Your Papers Please: The United States Adopts a National ID Card And Abandons Priniciples

With states and citizens objecting, the Congress and the Bush Administration have moved ahead to require a national identification card — abandoning decades of opposition to such a system on civil liberties grounds. I testified against this proposal when it was first made in the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. What is truly remarkable is that the REAL ID has become little more than an excuse to do something that the Bush Administration has been trying to do for years: create interlocking databases on citizens.

When I testified against this bill in Congress at its first proposal in 2001, it was clearly a response to 9-11 when members could think of nothing else to show how serious they were about security. Indeed, I recall that one of their main witnesses sitting to my left pulled out his wallet to show how many different identification cards he already had — stating that he did not see why he should not have another. I have been a long critic of the cards on civil liberties –as well as practical–grounds. For a prior column, click here

What is particularly galling is that the card has been watered down to reduce costs for the states. So that main selling point — a micro chip — has been removed. This is one of the reason that the card programs has been reduced in cost by roughly 75 percent from $14.6 billion to $3.9 billion. Now anyone born after 1964 (I missed the cut-off thankfully) will have to get a new REAL ID to get into federal buildings or to fly. There is no evidence at all that such an id would have stopped the 9-11 terrorists. There wallets were filled with valid ids. The point of 9-11 is that these terrorists included “sleepers,” terrorists who stayed within the country and laid low until the time for the attack. It would be an easy thing for a sleeper agent to get one of these cards.The real purpose of the card program was to get Congress to allow the Administration to allow the use of a massive data bank system checking and monitoring citizens. Private information on citizens will now be passed from agency to agency. The Administration has long sought what is called “total transparency.” For a prior column, click here

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who unveiled final details of the REAL ID Act’s rules on Friday, said that if states want their licenses to remain valid for air travel after May 2008, those states must seek a waiver indicating they want more time to comply with the legislation.Chertoff said that in instances where a particular state doesn’t seek a waiver, its residents will have to use a passport or a newly created federal passport card if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.” The last thing I want to do is punish citizens of a state who would love to have a REAL ID license but can’t get one,” Chertoff said. “But in the end, the rule is the rule as passed by Congress.”

I don’t know anyone who seriously wants a Chertoff card, but there must be a few such citizens. However, his point about Congress is valid. Once again, how could Democrats allow this to go through without even an attempt at a filibuster? The answer is the same we have heard on torture, unlawful surveillance and the rest. Members simply did not want to be politically vulnerable in being seen as soft on terrorism. However, from that first hearing, it was clear that this was conceived as a political rather than a security measure. In the hearing itself, members and witnesses said “we must do something.” That something, it turned out, was to abandon our long opposition to national identification cards so that our politicians could claim to be tough on terror.Given the opposition from both blue and red states, the question is whether our leaders will now feel enough personal political cover to do the right thing and suspend this program.

For the full story, clickhere

13 thoughts on “Your Papers Please: The United States Adopts a National ID Card And Abandons Priniciples”

  1. I have not found much on JT’s blawg regarding Chertoff and specifically the damage he is doing to our southwestern border, so to highlight the problem, I posted to this Real ID thread about the woman who was arrested 4 days ago for civil disobedience.

    Including the Endangered Species Act, Chertoff waived 36 federal laws causing environmental damage and “the federal government has filed more than 300 condemnation lawsuits against South Texas landowners to make way for portions of the 670 miles of fencing it is building along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

    A 55-year-old-woman who is a retired Army sergeant major with no previous troubles with the law committed the civil disobedience.

    “After successfully blocking construction of the US-Mexico border wall for 7 hours on December 17, Judy Ackerman was handcuffed and led away from the construction site.”

    “The Real ID Act gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to waive any federal, state, or local law that might slow down construction of the wall. No one else, not even the president, has this sweeping power. On April 1, 2008, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff “waived in their entirety” 36 federal laws all along the southern border, including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. There is only one reason to waive these laws: Chertoff knows that the border wall cannot be built without violating them. His waiver is an implicit admission that constructing the border wall means breaking the law.”

    More here:

    “U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen set the stage for a series of trials to begin in March with his order signed Wednesday. While the trials will be *restricted to determining how much the government pays landowners for the property,* it gives Texas landowners their first opportunity to take an issue related to the border fence before a jury.”

    I have almost as much disdain for Chertoff as I do for Bush/Cheney and Congress’ giving 1 person the “the power to waive any federal, state, or local law” is unprecedented and unconscionable. Congress’ actions demonstrate what happened when there was an unthinking reaction to the fear mongering and lies spread by the Bush Administration.

  2. At issue in all of this is what compelling state interest is served in collecting the kind of comprehensive data (typical of SF 85 background checks)on people who are not in federal employment? Fourth Amendment issues may not be raised, but howabout 5th Amendment issues? Can one opt out of inclusion in such a database? And what consequences would there be to opting out if allowed?

