National ID card: Intrusive or not?

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, September 5, 2006

By By Tray Smith
Two weeks ago I wrote a column on the recently uncovered British terror plot. In that article, I outlined a number of policies that helped the United Kingdom's security services prevent a catastrophe in the skies. I also laid out a number of proposals that would protect us against similar attacks, including one idea that has surprisingly not caught much traction since 9/11.
At a time when employers cannot identify whether job applicants are citizens of the United States, terrorists can slip through the cracks at major airports, perverts can be given jobs in close proximity to children and identity theft is becoming a growing problem, I believe instituting a national identification system would be a significant benefit to our national security, individual freedoms, and economic prosperity. By providing the government with a way to effectively track, identify, and monitor the actions of terrorist suspects and criminals, officials within the government's national security establishment would be able to easily remove people from our society who pose a danger to our lives. We could also use such a system to track down illegal aliens and speed up the adoption of information technology within our health care system.
Under a national identification system, every person in America would receive a national ID card. The card would have a picture, a biometric identification system, and a number that corresponds to an account held on a federal government operated database. That account would hold information about the cardholder's criminal record, place of employment, age, height, weight, immigration status, and address. Under the program, states would still hold the right to issue gun licenses, driver's licenses, boat licenses, etc., but instead of issuing their own cards, they could simply upload that information to the federal identification database. Cards would be issued to everyone in the country over age 5, and they would receive mandatory updates every five years. United States citizens would then be required to swipe their cards before boarding an airplane or train, and private businesses such as hotels and car rental companies could also require customers to swipe their cards before allowing them to rent a room or car. Employers would also be required to swipe an applicant's card before hiring him or her. After the card is swiped, cardholders would also have to place their own thumb on a computerized screen that would correspond with the cards biometric identification system thus making sure that the cards user is its valid owner.
Because of the number of government and private sector enterprises that would likely require an ID card in order to provide a service, the national identification cards would become essential to our daily life. By making them biometric, they would also become counterfeit and fraud proof. Thus, anyone without a national ID card would become isolated and easily detected. Anyone with a card who is a suspected criminal or terrorist would be easily located, because federal agents would be alerted when their card is used. This ability to track, detect and isolate terrorists, criminals, and illegal immigrants will help protect us from Islamic extremists, crime, and undocumented aliens who engage in illegal activities. For cardholders under age 15, a system could also be developed that would tap the card into our GPS system, enabling us to find all underage children who go missing by locating their ID card.
Some people worry about the level of intrusion such a card would be into our citizen's privacy. I believe in a small government that respects our privacy, and I understand those concerns. Yet, I think such a card would actually give us more privacy for three reasons. First, instead of forcing us to carry around a driver's license, birth certificate, passports, and Social Security cards, we would only have to carry around one national ID card. Secondly, by protecting us against those who are plotting to take away our freedoms, such an ID system would make us more secure. Finally, the federal database containing information on all cardholders would be managed by a private firm contracted out by the government, and a special court would preside over that database to insure that information is not reviewed by anyone without a warrant with the exception of the cardholder himself.
Such a system could also benefit our economy by accelerating the adaptation of electronic health records, which could be tied to the national identification database. That type of program would lower medical administrative costs and allow doctors to provide accurate prescriptions based on a patient's electronic health record. This would be a revolution in the healthcare industry, allowing the government and private businesses to lower health care cost.
A national ID card system is a controversial proposal. But at the end of the day, it would increase our security, make us more prosperous, and enhance our civil liberties.
That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a sophomore at Escambia County High School. He writes a political column for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at His column appears weekly.

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