If we're treated like a number, we're property

By Vin Suprynowicz

Lisa S. Dean, Director of the Center for Technology Policy at the Free Congress Foundation writes:

"I recently traveled in Russia where, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union, every citizen is still required to have an internal passport on his person at all times. If the citizen is ever stopped and asked for proper identification and fails to produce his internal passport, there are serious consequences.

"We in the United States always prided ourselves on the fact that we had no such internal controls. When Social Security was first debated in the Roosevelt Administration, the president himself assured American citizens that a Social Security number would never be used for
identification purposes."

But on June 17, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued proposed new rules requiring all citizens to obtain a driver's license containing a Social Security number by Oct. 1, 2000 -- previous federal enactments already require this ID card to include such "biometric identifiers" as a digitized thumbprint on a magnetic strip -- and requiring the states to verify those numbers with the Social Security Administration.

"Without that license," Ms. Dean warns, "citizens will no longer be eligible for health care, or employment, to conduct bank transactions, to board an airplane, purchase insurance, will be ineligible for a passport and so forth. Any medical provider who takes care of you if you don't have this card will forfeit any reimbursements from federal medical programs. Fat chance that you can get medical care under these rules."

Meantime, The Orange County Register reported on June 24: "Immigration and Nationalization Service officials (on June 23) unveiled INSPASS, a high-tech identification system that checks a person's biometrics -- such as hand and retina scans -- for the purposes of getting frequent travelers quickly through Customs.

"Both (INSPASS and the nationalized 'driver's license') are part of a growing trend that is unhealthy in a free society -- the federal government amassing more and more information about individual citizens in centralized databases," the California daily noted in its June 24 editorial. "And this isn't a government that can be trusted with such data. Congress has been holding hearings on the abuses of taxpayers by the IRS, in which agents intimidated taxpayers and in some cases sold private tax data. The Clinton administration also is being investigated for inappropriately using the FBI files of 900 persons."

When Congress took an up-or-down vote on a national ID card during the recent immigration debates, our representatives emphatically rejected such a requirement, reports Ms. Dean of the Free Congress Foundation (sister think tank to Washington's Heritage Foundation.) But "That never stops either those who would destroy our liberty in Congress or in the Clinton Administration.

"God help you if your name gets messed up in the computer," Ms. Dean warns. "You might bleed to death before you get medical treatment. You might be denied that new job you worked so hard to get."

Ms. Dean only concentrates on (highly likely) government foul-ups. The more ominous question with a national personal tracking system is what happens if some bureaucrat with time on his hands decides to cross-reference "registered gun owners" with people who write "anti-government letters"

Adds Cold War scholar Dave Wren of Chicago: "My first serious political discussions took place in the 1940s with DP's (Displaced Persons.) Chicago back then was filled with DP's from every part of Europe. All had one thing in common, a burning hate for the political system that had forced them to leave their homeland, homes and family. Each hated the USSR and its socialism, built on internal passports, national identification documents, papers, pass cards and those blue ID numbers tattooed on some arms. Fifty years later Americans are being fitted with the same chains, Americans reach their hands out for the shackles...."

Not everywhere, fortunately.

Bobby Franklin, a first-term member of the Georgia House of Representatives, reports mandatory fingerprinting for Georgia was slipped through on the last day of the 1996 legislative session there, and that efforts to repeal it have since been stymied by consummate procedural chicanery.

Next door in Alabama, Franklin reports, "Their department of public safety just up and said, 'Hey guys, we're fingerprinting.' And there was such a public outcry against it that the department backed down and they're not fingerprinting. And we're very close to repealing, here. Our two major Republican candidates for governor this year are both saying they will issue an executive order banning our Motor Vehicle Department from fingerprinting."

In New Jersey, Patrick Poole (also of the Free Congress Foundation) writes that on June 29, "A coalition of Right/Left organizations turned back New Jersey's Gov. Christie Todd Whitman's 'AccessNJ' driver's license proposal in both the State Assembly and Senate."

The AccessNJ proposal would have created a 10-year "smart card" drivers license that would have been required for all government programs and services, while authorizing banks, hospitals, schools, libraries, credit card and insurance companies to electronically store information on the drivers license as well.

Dr. Seriah Rein of Concerned Women for America -- one of the groups lobbying against the New Jersey proposal -- told Poole, "This is not an AccessNJ card; this is an access our privacy card."

Hearings were held on the New Jersey proposal on June 22, only days after the bills were introduced. In no state where attempts have been made to adopt the so-called "new drivers license" have the proponents invited any study and orderly debate. In Georgia, in Alabama, in New Jersey, every move to adopt this "National ID Card" has been run through under cover, often in the hectic, closing days of a legislative session.

And (with the notable exception of New York Times columnist William Safire, last Jan. 8) the "Mainstream Media" has been all too happy to go along with any scheme touted as likely to help corner "deadbeat dads" ... blithely declining to cover the issue, dismissing any protests as more paranoia from the kind of "anti-government nuts" who simply can't appreciate the lovely efficiency of it all.

So it is now -- not after such a Big Brother measure has already been adopted and we're told "Gee, there's nothing we can do" -- that residents of the remaining states must demand that their legislative and gubernatorial candidates pledge to resist any National ID card.

Those seeking more information may contact the Coalition to Repeal the Fingerprint Law, 5446 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Suite 133, Atlanta, GA 30341. (Web site http://www.atlantainfoguide/repeal/.)

Attorneys wishing legal background on precedents for opposition to this back-door attempt to give us all the electronic equivalent of a tattoo in the ear may want to review the June 22 "letter of objection" to USDOT by attorney Lowell H. "Larry" Becraft, of 209 Lincoln St., Huntsville, AL 35801, which I'm told can be tracked down on the web via http://www.efga.org, or http://www.networkusa.org/fingerprint.shtml.

"Our draft legislation says they're not allowed to use any biometric identifiers" -- thumbprints, retinal scans, whatever -- says Bobby Franklin of Marietta. "We hope if we can prevent them from instituting their program here in Georgia, that resistance will spread. No one wants to be chattel. If we're treated like a number, we're property."

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at vin@lvrj.com. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127

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