Gephardt wants Congress to consider a national ID card.
September 18, 2001 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Gephardt wants Congress to consider a national ID card. As far as I can see, no bills have been introduced yet. The following quote from Gephardt makes it sound as though he has this in mind for everyone, not just foreigners in the US on Visas: "What kind of identity cards would we make citizens and others carry? Would they carry more information?"
posted by Potsy (28 comments total)
I would have to know more about the identity cards. We do need to safeguard our identities from anyone having access to our credit or medical records. I am for more visa control. Let's see what lies between the details and the propaganda.
posted by orava at 3:51 PM on September 18, 2001

I think the Driver's License is a "prime suspect" (hehe) and can easily be changed into a ID card. Every one already has one. Almost every one I asked had one. Age limits are always there, like in Pakistan one can get an N.I.C only when one is 18 years of age or older.

What needs to be captured on the Driver's license in order to convert it into a NIC ?

maybe a visa status field.. but hey, any one who goes through these procedures, visa status keeps changing every now and then.

a passport number for any ppl on US visas can solve that problem.

how about placing your social number on the drivers license. Isn't our social security number an all encompassing identifying number ???
posted by adnanbwp at 3:52 PM on September 18, 2001

I've been researching ID here in Australia. Since I don't have a driver's licence (long story) I have problems trading in secondhand goods. I carry only two credit cards, which rarely reaches the "point total" that stores need or want to believe I am who I say I am. Moreover, when I bring further ID and do meet their requirements, they want to record all the details, like my credit card numbers, in their (badly secured) database.

Quite frankly I would welcome a single card with my name, photo, signature and a unique ID that was only used for face-to-face proof of identification. Police could have access to my address via the code, but the "Happy Hockers" wouldn't -- they'd just record the code and if I sold them stolen goods the police would look it up.

At the moment it looks like I either need to learn to drive a car and pass my driver's test (which will cost several hundred dollars total) or I need to have my passpoort renewed -- and that is hardly wallet-sized.
posted by krisjohn at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2001

Oh hell, why not just tattoo our Social Security numbers on our forearms. Oh wait...

Gephardt is a great orator, it's too bad he only gets in the news for crappy ideas. Not too many people have the patience for C-Span, try for better soundbites Dick.

And when the ID cards don't work (and kids can buy them on 46rd st for $20), what next? LoJack Anklets?

My fears are shifting.
posted by joemaller at 3:58 PM on September 18, 2001

A National Identity Card (NID) doesn't seem to be a threat to any freedom to me. It's not even a innovation , they're being used everywhere in the world. No threat to privacy because nobody can be forced to show them but by an officer who requires identification. So what' the big deal ?

I'm much more scared by credit card companies that can track each and every purchase one makes ; now imagine how miserable it would be to have your credit card stolen and used by a terrorist ; it would be MUCH better to have secure credit cards that can be re-charged at ATMs or in other public places ; or disposable one-time credit cards with no information about you.

That's real privacy with innovation.
posted by elpapacito at 4:06 PM on September 18, 2001

Malaysia has had national ID cards for its citizens for decades already. And I have to tell you it's a pain. The police give you crap if they catch you without yours.

And there is the danger of over-reliance by everyone on them for identification. A couple of weeks ago, a gang of six guys withdrew the total of RM9 million (USD$2.5million) from the EPF (Malaysia's version of social security) using faked ID cards because the clerks took the validity of the cards for granted. It's true!
posted by timyang at 4:09 PM on September 18, 2001

Also being considered would be a "national network". Small wireless microchips would be inserted near the base of the skull and communicate to a hub. Because of privacy concerns they will not locate you, but they will monitor your thoughts for such phrases as "bomb" "terrorist" and "Is that your final answers".

On a serious note, if anyone wants to orchestrate an attack of this multitude... what would stop them from forging an ID card? It's not like you can't already purchase fake IDs off the internet...
posted by geoff. at 4:09 PM on September 18, 2001

As far as SSNs on drivers licenses go, a number of states already use the SSN as the drivers license number. However, due to privacy concerns (and the ease of identity theft), a number of states are in the process of changing over to a new numbering scheme so that people don't have to carry their SSN at all.
posted by Fley Mingmasc at 4:16 PM on September 18, 2001

Having grown up in the military where ID cards are a must and having lived in several EU countries, where national ID cards exist without any infringment upon civil liberties (bar codes, what?!), I see nothing wrong with having a nationwide ID system, hopefully one that leverages the infrastructure already in place (federal, state, DMVs, etc.).

