In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens says of the days of the French Revolution, “It was the best if times, it was the worst of times…” The same could be said of the policies and proposals being considered in response to the kamikaze attack upon the United States by fanatical Islamic terrorists.
While the Bush administration is to be commended for taking steps to address the oozing international threats allowed to fester over the course of the past several presidencies, the President would be wise to gauge with a degree of skepticism the crackpot schemes crawling out of the woodwork in the rush to formulate a response to this profound tragedy befalling the nation.
Often the shackles of tyranny do not initially appear as binding chains, but rather as a comforting blanket designed to take the chill out of the concerns of the moment. It is only after more careful reflection that they are revealed for what they really are.
One proposal being bantered about to placate fears regarding terrorism is the possibility of implementing a national ID card. Such a system could result in concealed repercussions those calling for this system are reluctant to discuss.
Before Americans could find the time to organize their thoughts and feelings regarding the nature and meaning of this profound calamity, a ream of so-called policy analysts and technology experts burst onto the national scene endeavoring to convince the American people as to our need for a national ID system.
Michael Cherkasky, president of Kroll, Inc. Security Consultants, told the New York Times that each American could be issued a computerized smart card allowing authorities to immediately ascertain the identity of individuals at specified security checkpoints. It’s argued these cards could cut down on crime and possibly prevent another terrorist attack.
What those clamoring for the implementation of this technology often fail to point out is that the drawbacks of the program likely outweigh any potential benefits.
These cards would provide more than name, address, and mugshot of their respective holders. The New York Times notes these computerized cards would collect information as to one’s location, financial activity, and just about any other kind of electronic information you could possibly imagine — including the speed at which you are traveling down the highway, according to the September 19th report.
Some of this stuff is none of the government’s business, even if there is a need to conduct a rigorous campaign against the threat of terrorism. Such a card would end up penalizing perfectly legitimate activities by bringing them to the attention of authorities.
For example, what’s going to happen to armchair scholars and researchers interested in the study of violent revolutionary phenomena from an academic social science perspective when these otherwise harmless bookworms check out a library book on terrorism or weapons of mass destruction? I should not be sent to jail for investigating a Tom Clancy novel detailing acts similar to those perpetrated by the September 11th terrorists.
Some may dismiss this as an overreaction, but it is not a farfetched scenario. During the late 1980’s, the FBI operated an intelligence program targeting the library records of readers daring to express a bibliographic interest in Eastern Europe. And as recently as the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, prosecutors sought to subpoena a list of the reading materials purchased by that particular bawdy intern.
Just think how much more widespread and incriminating such a program would be in an environment of heightened security with the information readily available in a single database. Frankly, if the stuff has been deemed appropriate enough to sit on a library shelf, it’s nobody’s business who checks it out, whether it’s the Pope and Billy Graham or Bin Ladin and Hussein themselves.
The problem is not so much that this information alone would be used to nab terrorists, saboteurs or other murderous malcontents, but rather that it would be used in pursuit of other liberty–inhibiting agendas aimed at social engineering.
For example, if all commercial transactions and economic exchanges are to be cataloged in a gargantuan database, what’s to stop the government from penalizing those of us who eat too many Big Macs or who buy more sugary snacks than we should at the local supermarket? What’s to stop the government from rationing gas or denying a car loan to individuals who bureaucrats deem to go on too many extraneous daytrips? Even worse, what’s to prevent this information from being used by employers and insurance companies against overweight or sickly employees or beneficiaries?
Of course, in the eyes of some, such concerns don’t really matter. Representative Mary Bono (whose primary qualification for office was having been married to Sonny) told CNSNews.com on September 20, 2001, “When we consider ourselves to be at war, people are going to have to recognize that some of our freedoms are going to be gone.”
You can rest assured though that, as with most of the statutory impositions it inflicts upon the American people, Congress will no doubt weasel its way into exempting itself from many of the proposed counter-terrorism measures, since (in its own eyes at least) our representatives are too important to be confined by such rigors. Bet the likes of Ted Kennedy or Barney Frank will never endure the humiliation of being tossed in a jail cell and body cavity searched (something Frank might enjoy, on second thought) or have their life savings confiscated thanks to a glitch occurring in this technology, which some will no doubt imbue with near-religious infallibility and reverence.
This proposed system of ID has very little to do with preventing terrorism and everything to do with imposing yet another layer of bureaucratic control upon the lives of the American people. Such a conclusion is borne out by the positions taken by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt regarding specific proposals designed to stem the tide of terrorist violence.
Enthusiastically endorsing the need for a national ID system, this Congressional leader is reported by Matt Drudge as saying, “We are in a new world. This event will change the balance between freedom and security.” Yet this Missouri Democrat has no intention of tipping the scales in favor of security when it comes to saving lives, as Gephardt vociferously opposes plans to arm pilots to defend against highjackers.
The attitude of the British government regarding the ID issue is particularly revealing. While at one time standing as one of the few defenders of liberty in the world, Great Britain now speaks with a duplicity that would make the Soviet Union cringe.
While purporting to be a totally voluntary program, the British Sunday Mirror reports that without an ID, its subjects there cannot board an airplane, buy gasoline (as if that will do anything to stop terrorism), open a bank account, or get a job. Such draconian stipulations remind us of that chilling passage in Revelation 13:17 foreboding: “…no man might buy or sell, save he have the mark.”
Matt Drudge also quotes British Home Secretary David Blunkett as saying on the BBC that we cannot be hamstrung by an excessively “legalistic” interpretation of human rights. In other words, we are going to end up losing our most fundamental constitutional axioms when “Congress shall make no law” no longer means Congress shall make no law.
All that said, the blame does not lie solely with those holding public office or employed in the allied policy professions such as media or public interest research. At present, President Bush wisely concluded that a national ID would have negligible impact in curbing terrorism. However, such discernment stands in marked contrast to the nearly 70% of those polled by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press clamoring for this technology, ready to trade away their birthright of liberty like Esau for a pottage of illusory security.
What do the panic stricken think will be solved by electronic security cards? How is it going to prevent another round of mass murders? Most of the attackers and those aiding in this atrocity were foreigners of dubious moral backgrounds to begin with and should have never been let in in the first place.
It’s also argued that a national ID would produce the spin-off benefit of curbing all forms of illegal immigration, not just those with a propensity towards suicidal martyrdom. With the concessions made to multiculturalism over the past several years and the obsequious praise lavished upon certain immigrant groups for undermining traditional American culture, does anyone honestly believe that the U.S. government will use these ID’s as a catalyst to deport illicit émigrés?
As is being done at certain banks that waive documentation requirements to allow illegals to open special accounts and in states granting them drivers’ licenses, the Federal Government will probably grant the ID’s willy-nilly, without any proof of legality whatsoever, to members of certain ethnic groups with whom politicians of either party are rushing to curry favor. Just don’t get caught on an airplane if you happen to belong to a group without the same degree of clout in the voting booth.
To put it bluntly, the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks were partly the fault of a number of government agencies and certain components of the travel industry in the sense of their failing to exercise proper vigilance against threats they very well knew existed. Immigration authorities should have barred this human slime from desecrating the sovereign soil of the United States. A number of other reports emphasized that traditional antagonisms between the FBI and the CIA might have prevented the flow of intelligence needed to foil such a plot and prevent such a cataclysmic loss of life. Other than tightening security at transportation centers, certain government buildings, and clamping down on the riffraff crossing the borders, there is no reason to punish the American people for a shortcoming not their own.
Benjamin Franklin once noted that those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security. The terrorists have succeeded in taking away our sense of security. Now there are those within the government and among the people who would take away our freedom as well.
By Frederick Meekins