    The Ninth Circuit recognizes an “informational privacy” right..are they correct?

  3. Well, to counter my pessimism, there’s always the 9th Circuit which struck a blow for privacy Friday in Nelson v NASA.

    Go up to the 9th Circuits’ site for the opinion: the link is too long to post here.

  4. Rumbles and rumors of war…..

    All is not as it seems and the real ID is not the worst thing that can befall us.

    But its pretty bad.

    As Professor Turley points out, its not the card so much as it is the interlocked database that will undergird the card. We’ve been trying to stop the TIA initiative for twenty years now, and it looks like we are going, in the end, to lose.

    The fight for privacy is really over…all that is left is to negotiate the surrender terms. And I don’t say that with any glibness or satisfaction.

    What is worse than the real id and its comprehensive database?

    Well, the future PRIVATIZATION of that database: think Choicepoint raised to the 10th power.

    Congress fails to anticipate the predictable trajectory and the truly disastrous consequences.

  5. watajob

    The entirety of the answer to that question has made for several books in recent years and is likely to spawn more once this gang of thugs is out of power and we begin to get access to the whole truth. In brief, though, it’s been done through a combination of things. Primary is the instilling in America a constant state of fear so that laws could be passed, changed or ignored to suit the goals of the NeoCons.

    Remember also that some of the in-the-streets protests you mentioned were done by us baby boomers as war protests. There are at least two significant differences twixt then and now. Many of my 58 year old contemporaries who screamed for justice and peace have become the fat cat greedy establishment and steady Rush Limbaugh listeners.

    Also, by the administration running its invasion and occupation of Iraq with a combination of regular volunteer army soldiers, over-deployed National Guard troops, and a huge cadre of outrageously expensive mercenaries (e.g. Blackwater)and privatized supply chain contractors (i.e. Haliburton, etal.), they didn’t institute a DRAFT. They knew a draft would touch far more families, as it did during Viet Nam, and would lead to protests. This way they can claim all the troops volunteered for service.

    Never mind that to meet its manpower requirements (cannon fodder), the military has recruited poor young people from Mexico and other countries even offering posthumous citizenship to entire families if the recruit is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. It has dramatically lowered its standards in the US by allowing convicted felons (drug and violence convictions are now OKAY) and have had to pay up to $40,000 for re-enlistment bonuses.

    So they’ve minimized the exposure of the travesty of combat for the larger population. If you or your kid aren’t directly threatened with dying for these lies, you or your kid is less likely to stand up and say: “Hell no, we won’t go”.

    Why do Republicans hate America so?

  6. My question is how has the government managed to anesthetize the whole country? Where did everyone go? People filled the national mall in DC to overflowing on multiple occasions. Were beaten and maced in Chicago. Shot and killed in Ohio. Yet now, the notion of public protest is viewed as “quaint”? Marshal law is being imposed, one drop at a time, and the REALID story rates about 60 seconds and a yawn from the national media. “In a developing story, reports Britney has developed a severe case of flatulence …” Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite, where have you gone? We hardly knew ye’! 🙁

  7. Jonathan,

    I just read the story of the couple in D.C. who were asked to leave a federal building because their T-Shirts said, “Impeach Bush and Cheney.” What do we have to do to get our country back? Why aren’t our federal employees schooled on the concept of free speech? Come to think of it, why isn’t our President schooled on the concept of free speech? If the couple sues, do you believe they have a good case? If not, why not? If so, is there anything we “common folk” can do to help restore our rights? This is clearly and totally OUT OF HAND!!!

  8. Thanks Mr. Turley, I can’t believe what is happening to our once great nation. It all goes back to PNAC and their hoping for another Pearl Harbor so that they can destroy the constitution thruogh fear mongering. If they had it their way, the Japanese wouldn’t have been interred, they would’ve been rounded up and either deported, or executed. These people are one scary bunch. And, who decided that terrorists are only born after 1963? I think that some of the 911 boys were just that, boys born after 1963. So how does this help us?

  9. I quoted Bush before and I’ll do it again.
    “They hate us for our freedom”

    This is the new strategy.

    “Not any more!”

  10. Hello,

    I would say that the reason Congress allowed this to pass through, is not because they don’t want to appear soft—-it’s because they are truly on the same page. They just don’t advetise that.

    Thanks for the posting. Very much.

  11. “Giff me your pepperz”, is exactly wha I was thinking while watching Herr Chertikoff. This administration has missed no opportunity to squeeze the life out of our once revered civil rights. As we continue to act like a third world country (and a dictatorship at that), we are teaching the world to see us as such. Perhaps their plan to stem the tide of illegal immigration is to make the United States no more attractive, from a human and civil rights standpoint, than, say, Uzbekistan.

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