Friday, January 11, 2008

REAL ID, really Big Brother.

According to the AP, congressional staffers were briefed by DHS yesterday on the agency's new rules for the REAL ID driver's license that everyone born after Dec. 1 1964 will have to have by 2014 to be able to enter a Federal building or board a plane.

The new rules stem from the REAL ID Act of 2005 which is "designed to make it harder for terrorists, illegal immigrants and con artists to obtain government-issued identification," AP reports. Naturally, because if every good American has a national ID card, only the terrorists and illegal immigrants, who are basically the same thing, won't have one. Michael Chertoff says "this is a win-win. As long as people use driver's licenses to identify themselves for whatever reason, there's no reason those licenses to be easily counterfeited or tampered with." Yeah, that makes sense. [That "for whatever reason" line, though, is a bit ominous.]

What I don't understand is what people who don't drive are supposed to do. It seems that little by little, the number of things most Americans used to take for granted they had a right to do, regardless of economic status, without showing ID every single time are quickly dwindling. Even the franchise, which I thought is pretty much a fundamental right enshrined in the constitution, is no longer assured without providing ID.

Not to worry, though, states that have balked at the cost of these new rules have been assured by Chertoff that these new procedures "will be inexpensive, reasonable to implement, and produce results." DHS has scaled down the cost from $14.6 billion to just $3.9 billion for the states. Whatever happened to all the "state's rights" types in the Republican Party who scream bloody murder every time the federal government threatens the sovereignty of the several states?

I guess abortion and voting rights are the only things they're really concerned with after all. When it comes to the feds horning in on a state's right to issue a driver's license, to basically dictate what the state can and can't do.

The ACLU points out that:

"Real ID is a federal takeover of the state DMVs. The regulations dictate details of DMV operations in a range of areas. Everything from the color of the card background to the fonts used on the card’s face must conform to the federal standard, requiring states to overhaul their systems completely."

But the state's rights-types are perfectly OK with it as long as it's not too expensive.

What we're talking about here is the federal government saying you can't drive, travel or even enter a federal building -- something that you've paid for with your taxes -- without a national ID card. Sounds kind of like NAZI Germany where you couldn't even walk down the street without having a cop come up to you and ask "where are your papers?"

The scariest thing about these news cards is that the states will be sharing all your personal information with any number of federal agencies. No potential there for abuse! My God, you want the same government that brought you FEMA to be compiling all you information into one national ID? I read today that the FBI got their domestic spying wire-taps cut off because they couldn't pay their phone bill. How many different federal agencies have lost the SS#'s of millions of Americans in the past few years? Do you really want to trust these bozos to secure all your most vital information?

Instead of worrying about an illegal immigrant voting or a terrorist getting his hands on a driver's license, we should be worrying about a terrorist or a hostile country getting their hands on the personal information of every American, thoughtfully provided by the REAL ID Act.

A lot of older folks worry about someone getting their SS# if they buy something on the internet or go to the trouble of tearing up their credit card receipts before they throw them in the trash, but in today's world of global banking and the internet, why would any crook bother going through someone's trash when they can cull zillions of bits of information simply hacking into a bank's computer system or the Social Security Administrations?

It would appear the government is aware of this as well, they're not as stupid as they let on. The more cynical of us out there might conclude the real reason behind this push to burden every American with the yoke of a national ID card has more to do with controlling our every movement.

You want to travel; they know where you're going. You want to rent an apartment, buy a house, a big screen TV, some fixing for dinner down at the local super market, vote? Got your READ ID? No? Sorry you're out of luck.

And why even bother with such a bulky thing such as a card? It could get damaged, lost, or stolen. What about we just inject a microchip into everyone's finger, say? We already do it for our pets and some really stupid people even Lo-Jack their kids, why not make everyone get one? Talk about convenience!

Don't make everyone wait at a checkout line while your fumble for your cash or fast cash card, just swipe the microchip reader with your finger! Such a card could even monitor your cholesterol level and let you know if you're about to have a heart attack. Naturally, the government would know your every movement, even what your blood pressure is, but if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about, right?

Published in the Inquirer Letter's to the Editor section 1/18/07


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