Wednesday, September 13, 2006

This Is Not a National Identification Card

Timothy LynchCato's Timothy Lynch has an excellent guide to the Newspeak of the "War on Terror" (via Bruce Schneier):

This Is Not a National Identification Card

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, some members of Congress openly proposed the idea of national identification cards as a way of enhancing the safety of the citizenry. Unlike the Patriot Act, that proposal seemed to be going nowhere fast. White House spokesman Jimmy Orr said President Bush “is not even considering the idea.” A few years later, the president abruptly reversed his position and quietly signed legislation that will, in effect, create a national ID card for Americans.

Because national ID cards are not very popular, proponents have discovered that the road to success requires doublespeak. That is, the ID proposal must be “repackaged” as something else. This is what happened. Last year Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which will ostensibly enhance the security of state-issued drivers’ licenses. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) stressed the point during hearings on the proposed legislation: “This [measure] is about state-issued driver’s licenses, not a national ID.” In fact, the REAL ID Act is a sweeping assertion of federal control over a traditional state function. The secretary of homeland security will now decide what forms of state-issued” ID will be acceptable to federal security personnel at federal facilities and airports. State policymakers are now scrambling to meet the federal government’s criteria.

Whether one supports or opposes the idea of a national identification card, the point here is that the merits and demerits should be discussed openly. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) blew the whistle on this egregious example of doublespeak when he urged his colleagues to be more forthright about what they were doing—instead of “pretending we are not creating national ID cards when we obviously are.”

No comments: