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Beware the 'lame duck' Congress

By Peyton Knight
web posted November 15, 2004

In the midst of all the election hoopla, one thing remains certain. Congress will return for a final, end-of-the-year session on November 15. This is the most dangerous time of the year -- a time when bad bills become bad laws with little fanfare from a distracted media and populace.

Adding to this dangerous mix is a "lame duck" Congress full of soon-to-be-former Representatives and Senators, eager to strike one last legislative blow before they pack their bags and leave. In short, this is the time of year when grassroots activists and champions of liberty must be most vigilant. Their activism is often times all that stands between tragedy and triumph.

Beware the lame duck Congress and beware the following four legislative nightmares that are targeted for passage in the dark of night.

National ID Card

Many issues are important, but this is the big one. We must stop the very real threat of a national identification card. John McCain has once again wandered off the reservation. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, he and many other Big Brother proponents in the House and Senate are pushing hard to pass a back-door, de facto, national ID program. The prospects here are downright frightening. McCain and his cohorts want to standardize state drivers' licenses at the federal level and link all state drivers' databases. This monstrous power-grab by the federal government would create the very real possibility of adding technology such as radio frequency identification chips to driver's licenses, thereby enabling Big Brother to track every movement a licensee makes.

We simply must make certain that "the McCain amendment" is stripped from both versions of the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act" -- Senate bill S. 2845 and House bill H.R. 10. The following facts about why a national ID program should be avoided at all costs are taken directly from an open letter to the House and Senate that the American Policy Center co-signed with over 50 other organizations.

A national ID will not prevent terrorism in the United States. According to Privacy International, of the top 25 terrorist targets since 1986, 80% have long-standing national identity card programs, and one-third of those countries have cards with biometric identifiers. In fact, the top target, Israel, has a national ID card that uses biometric identifiers on the card. Yet such cards have done nothing to stop devastating terror attacks on those nations.

Furthermore, identity cards tell nothing about an individual's intentions. Timothy McVeigh and the Beltway stalker would both have qualified for a national ID card.

Any form of identification can be counterfeited. Despite best efforts and anti-counterfeiting technology, the new $20 bill has been counterfeited. Even assuming a national ID card that is counterfeit-resistant, terrorists and criminals will spend any amount of money to either counterfeit the documents, or corrupt a government employee to issue a fraudulent identification. Creating a single national identification makes it much easier to counterfeit and steal someone's identity.

A national ID system would divert resources from more productive counter-terrorism measures. One estimate of the initial cost of such a program goes as high as $25 to $30 billion dollars, with another $3 billion to $6 billion per year to run it. Our limited resources could be better spent on increasing border security and dealing with the two-year backlog of intelligence needing to be translated at the FBI.

A national ID would depend on a massive bureaucracy that would limit our basic freedoms. A national ID system would depend on both the issuance of an ID card and the integration of huge amounts of personal information included in state and federal government databases. One employee mistake, an underlying database error rate, or common fraud such as identity theft, now rampant in the U.S., could take away an individual's ability to move freely from place to place or even make them unemployable until the government fixed their "file." Anyone who has attempted to fix errors in their credit report can imagine the difficulty of causing an over-extended government agency such as the department of motor vehicles to correct a mistake that precludes a person from getting a valid ID.  

A national ID would both contribute to identity fraud and make it more difficult to remedy. Americans have consistently rejected the idea of a national ID and limited the uses of data collected by the government. In the 1970s, both the Nixon and Carter Administrations rejected the use of social security numbers as a uniform identifier because of privacy concerns. A national ID would be "one stop shopping" for perpetrators of identity theft who usually use social security numbers and birth certificates for false IDs (not drivers' licenses). Even with a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint on each and every ID there is no guarantee that individuals won't be identified - or misidentified - in error. The accuracy of biometric technology varies depending on the type and implementation. And, it would be even more difficult to remedy identity fraud when a thief has a National ID card with your name on it, but his biometric identifier.  

A national ID could require all Americans to carry an internal passport at all times, compromising our privacy, limiting our freedom, and exposing us to unfair discrimination based on national origin or religion. Once government databases are integrated through a uniform ID, access to and uses of sensitive personal information would inevitably expand. Libraries could be pressured to use the ID instead of, or in addition to, library cards.

Law enforcement, tax collectors, and other government agencies would want use of the data. Employers, landlords, insurers, credit agencies, mortgage brokers, direct mailers, private investigators, civil litigants, and a long list of other private parties would also begin using the ID and even the database, further eroding the privacy that Americans rightly expect in their personal lives. It would take us even further toward a surveillance society that would significantly diminish the freedom and privacy of law-abiding people in the United States.

The national ID program has been put on a fast track to pass during the lame duck session.

National Heritage Areas

Heritage Areas are little more than federal zoning schemes. Federal money for Heritage Areas is administered through the National Park Service to radical preservation and conservation groups that are hell-bent on locking away anything and everything within the Heritage Area that they see fit. In other words, the Park Service teams up with local greens to take away YOUR private property rights. Once an area becomes a Heritage Area, local control over zoning and land use is lost. Period. To read more on the dangers of Heritage Areas, go to: http://www.americanpolicy.org/prop/natl-landgrab.htm.

