Forget Milk. Got ID?

Dear U.S. Government,

Amitai Etzioni is the author of The Limits of Privacy and an enthusiast for 'domestic passport-like documents that citizens of many countries, including democracies, are required to have with them at all times.' He says, 'Note that presenting such identification is required even when there is no specific evidence that a crime has been committed or a regulation violated.'

Government, it's about time you did something.

You're way behind other countries. The People's Republic of China, for example. In the PRC every child is documented at birth, except for those unfortunate second children for whom parents cannot afford the fine for having them. Without National ID, they can't go to school, go to a doctor, drive a car, get a job, get on a train, or move to another city.

I know, we have Social Security numbers. And we can't get a job or a passport or health insurance or a credit card without it. We get asked for it when we go to school or go to a doctor or even when we sign up for phone service. But we can still move without it. And buy stuff. Take a train or a bus. Those cards used to be marked 'NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION,' so I guess it's a step in the right direction that they're not marked any more. After all, it's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

Government, you took a step in the right direction a few years back when you required all babies to have SS numbers to be claimed as exemptions on the Income Tax form. You should also be fingerprinting and DNA-profiling those babies. I know you're working on it, but just not fast enough. It's all those nuts that keep yelling about their privacy. I want to ask them, what have they got to hide?

You just have to admire those folks down in Florida who signed up to have the new medical ID chips implanted. When they get in an accident the emergency room staff can scan the chip in and get their medical history out of the databases right away.

And what will help, Government, is your new medical privacy rules that go into effect next April. You know those inconvenient permission slips you always have to sign when you get x-rays or other tests? The one that allows the doctor or the hospital to give information to other health care providers? Well, you won't have to sign anything any more! All that private medical information will automatically be available to doctors, insurance companies, researchers, hospitals, and even data processing companies. EVERYBODY! No more hassles, no more signing. Even psychotherapy notes will be shared with the director of Health and Human Services. But that's okay. It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

It's time to do something about standardization of driver licenses. Every state thinks it has the right to do its own thing. Where would they get an idea like that? Some part of that Bill of Rights those old dead white guys forced on us. It's irrelevant in this modern age. Doesn't meet the need of the people. I know that some driver licenses are linked with Social Security numbers, but the information is not always shared across state lines. And there's no biometric info attached, either. You know, at least fingerprint information on a bar code or a magnetic stripe.

Everyone asks for ID these days and I whip out my driver license but they only glance at it. I want them to be able to swipe that card through a reader and have access to my biometric data, my Social Security number, and my driving record if they need it. It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

And how about that new 'trusted traveler' card for airline passengers? Let's get moving!

Currently, I use my driver license and my passport. Two IDs are better than none, I always say. But the new 'trusted traveler' card is the way to go. It will allow the airlines and you, Government, to tap into my travel record, my criminal record, how I paid for my tickets, all that neat stuff. But those privacy nuts keep quoting that Bill of Rights thing. Can't you at least shut them up? Freedom of speech doesn't include disagreeing with the Government, for crying out loud. They must really have something to hide. But I'll feel much safer flying with a trusted traveler card. It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

The privacy nuts got to you, though, back around 1996. There was that immigration act that was going to require all aliens to have a number. But if only aliens had numbers, then all they had to do to pass as real Americans would be to not show their IDs. So the real plan was that all real Americans would have a number and the numberless people would be aliens. Easy to root them all out and deport them. Got a number? No? Get on the boat. But that law didn't get passed because of the privacy nuts. Probably hiding illegal aliens in their garages.

Look, all these incremental steps are fine, but they just don't do the job. Not like a real national ID. I've got too many IDs and too many different numbers to remember. It's inconvenient. I want one number, one card, everything tied together. All the information available at the swipe of a card. It makes it easy for law enforcement, too.

Someone gets stopped for a tail light out. The police officer can swipe his card and find out his library reading record and political party membership on the spot. The officer can tell if he's one of those privacy nuts or other un-American dissidents and really whack it to him. Serve him right, putting privacy ahead of our safety and security.

I use a credit card or write a check to buy some books. The clerk swipes my NID ('National Identification card' is just too long and unfriendly). So, the purchases go into the national data base so that you, Government, can ferret out these privacy nuts and anti-government types based on what they're reading. This is a great service! It will make America safer for us real Americans. It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

With universal NID, we can phase out checks, credit cards, even cash. Everything goes through that one card. Payroll, financial records, voting record, travel record, purchasing record, medical record, health insurance, driving record, tax record, phone number . . . . EVERYTHING!

Swipe! 'Would you like fries with . . . ? No, you shouldn't. You just had open heart surgery. Your doctor put you on a low fat diet. And you don't have enough in your account to super size your order. Sorry.' It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

And all that information would be safe. Protected by you, Government. All your people will keep our secrets. I trust you. Remember a few years back when IRS employees were getting into private tax files and spreading private information around to non-IRS people and tabloids? You shook your finger at them and said, 'Don't do that.' And they stopped.

And when they went and did it again a couple years later you shook your finger more sternly at them and ever more sternly told them, 'Don't do that again' again. Good for you. But I'm glad you didn't fire them because they really were trying to do a good job. I know they're from the Government and they're there to help me.

I'm ready for my NID. I want that card with the number, the biometric data, including retinal scan, DNA, all that stuff on it. And once I have my number, I'll be proud to show it to get on a plane, take out a library book, rent a car, vote, watch a movie, buy groceries, or drive across the state line. It's for my own good and I have nothing to hide.

The only problem is some people might be tempted to fake an ID card. I'd never do that, but I'm worried that other people might. So there has to be a really good way to make sure that real numbers are always on NIDs, that anyone's number is really, truly attached to that person for life. And we can't wait for portable, convenient DNA testing. I have an idea, and I will go first.

So, how soon can I get my number tattooed on my forearm?


Citizen #66248-1463-6951-M

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Joseph S. Bommarito's picture
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Joseph Bommarito was a freelance writer who lived in Georgia.  He passed away on January 3, 2005.  Comments can be sent to his wife Sally.