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May 10, 2005

Last Chance to Stop National ID


by Rep. Ron Paul

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill last week that contains provisions establishing a national ID card, and the Senate is poised to approve the measure in the next few days. This week marks the American public's last chance to convince their senators they don't want to live in a nation that demands papers from its citizens as they go about their lives.

Absent a political miracle in the Senate, within two years every American will need a conforming national ID card to participate in ordinary activities. This REAL ID Act establishes a massive, centrally coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical characteristics. The legislation also grants open-ended authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to require biometric information on IDs in the future. This means your harmless looking driver's license could contain a retina scan, fingerprints, DNA information, or radio frequency technology.

Think this sounds farfetched? Read the REAL ID Act, HR 418, for yourself. Its text is available on the Library of Congress Web site. A careful reading also reveals that states will be required to participate in the "Driver's License Agreement," which was crafted by DMV lobbyists years ago. This agreement creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that can be shared with Canada and Mexico!

Terrorism is the excuse given for virtually every new power grab by the federal government, and the national ID is no exception. But federal agencies have tried to create a national ID for years, long before the 9/11 attacks. In fact, a 1996 bill sought to do exactly what the REAL ID Act does: transform state drivers' licenses into de facto national ID cards. At the time, Congress was flooded with calls by angry constituents, and the bill ultimately died.

Proponents of the REAL ID Act continue to make the preposterous claim that the bill does not establish a national ID card. This is dangerous and insulting nonsense. Let's get the facts straight: The REAL ID Act transforms state motor vehicle departments into agents of the federal government. Nationalizing standards for drivers' licenses and birth certificates in a federal bill creates a national ID system, pure and simple. Having the name of your particular state on the ID is meaningless window dressing.

Federally imposed standards for drivers' licenses and birth certificates make a mockery of federalism and the 10th amendment. While states technically are not forced to accept the federal standards, any refusal to comply would mean their residents could not get a job, receive Social Security, or travel by plane. So rather than imposing a direct mandate on the states, the federal government is blackmailing them into complying with federal dictates.

One overriding point has been forgotten: Criminals don't obey laws! As with gun control, national ID cards will only affect law-abiding citizens. Do we really believe a terrorist bent on murder is going to dutifully obtain a federal ID card? Do we believe that people who openly flout our immigration laws will nonetheless respect our ID requirements? Any ID card can be forged; any federal agency or state DMV is susceptible to corruption. Criminals can and will obtain national ID cards, or operate without them. National ID cards will be used to track the law-abiding masses, not criminals.


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    Ron Paul is a Republican Congressman from Texas. He was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate for President.

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