly is it you and your cohorts are proposing? The end result of the legislation would create a national ID card in everything but name.

What Messrs. Moran and Davis have proposed is, in fact, "a system that will erode individual freedom and increase governmental power without significantly improving safety," as Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center puts it. He and other civil libertarians ridicule the government's straw man that a national ID will prevent future terrorist attacks. They argue, convincingly, that well-funded criminals and would-be terrorists will always find a way to get around such a system. Only the average citizen would find himself under the ever-present watchful eye of government. As with gun control, the national ID will result in diminished freedom and privacy for law-abiding citizens who pose no threat to honest government but are objects of these ever escalating, police-state tactics.

The national ID card is a terrible idea, perhaps born of good intentions which should nonetheless be dropped before we get more than we bargained for.

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