Friday, October 15, 2004

Liberty, Safety and Internal Passports 

This ran a few days ago in NYT under such an innocuous headline I overlooked it completely. Fortunately my local dead-tree news dispenser, Memphis Commercial-Appeal, did a better job and called it "National Drivers License or Internal Passport?" which caused me to dig it out and look again.

I wish the hair on the back of my neck would lie down, it's getting really uncomfortable and does nothing for my already peculiar appearance:

(via NYT)
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 - Following a recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission, the House and Senate are moving toward setting rules for the states that would standardize the documentation required to obtain a driver's license, and the data the license would have to contain.

The Senate version of the intelligence bill includes an amendment, passed by unanimous consent on Oct. 1, that would let the secretary of homeland security decide what documents a state would have to require before issuing a driver's license, and would also specify the data that the license would have to include for it to meet federal standards. The secretary could require the license to include fingerprints or eye prints.

The provision would allow the Homeland Security Department to require use of the license, or an equivalent card issued by motor vehicle bureaus to nondrivers for identification purposes, for access to planes, trains and other modes of transportation.

The bill does not give the department the authority to force the states to meet the federal standards, but it would create enormous pressure on them to do so.

Some civil liberties advocates say they are horrified by the proposal.

"I think it means we're going to end up with a police state, essentially, by allowing the secretary of homeland security to designate the sensitive areas and allowing this integrating screening system," said Marv Johnson, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.

If the requirement to show the identification card can be applied to any mode of transportation, he said, that could eventually include subways or highways, and the result would be "to require you to have some national ID card, essentially, in order to go from point A to point B."

James C. Plummer Jr., a policy analyst at Consumer Alert, a nonprofit organization based here, said, "You're looking at a system of internal passports, basically."

Representative Candice S. Miller, the Michigan Republican who drafted the license section of the House measure, said, "I don't think this is anything that should cause anyone concern."
Well, whew! I feel so much better now. If you haven't done anything wrong you have nothing to worry about, do you?

For details on how such documents have been used in the past, google "Soviet Union" and "internal passports."

Then google or otherwise access the works of T. Jefferson, B. Franklin, P. Henry and other such radicals on the topic of of liberty, security, and people getting what they deserve. Or get used to hearing the words from anybody in a uniform, "Let me see your papers."

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