Letter to the editor

Hearing testimony in the House on C-SPAN on a national identifier system was a chilling experience. It is particularly disturbing to see who is advocating for this system and to realize there is already a great deal of presumptive background activity for implementing such a system ["Congress hears national ID opinions," FCW.com, Nov. 19, 2001].

The collegial jocularity employed by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) belies the grave issues that underlie this initiative. Simpson's emphasis on semantics illustrates how crucial it is for citizens to understand the underlying implications of a threatened affront to their liberty — cleverly masked by euphemisms and misdirected emphasis.

Simpson decries a comparison of this initiative to the Nazis' use of tattoos as identifiers and says this is inappropriate. However, the tattooing of prisoners in wartime Germany probably has more relevance than Simpson cares to admit. A national ID card and a tattoo each tag an individual's identity to a database that can be politically manipulated.

Whether the indelible mark is artificially applied or exists as a unique "bio-identifier" — such as the pattern of an individual's retina, fingerprint, DNA or other characteristic marking — is not an important distinction. What Simpson wants to avoid is the comparison with an identifier system employed by a repressive government. The fact of an identity card is not so crucial as the attendant repressive systems that must be enacted to demand everyone carry it and display it upon demand.

Here is the crux of such an affront: Do we want to live in a country where routine roadblocks, checkpoints at state borders and "produce your mark on demand" tactics are employed?

Today, it may only be a question for Muslims or those who look Middle Eastern. Tomorrow, what guarantees will we have that such a system will not be used on Quakers, Rotarians or contributors to the wrong political candidate?

Name withheld by request

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