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Thomas Jefferson (an apparent prophet) once said: “Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on the legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. For the conclusions of this war (of Independence) we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. The will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”
Imagine an America in which every citizen is required to carry a biometrically encoded identification card as a pre-condition for conducting any and all business.
There is a scene in “Demolition Man” in which Sly Stallone is awakened from a cryogenic imprisonment many years in the future. After thawing out, he realizes he has had a biometric subdermal bio-chip implant inserted in his head. The “ID” is used to authenticate everything from room access to food distribution.
Consider having your retina scanned every time you need to prove who you are. Think about having to carry a card containing your entire medical, academic, social, and financial history. Now, imagine that the bureaucrats, police officers and social workers have access to all that identification on our card. Finally, imagine an America in which it is illegal to seek any employment without approval from the United States government.
Science fiction? Radical right-wing paranoia? No. That’s the essence of recent legislation, the latest attempt by Congress to mandate a computer-driven, biometrically-verifiable national identification system. If enacted into law, this legislation would require the most comprehensive registration and tracking of American citizens by the federal government in history. Some experts have speculated that once the system envisioned is in place, the scope of the identity card could (arguably would) be expanded to include information of a highly personal nature, such as credit and spending history and medical, educational and social records.
Who dreamed up this Orwellian nightmare challenge to freedom? You can thank our Republocrat Congress led by California’s Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
This is not a first. Similar (unsuccessful) plans to create a national registry and tracking system were broached in the early ’80s by a powerful gaggle of government agencies brushing aside any concerns about personal privacy. The IRS, the State Department and the CIA (each for different reasons) craved a law which would require every American to carry a national ID card. There was a close call back in July 1981 endorsed by the Reagan Cabinet. However, it was stopped dead when Ronnie personally vetoed the idea on the grounds it was a massive invasion of privacy. And it WAS and IS.
In 1993, disguised as an immunization bill, Congress tried to register and track every American from birth, but that plan was neutered after tens of thousands of calls and letters from parents around the country. The most famous attempt to establish a national registry was in 1994 as part of the Clinton administration’s doomed Health Security Act.
Biometrics is the science of measuring unique physical or behavioral characteristics. In recent years, the technology which drives this science has evolved well beyond fingerprinting and dental records. The fact is, the technology is currently available to identify people by the length of their fingers, the pattern of their retinas, the sound of their voices, and the smell of their skin. Lawmakers are trying to incorporate advanced forms of this technology as part of the most comprehensive and insidious identification and info gathering plan in history.
I was recently criticized by some for a radio show I did on subdermal bio-chip implants. A listener, who became a subsequent guest, had been actively involved in developing the technology necessary to make these subdermal (under the skin) bio-chip implants work. You may have one already in your dog or cat. The military has toyed with using them in pilots to help in rescue, and parents are being conditioned to think they would be a great tool for tracking lost or stolen children. However, there are consequences to actions.
In May of 1995 the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration met for hearings called “Verification of Applicant Identity for the Purposes of Employment and Public Assistance.” Co-conspirators included Sen. Alan Simpson, and was attended by Teddy Kennedy, Feinstein and Jon Kyl. Robert Rasor, from the financial crimes division of the Secret Service, provided an explanation to the subcommittee of the emerging “biometrics” technologies role in personal identification: “The use of biometrics is the means by which an individual may be conclusively identified. There are two types of biometrics identifiers: physical and behavioral characteristics. Physiological biometrics include facial features, hand geometry, retinal and iris patterns, DNA and fingerprints. Behavioral characteristics include voice characteristics and signature analysis.”
Remember, Feinstein is at the core of this effort. She has been quoted as saying it is her intention to see Congress immediately implement a national identity system where every American is required to carry a card with a “magnetic strip on which the bearer’s unique voice, retina pattern, or fingerprint is digitally encoded.”
Back in 1996 the tragically flawed S.B. 269 tried to do a whole bunch of really nasty stuff. Such as:
- That the federal government create a national database containing information on all Americans and immigrants eligible to work in this country (S.B. 269, Sec. 111)
- That all Americans may be required to obtain a national identification device, like an ID card (S.B. 269, Sec 111(b)).
- Beginning in 1999, all employers must receive authorization from the national computer database before hiring any new employee — this does NOT apply to just immigrants. For every new employee, the company would be required to transmit each name and identification number via modem and then wait for the national database to respond with an authorization code. If the person’s name is not in the database, he/she cannot work (S.B. 269, Sec 111).
- All American children must register with the Social Security Administration by age 16. When they register, they must provide the agency with a “fingerprint or other biometrics data.” The agency would place the fingerprint “or other biometrics data” on the child’s birth certificate, hoping to make the birth certificate more fraud-resistant (S.B. 269, Sec. 116 (7)).
- In violation of the 10th Amendment, the Senate bill would create federal rules pertaining to the creation of drivers’ licenses and would unconstitutionally mandate that
- Social Security numbers be attached to the license; and that
- all drivers’ licenses “shall contain a fingerprint or other biometrics data” (S.B. 269, Sec 116(b)).
House Majority Leader Dick Armey called the national computer registry and move toward a national ID card “an abomination and wholly at odds with the American tradition of individual freedom.” Senator Spencer Abraham joined Armey in signing a letter denouncing the tracing system. In the New York Times, Jack Kemp wrote “An anti-privacy, anti-business, and anti-American approach is no way to run immigration policy.”
Big brother’s ability to collect information would be unprecedented. Personal information would be accessible to local agencies and anyone who claims to be an employer. The government would have to grant approval before a company enters into private employment contracts with a private citizen.
That was then … this is now: Bill Clinton’s Dept of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has begun to implement the Kennedy-Kassebaum health care law passed in 1996. This law mandates that “unique health care identifiers” be attached to every person’s medical record.
Congress has passed the terribly misnamed Collections of Information Anti-Privacy Act. This act gives the federal government the right to own and completely control a vast amount of information about you: your medical records, phone number and address, and “any other intangible material capable of being collected and organized in a systematic way.”
The Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) has notified all states that they must revoke your driver’s license after the year 2000 if it does not have your social security number on it. Although temporarily delayed, this noxious provision has not gone away … it is just hibernating.
I started this piece quoting Thomas Jefferson “Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless.” Boy, did he ever have that right.