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Shred National ID Idea

Shred National ID Idea
By J. Bradley Jansen
November 23, 2001

We shredded our “Larry Cards” on November 16th when I spoke in front of the Capitol at the National ID Shred In. The event was organized by Marc Rottenberg of EPIC. Lori Cole of Eagle Forum also spoke. Larry Cards were cards humorously purporting to represent what a national identification card might look like. They were dubbed “Larry Cards” because they had the picture, name, etc. of Larry Ellison, the most prominent supporter of the idea-of course, he’s also promoting his company, Oracle, at the same time.

The other speakers and I took turns shredding our Larry Cards for the press and other onlookers in our mini paper shredders. Not only was the event a lot of fun but it helped illustrate the problems with the cards the broad left-right opposition to a national ID.

I am encouraged by the leadership of other defenders of liberty and responsible government such as Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Bob Barr (R-GA) who have prevented an effective national ID taking effect as a result of the immigration reform bill a few years ago. I am also encouraged by the recent comments of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who said that he would probably vote against it if there were a popular vote.

According to James Bamford, author of the only books on the National Security Agency, 9-11 was the greatest failure of intelligence in the history of this country. What is needed most in this country is for us to remedy the decline of professionalism and resulting scandals of our law enforcement and intelligence communities that we experienced under the Clinton years.

We should not be distracted from this fact when we hear excuses about a lack of tools or antiquated laws. It is far from clear that these national ID proposals will be effective in preventing tragedies such as we experienced on September 11th. The closest thing we have to a national ID in this country now is our passport. However, it was reported that one of the highjackers of 9-11 used a stolen passport. The rightful owner notified authorities responsibly. Apparently, the State Department does not keep a list of passports that are reported stolen because this innocent man was named as a suspected terrorist.

Forgeries and other problems would also limit the usefulness to law enforcement.

A national ID would impose a huge unfunded mandate on the states that would have to pay for its compliance. Such a financial cost would only add insult to injury such a mandate would cause to our respect for federalism. Just look at the cost overruns of the “dead-beat dads” database with all of its problems.

This misallocation of resources is not unusual where law enforcement follows an approach of mass surveillance of everyone all the time instead of focusing its resources to focus on the real threats to this country. We need to redirect those resources to hire agents that know the languages, the cultures and try to infiltrate the identified groups that threaten us.

Turning to a national ID runs the risk that it will be used for unacceptable purposes. History is full of such examples such as religious prosecution: not just the Nazis and the Jews, but the military junta in Greece imposed religious identification that was not repealed for many years. Perhaps there are some who want to copy the success of the internal pass cards used under Apartheid. I’m sure others find the example of the Soviet Union a better example to follow. Most realistically, such a scheme would create problems with identity fraud and other misuses of data:
*Former Chicago Police Department Chief of Detectives William A. Hanhardt looked up the driver’s license, car registration, and other information concerning jewelry salesmen on department computers and the NLETS system (a non-profit corporation organized by state law-enforcement agencies) to run an elaborate jewelry-theft ring;
*Former FDIC employee Theresa Hill used data for which she had access to commit identity fraud and charge tens of thousands of dollars to credit cards in other peoples’ names;
*IRS employees look up information about celebrities;
*A Financial Crimes Enforcement Agency (FinCEN) employee used his access of banking and other personal records for independent research about his girlfriend’s mother; and
*Michigan State Detective Sgt. Artis White earned the dubious distinction of being named the National Consumer Coalition Privacy Group’s ( ) first Villain of the Week for allegedly stalking his estranged wife using Michigan’s Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN).

Our first priority should be to hold our nation’s finest to the highest of standards of professionalism as our best way of having a safe and secure country. We should shred this national ID proposal and put in the trashcan of bad ideas where it belongs.