That said, yeah, what good will this do exactly? Not only would there be ways around this, the ability to use a "national ID" to track suspected terrorists/assoc. would surely never make it through Congress. OK, that sounds naive...

posted by kphaley454 at 4:25 PM on September 18, 2001

I think, perhaps, the link we are missing here is a National ID card that is hooked to a National Database of citizens, visitors, etc. That way the card could be validated at key security spots (e.g. airport check-in) with a screen showing photo, info, etc. By validating the card with the database (by simply swipe scanning it) you create two systems that terrorists must then overcome. 1. Creating a fake ID. 2. Hacking into a national database system to add the ID information, photo etc.

The main weakness of this plan resides in the possibilities of people within our own system helping terrorists to be added under false names etc. How hard would it really be to bribe an employee making $8/hr at the new Government ID Center? How do you prove the person is who they say they are at the application stage? Driver's license and phone bill? That would make the system useless, since it is relatively easy to falsify both.

Still, the idea may have some merit in helping to deter terrorist action at airports and limit their ability to travel freely. I am open to hear more...

(BTW: I live in Arizona and our driver's licenses already have one swipe and one scan identifier on the back. The swipe identifier can be used by the officer from his vehicle to verify the authenticity and validity of the license. How would the National Identifier be much different in terms of invading our privacy?)
posted by nix at 4:25 PM on September 18, 2001

Goeff - Timyang: yep as far as I know making a fake id isn't that difficult , but you can always make them much harder to copy with special inks , holograms and other stuff.

Of course nothing will prevent motivated people from making complex fake ids, but a hard-to-fake ID could be used in situation in which there is no need of a STRICT security control, like for example when you are stopped by an officer for some reason ; by looking at your ID the officer wouldn't be forced to bring you to at police station for a fingerprint check. That sounds reasonable to me and with no risk for privacy.

I'd use retina-check on every passenger boarding an airplane, that's much more secure then any kind of ID , as far as I know it can't be faked. Of course I wouldn't associate each retina scan to a name, but only check retina scan results against a database of felons.
posted by elpapacito at 4:25 PM on September 18, 2001

Ugh - this idea really gives me the chills. Imagine what would happen if one lost the damn thing. Think of what people can already do with the information on each of us that is already accessible to virtually anyone who wants it.

Geoff beat me to the punch -- the terrorists integrated themselves into suburban neighborhoods, purchased homes, lived as U.S. denizens. Their children (this is heartbreaking) went to school with/as American children. (What kind of trauma did these events visit on them, I wonder.)

What a mistake it would be to think this "NIC" would be a deterrent, given how resourceful these men were.
posted by mirla at 4:26 PM on September 18, 2001

retina check is the best thing, so we can have a nice big bro style system where the government can track your every move as your eye gets scanned around the country...
posted by Mossy at 4:36 PM on September 18, 2001

Mossy: as far as I know it's not possible to check the retina of anybody unless the person stands in front of a retina scanner, which uses some kind of non-harmful light to check the back of your eye. (Disclaimer, I'm not an expert in retina checks)

Of course I share your fear of a big-brother control, and to stop the goverment from spying every movement I'd make the retina-scan mandatory only for felons ; no need to use a retina check if you go into a cinema or into a store, but It could be really useful when entering an airport.

I'd also make retina-check installation forbidden in every private home , store or office or in public places.

In my opinion it's better to take control of controlling devices, rather then letting ANY goverment of private agency use them without any kind of discrimination (which is probably already happening)
posted by elpapacito at 4:48 PM on September 18, 2001

The lefties would object that it is an infringement--everything for them is an infringement; The Righties would say more is needed.
The problem I see ius that just about everything is easily counterfeited. We have seen this with faked work papers; with faked social security cards, etc etc.
I am not sure how such things are done in Europe. Buthaving a number/id means stopping and asking for it to be shown, as is done by traffic cops when one is stopped.
And this stopping if done randomly would annoy the hell out of libertarians, liberals and I suspect a lot of conservatives.
posted by Postroad at 4:52 PM on September 18, 2001

After 6 and I am losing it but I forgot to mention that the ease of faking ids: even the presidenbt's daughter was boozing with a fake id at Yale
posted by Postroad at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2001

Of course, nobody has brought up the concept of having your thumb / finger print on the card. That's pretty fool-proof, isn't it?
posted by cyniczny at 5:20 PM on September 18, 2001

The insurance commissioner of the State I live in (Delaware) suggested embedding Smart Tags (Radio Frequency Identification) on automobile registrations last year. While it didn't happen, the technology was used up and down the East Coast of the United States in EZ Pass cards.

The Smart Tags would have enabled police to monitor automobiles from the side of the road, and check to see who had valid registrations, and who didn't.