These disastrous bills have passed the House and are currently awaiting action in the Senate. It is vital that property rights and limited government activists contact both of their Senators and tell them to vote NO on any and all National Heritage Area legislation. Each of the following Heritage Areas would be created in the state of the sponsoring Representative.

  • H.R. 280: The National Aviation Heritage Area -- sponsored by Rep. David Hobson (R-OH)
  • H.R. 1862: The Oil Region National Heritage Area -- sponsored by Rep. John Peterson (R-PA)
  • H.R. 1618: The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area -- sponsored by Denise Majette (D-GA)
  • H.R. 1798: The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area -- sponsored by Rep. Nancy Johnson
  • H.R. 4492: "To extend the authorization for certain national heritage areas." Proponents of Heritage Areas claim that federal funding and oversight is only temporary. As this bill shows, nothing could be further from the truth. H.R. 4492 would extend federal funding and oversight.
  • H.R. 4683: The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor -- sponsored by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
  • H.R. 3257: The Western Reserve Heritage Areas Study Act – sponsored by Tim Ryan (D-OH)

Rim of the Valley Land Grab

The "Rim of the Valley Corridor Study Act" (S. 347) seeks to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area by adding a corridor of all the mountains surrounding the San Fernando Valley, La Crescenta Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, Simi Valley and Conejo Valley in California.

It has already passed the Senate, and could come up for a vote in the House at any time.

This is part of the giant plan promoted by the Park Service, the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlands Project for a nationwide series of corridors linking all the parks and forests in the United States. This has the potential for a massive takeover of National Forest and other Federal lands by the Park Service.

You can see a map by going to http://www.landrights.org. This map was produced by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. They have deliberately tried to hide the full impact of S. 347 by how they have shaded the areas in the map. They call it a corridor but it actually surrounds huge swaths of land.

Property rights activists must not dismiss this just because it is in California. The "study" area will encompass 491,518 acres. That is nearly three and a half times the size of the existing Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area that is 153,750 acres and over two thirds the size of Yosemite. All of that in an urban area, and over 206,000 of those acres are private property.

S. 347 will put a circle of Park Service control around tens of thousands of landowners. Anyone familiar with how the Park Service works knows that is the beginning of ratcheting down the regulatory controls and land acquisition. They want it all eventually.

The corridor areas will be like a series of giant nooses put around the necks of the many communities in the encircled areas. Economic and social activities will be greatly inhibited. Access people now take for granted will be lost forever. Frankly, the Park Service has a record of being a very bad neighbor.

The Rim of the Valley land grab would cost over $2 billion, making it the most expensive park in American history.

Invasive Species

If you have foreign weeds, grass, trees, or shrubs on your property (and you most certainly do) you're in trouble. Under "Invasive Species" provisions currently sitting in the Senate's version of the Federal Transportation Bill (S. 1072), your property could quickly become the target of radical environmentalists and bureaucrats.

Imagine the Endangered Species Act on steroids. Now multiply its devastating effect on property rights by ten. That should give you a pretty good idea of what "Invasive Species" legislation will mean for property owners in every state, county, and city in this nation. "Invasive Species" is the radical greens' and international socialists' key to controlling every square inch of land in the United States.

This nightmare all began when Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13112 in 1999, creating an "Invasive Species Council" to monitor and control "alien species." What are alien species? According to Clinton's Order, "alien species means, with respect to a particular ecosystem, any species, including seeds, eggs, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species, that is not native to that ecosystem."

Most agricultural crops and animal species clearly fall within the definition of "alien." Domesticated pets, many houseplants, and Kentucky bluegrass used in most lawns and golf courses would also be defined as alien species. Indeed, this is all the Greens and their allies in the federal government need to control most land in the U.S.

Think the Invasive Species monster can't get any worse? It already has. In 2001, the Invasive Species Council issued a management plan that states: "Council member agencies will work with Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) and other relevant bodies to expand opportunities to share information, technologies, and technical capacity on the control and management of invasive species with other countries, promoting environmentally sound control and management practices."

And just what is the Global Invasive Species Programme? A quick trip to the GISP website reveals it is:

  • The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)
  • The United Nations Environmental, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The International Union for the Protection of Nature
  • DIVERSITAS: An International Programme of Biodiversity Science (another UNESCO project)

It's very easy to see how Invasive Species legislation will open the door to almost total federal and international control over private property in the United States. And that's why greens in the Senate are trying to sneak it in the Federal Transportation Bill -- without proper debate during a lame duck session.

Both the Senate and the House have already passed their respective versions of the Federal Transportation Bill, and are currently conferencing to put forth a single bill. Fortunately, the House version of the Federal Transportation Bill does not include any Invasive Species language. But the Senate version does.

S. 1072 contains provisions that allow for government to control your land using Invasive Species policy. Specifically, it would give the Department of Interior the power to decide which plants, animals, fish, birds and insects are "invasive." Once it's discovered your property is home to an invasive species, the feds will have all the justification they need to oversee, manage, and regulate your property.

These are the bills that Congress didn't have the courage to pass before Election Day. Again, when you couple the current electoral distractions with the lame duck status of many sitting Representatives and Senators, you get a get a perfect storm that produces bad legislation. Now is not the time to be distracted. It is the time to be as persistent and vigilant as possible.

Peyton Knight is the Executive Director of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia. The Center maintains an Internet site at www.americanpolicy.org. © American Policy Center 2004

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