National IDs for everybody?

R. A. Hettinga rah at
Tue Oct 5 10:56:29 EDT 2004



 National IDs for everybody?

 By  Declan McCullagh

 Story last modified October 4, 2004, 12:01 PM PDT

Rep. David Dreier wants to force all Americans to carry a national ID card
around with them.

The California Republican is not about to describe his new bill in those
terms, but that's the reality.

 Dreier's legislation would prohibit employers from hiring people unless
the job applicants first obtain new federal ID cards with their photograph,
Social Security number and an "encrypted electronic strip" with additional
information. Any employer who fails to comply faces hefty fines and prison
terms of up to five years.

 Dreier is smart enough to realize that these federal IDs would be
immediately forged, so he takes the next step of linking them to an
employment eligibility database that's queried by card readers whenever the
ID is swiped. The employment database is required to include "all such data
maintained by the Department of Homeland Security," combined with what the
Social Security Administration has on file.

 Most all bills die without the dignity of a floor vote. But Dreier is a
rising star in the Republican Party with the influence to enact legislation

 As a chairman, he's one of the youngest to head the powerful House Rules
Committee, not to mention acting as co-chair of Californians for Bush and
chairman of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's transition team. In 1998, his
conservative voting record garnered a perfect 100 percent rating from the
Christian Coalition--and a zero percent rating from the left-leaning
Americans for Democratic Action. Last week, Dreier appeared on MSNBC as a
Republican spokesman before the presidential debate.

 Any employer who fails to comply faces hefty fines and prison terms of up
to five years.
 The ostensible reason Dreier gives for a federal ID: curbing illegal
immigration, the subject of a recent Time magazine cover story. "The
explosion in counterfeit identity documents and employers who are unable or
unwilling to establish the authenticity of documents presented by job
applicants severely undermines our national security," Dreier said when
introducing his bill, which he calls the Illegal Immigrant Enforcement and
Social Security Protection Act.

 The real reasons are slightly more complicated.

 Tight re-election campaign
 Dreier is used to commanding handsome victories at the polls every two
years over his Democratic rivals. But since 1996, Dreier's re-election
percentages have dipped below 60 percent a few times, and events in the
last month slammed the powerful Republican with a series of embarrassing
pre-Election Day setbacks.

 First came allegations in the LA Weekly newspaper and the New York Post
that Dreier, who has amassed a slew of anti-gay votes, is homosexual. Then
two local talk show hosts, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of KFI-AM 640,
became fed up with Dreier's stand on immigration.

 They organized a "Fire Dreier" rally on Sep. 15 on charges that illegal
immigrants from Mexico have wreaked havoc on California's economy. Held
outside Dreier's Glendora, Calif., office, it drew hundreds of protesters
armed with signs and bullhorns who called for a "political human
sacrifice," according to the Pasadena Star-News.

 The real problem with Dreier's plan is not that it creates an ID card.
Driver's licenses do that today.
 Conservative publications continued the attack--a worrisome sign for a
Republican who won't deny wanting to be speaker of the House someday.
WorldNetDaily columnist Jane Chastain wrote an article on Sept. 16
endorsing the Fire Dreier scheme: "It will leave congressmen, who have done
little or nothing to help stem the tide of illegal immigrates, quaking in
their boots."

 The upshot? Just hours before the Fire Dreier protest, the embattled
congressman informed the Claremont Kiwanis Club that he would introduce his
national ID bill. Six days later, Dreier did just that.

 The real problem with Dreier's plan is not that it creates an ID card.
Driver's licenses do that today.

 But Dreier would create a back-end database for authentication purposes
that could track whenever the ID is swiped. Just as the Social Security
Number's uses grew, those readers would appear just about everywhere:
banks, office buildings, supermarkets. Such a database would overflow with
detailed records of all of our life's activities and create an irresistible
temptation for misuse by corrupt officials or electronic intruders.

 Dreier isn't alone. A Senate bill introduced last month in response to the
9/11 Commission's report would give the Department of Homeland Security
unfettered power to regulate state drivers' licenses and ID cards. The
House version takes a similar approach.

 Both measures say federal agencies will only accept licenses and ID cards
that comply--a requirement that would affect anyone who wants to get a U.S.
passport, obtain Social Security benefits, or even wander into a federal
courthouse. States would be strong-armed into complying. Warns Barry
Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union: "Congress shouldn't be
providing a blank check to the Department of Homeland Security to design a
national driver's license."

 It's not just a liberal sentiment. Says Stephen Lilienthal, a policy
analyst at the conservative Free Congress Foundation: "Many conservatives
have expressed concern that proposals such as the Dreier bill are placed on
the books with a limited set of objectives but will expand bit by bit to
include all sorts of other information and be monitored constantly by the
government to keep track of individuals from cradle to grave."

 Dreier should take note. Talking loudly about ID cards may boost his
re-election bid next month, but voters won't be pleased when they've
figured out what it actually means.

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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