A national ID could incorporate this type of technology...but we really have to ask ourselves - is this how we want to live? Are we so afraid that we would be willing to carry cards that could be read from a distance with radio frequency emitters tied to a database with information about whom we are?
posted by bragadocchio at 5:55 PM on September 18, 2001

The lefties would object that it is an infringement--everything for them is an infringement; The Righties would say more is needed.

Actually, I don't think the Left/Right divide works in this case. I should think that the libertarian right would scream bloody murder.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:21 PM on September 18, 2001

Well, compared to the UK, it's nigh-on impossible to do basic things in the liberty-lovin' USA without brandishing a driving licence or owning a credit card. As both a foreigner and a non-driver, it comes across as the worst kind of 'profiling', particularly in redneck areas where a British passport won't get me into bars. (No, really.)

Anyway, the Brits discuss "national identity cards" without much happening every six months or so; the French have their carte d'identité, and require foreigners to have similer ID on hand: if you're stopped without proper ID, it's a ticketable offence.

I suppose it comes down to your general political leanings: would you rather have a non-commercial Big Government Scheme with its civil liberties issues, or the ad hoc system run by state DMVs and credit card companies? Or neither, and live in the woods?
posted by holgate at 6:26 PM on September 18, 2001

Harvard professor and lawyer Lawrence Lessig wrote a fascinating book called "Code" - I think the subtitle was "Creating laws for Cyberspace" or something like that. He wrote an extremely compelling argument in the book advocating a National ID Card, in part because it would improve branding on the Internet. The whole book is awesome, but that section always stood out in my mind...
posted by vito90 at 6:34 PM on September 18, 2001

anyone who's been arrested in more than one state in america (/me raises hand), knows already that driver's licenses are already national.

that's why a seat belt ticket in portland prevent's me from getting a new license in wyoming.

i mean really, why don't they just call a spade a spade and make them a national driver's id?
posted by jcterminal at 7:16 PM on September 18, 2001

The privacy difference between a NIC and a Driver's Liscense is the mandatory disclosure of personal information required by the NIC. It depends on where you live, but Driver's Liscenses are by no means completely ubiquitous. And the tracking function of a liscense is ancillary to its main role as proof that you know how to handle a vehicle.
posted by jeffhoward at 9:12 PM on September 18, 2001

... Smart Tags (Radio Frequency Identification) on automobile registrations last year. While it didn't happen... The Smart Tags would have enabled police to monitor automobiles from the side of the road, and check to see who had valid registrations, and who didn't. A national ID could incorporate this type of technology...but we really have to ask ourselves - is this how we want to live?

This is what I fear. Sensors could be placed without public knowledge. Movements could be tracked. It's a slippery slope down this path... Get a worse Administration in power with this system in place and we're in deep crud.

I heard once of someone getting a speeding ticket just because they drove from one scanner/barcode-equipped toolbooth to the next in too little time.
posted by billder at 9:42 PM on September 18, 2001

billder: I remember hearing about that speeding ticket too. And then within a couple of days afterwards, a press release (from I believe the Delaware River-Bay Authority) assured motorists that the EZ Pass wouldn't be used to give people anymore tickets. I guess the fear was that people would not buy into the EZ Pass program.

My guess is that once the EZ pass program has a larger base of customers and more acceptance as a way of life, that will change.
posted by bragadocchio at 9:56 PM on September 18, 2001

How about an ID rod that is inserted just below the skin. They can be quickly scanned as you walk through a metal like detector. Pedigree dogs are ID'ed this way, why not humans?

That way where ever you are, bing, you are identified. The bad guys will hate this system and rest of us will be safer.
posted by MaGoo at 11:34 PM on September 18, 2001

Actually, I don't think the Left/Right divide works in this case.

Not to mention if you're ambidextrous ...

Seriously tho ... how would this stop terrorists? AFAIK, these were people who had all got into America legitimately.

Plus, identity theft is on the rise ... not sure I'd want to make it as easy as taking my wallet.

Watch out for more people jumping on the bandwagon ... the recent attacks could get used as an excuse to push through all sorts of nasty legislation that wouldn't have made it last month (I hope no-one is actually this cynical, but am a pragmatist).
posted by walrus at 9:02 AM on September 19, 2001

How about an ID rod that is inserted just below the skin... The bad guys will hate this system and rest of us will be safer.

how would this stop bad guys from coming into the country, doing their evil deed, then leaving? will we insert this ID rod into every tourist that enters the country?

besides, i don't think the insertion of foreign objects into my body without my consent would pass Constitutional muster (i hope it wouldn't, anyway). heck, according to the SC, i don't have the right to insert parts of my body into a person with his consent.

i still don't see how a NID system would make me any safer than i already am, especially when such a system has the potential to erode the right to privacy.
posted by tolkhan at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2001

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