Senate approval of a national ID card this week offers a false sense of security for the American people and will cause more damage than good.
Under the Real ID Act, all United States citizens would be forced to obtain a federally approved ID card with machine-readable technology. The card would have to be shown everywhere from the airport to Amtrak.
Supporters of the bill, including the Bush administration, said the ID cards will target terrorist travel, stop illegal immigrants from obtaining drivers licenses and make America safer overall.
In reality, this bill, like the PATRIOT Act and homeland security measures before it, will limit responsible Americans’ liberty and do nothing to efficiently stop terrorism.
Terrorists can infiltrate the system and forge national ID cards. They’re terrorists. They can do that. Some young people know how easy it is to get a fake ID to get into clubs. This card would not be difficult for terrorists to acquire. After all, two of the 9/11 terrorists had valid Virginia drivers licenses in fake names. Unless some kind of forge-proof technology can be included in the cards, there is no real security measure to prevent those who shouldn’t have ID cards easy access to them.
A national ID card does not inspire confidence in the government’s real actions to protect the U.S. from terrorists. The card is a weak attempt to flex some bureaucratic muscle; but it’s all just an illusion of bronzer.
Even the bill’s supporters know how bad this legislation is. That’s why the bill was attached to an $82 billion war fund and tsunami relief legislation making it impossible for senators who know it’s a bad idea to vote against it. No one wants to go on record for voting against war funds and tsunami relief.
The bill would also give the federal government control over state drivers license laws. Currently, it is up to the states to regulate issuing drivers licenses. But under the national ID bill, all 50 states would need to do a comprehensive identity check on applicants and undocumented immigrants would not be eligible for licenses.
While an ID check on all individuals makes sense, the cost to run this federally mandated program will be extensive and it will be the taxpayers who have to pay for it. Who will check the ID cards once they are implemented? It will take a task force of extremely bored personnel to check our cards going into office lobbies, hospital waiting rooms and even shopping malls. Not only would this increase people’s impatience it could cause problems for those who misplace their cards.
People will get sick of the check-ins and forget or lose their cards. Guards will make mistakes. And for what? A plastic card that gives us authority to travel or go about the daily routines we have been doing for years. While low paid guards are checking ID cards, the big guys in intelligence who are supposed to be looking into social clues that lead to terrorist attacks will feel less pressure to remain alert.
This totalitarian response would seem to be a dangerous step toward military checkpoints at chain link posts outside of many destinations. Maybe the government should issue armbands. That would streamline the process and prevent the inevitable search through pockets and purses for one’s ID card. Just an armband showing our status as U.S. citizens. Right, that seems completely democratic.
Because they are machine-readable, these cards are also perfect electronic tracking devices. We don’t have to be terrorists to want some privacy from the government and know the importance of preserving that privacy.
Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Campus Times Editorial Board.