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
Name withheld by request