In Washington, DC some advocates of government power are hopelessly naive about the dangers of enhanced government power, while others are basically deceptive about it. Sometimes, it’s simply difficult to tell the difference. A recent article jointly penned by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), extolling the virtues of a national identification card, illustrates the problem.
In an opinion piece that appeared recently in the Washington Post, ostensibly dealing with a subject almost everyone seems to agree on – immigration reform — Graham and Schumer joined forces to advocate for a “tamper-proof” ID card with biometric identifiers embedded in it, that would be required to be carried by every person in the country seeking work. Potential employers would be required to swipe each individual’s card through a machine in order to verify their identity and “immigration status” as a prerequisite to hiring them. In order to meet the objections that many millions of Americans have to being forced to carry a national ID card, the two senators write that there would be “no government database,” and that the card would contain no “private information” or “tracking devices.” In trying to convince us that an employment-verification national ID establishing identity and immigration status would not be linked to any government database, these two senators are exhibiting either gross naivity about how government works, or they are callously trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. Or perhaps both.
The fact of the matter is, if an identification card is to establish a person’s true and current immigration status, then by definition there must be a way to verify the information; otherwise it is pointless to require the card in the first place and there would be no way to be certain it had not been tampered with. Moreover, every single time the government — any government — has instituted an identification system, it has been accompanied sooner or later — and inevitably — with a database. In this digital age it is much easier than in the previous, analog data era to create, capture, store, manipulate, retrieve, share, and track data. Any notion that the government would not realize this, or would simply forego the ability to thus use important data, is ridiculous in the extreme.
In the case of Sen. Graham, it may be that he honestly — if naively — believes the government would spend billions of dollars developing a biometic-based employment-verification identification card, and then never link it to an electronic database in order to establish the validity and current status of the persons presenting the cards. Sen. Schumer, however, has never been accused of being naive, and I have never seen him exhibit the slightest evidence of being unwise to the ways of government. He is a clever man, and bright; and he has long been an advocate of enhanced government power. He certainly understands that a national identification card without being linked to some form of database would be as useless as a Blackberry without a telecommunications service provider.
Advocates of a national identification card have been hanging around the nation’s capitol for decades. Ronald Reagan abhored them in the 1980s when he was asked to support such a plan; Bill Clinton similarly opposed the notion in the next decade. Since 9/11, however, spurred especially by the administration of President George W. Bush and many Republicans and Democrats alike in the Congress, the idea of a national ID for “security” purposes has gained significant ground. Still, opposition to the idea by grassroots America has stalled the implementation of such projects as the REAL ID plan. Hopefully, this latest wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing move by Sens. Graham and Schumer, in which they gloss over one of the primary elements of a national ID, will be similarly and successfully opposed by the American people.