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Legislation that would stop the implementation of a national ID card
or number scheduled to be issued to all Americans beginning Oct. 1, 2000
has been introduced in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX, introduced the Freedom and Privacy Restoration
Act of 1999
on the floor of the
House last week to deal with what Paul’s press secretary, Michael
Sullivan, refers to as a “grievous intrusion” on American citizens by
the federal government. This “intrusion” includes the planned issuance
of a national ID card, the creation of a personal medical health
identifier number and the rampant use and abuse of the Social Security
number.

Paul said the act would prohibit the federal government from using
Social Security numbers as personal identifiers and would avert the
creation of any national ID cards for the purpose of monitoring,
overseeing or investigating citizens. It would repeal those sections of
the 1996 Immigration Act that had established federal standards for
state driver’s licenses (national ID card) as well as repeal those
sections of the Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
that require the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a
uniform standard health identifier.

“The Freedom and Privacy Restoration Act halts the greatest threat to
liberty today: the growth of the surveillance state,” said Paul. “Unless
Congress stops authorizing the federal bureaucracy to stamp and number
the American people, federal officials will soon have the power to
arbitrarily prevent citizens from opening a bank account, getting a job,
traveling, or even seeking medical treatment unless their ‘papers are in
order.’”

According to Paul, this “surveillance state” has already grown by
leaps and bounds over the past 50 years. Since the creation of the
Social Security number in 1935, nearly 40 congressionally authorized
uses of the Social Security number have been passed, and not one of them
has been for Social Security purposes. Voters in one of last year’s
elections may even recall experiencing one of Congress’ most recent
additions to the laws which force Americans to reveal their Social
Security numbers to participate in a Constitutionally guaranteed right
– the right to vote.

“Perhaps the most significant part of the Freedom and Privacy
Restoration Act is the section prohibiting the use of the Social
Security number as an identifier,” Paul said.

But many constituents are more concerned about the imminent threat of
a new number in their lives.

“My office has been inundated with calls from around the country
protesting the movement toward a national ID card and encouraging my
efforts to thwart this scheme,” Paul said.

When the national ID card is implemented, states won’t have a choice
as to whether or not they want to participate in the program. Although
issuance of driver’s licenses have long been the responsibility of the
individual states, the federal government would take over this
responsibility and design driver’s licenses so that they will also
function as the national ID card.

On the card will be digitized biometric information such as DNA
information, fingerprints and retina scans. The reason for the national
ID cards, according to proponents of the card, is to control illegal
immigration, but Sullivan believes that although there may be good
intentions behind the ID cards, in reality, they will only infringe on
privacy rights.

Similar in design to the national ID card is the medical health
identifier number. With this identifier, hospitals and government
officials would have access to a person’s entire medical history.
Although the principle is similar to medical bracelets and implants, the
big difference is that the individual won’t be able to choose the
information that is encoded within the medical health identifier number.

Although members of Congress have suggested that legislation be
passed that protects citizens’ rights by restricting access to personal
information without getting rid of identifiers, Paul believes the only
way to truly protect privacy rights of citizens is to forbid the
national government from using any kind of national IDs.

Although the deadline for a decision on this bill is at the end of
session of the 106th Congress, Sullivan said that anyone who wants to
voice an opinion about the bill should do so now. Social Security
numbers will also continue to be used as personal identifiers as long as
nothing is done to stop it.

Sullivan said that Paul and others are confident that the bill will
pass because they have yet to meet a “real person” that actually wants
the government to be able to conduct surveillance of its citizens.

“We certainly believe that if enough members of Congress hear from
their constituents, the bill will have no problem passing.”

Before the House of Representatives last Wednesday, Paul spoke about
his bill: “The primary reason why any action short of the repeal of laws
authorizing privacy violation is insufficient is because the federal
government lacks constitutional authority to force citizens to adopt a
universal identifier for health care, employment, or any other reason.
Any federal action that oversteps constitutional limitations violates
liberty because it ratifies the principle that the federal government,
not the Constitution, is the ultimate judge of its own jurisdiction over
the people. The only effective protection of the rights of citizens is
for Congress to follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice and ‘bind (the federal
government) down with the chains of the Constitution.’”

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