The net is tightening.
Fifteen years in the making, the net woven of unconstitutional laws, intelligence agencies, surveillance technology, secret prisons where torture takes place, propaganda aimed at frightening the people with external and internal enemies, a militarized police force—the net known as totalitarianism—is closing.
Federal officials with the Department of Homeland Security have announced that they intend to begin enforcement of the 2005 Real ID Act. The Real ID Act mandates that all states must comply with the requirement to issue “machine-readable” driver’s licenses. That is, licenses embedded with information-storing chips. Once all states are in compliance with the Act, the licenses will function as a de facto national ID card, a one-time goal of the Bush administration. Most states have offered opposition to federal efforts to enforce the Real ID Act, but a schedule is in place that will require compliance from all states by mid-October 2016.
One way the federal government will be able to coerce states into compliance is by requiring machine-readable licenses for all air traffic. Thus, a passenger flying from one state to another would have to present the Transportation Security Administration with the “enhanced” driver’s license, as the cards have been called. Should states capitulate to Homeland Security’s demands, we will lose much more in the way of freedom than we will ever gain in security.
Why oppose a “Real ID” card?
To begin with, that is the wrong question. When the government imposes a requirement upon us, as a freedom loving people our immediate response should be resistance. That resistance may be as simple as asking why we must now act in a certain way, but if we reflexively accede to the government’s commands we have already surrendered the essence of our freedom.
One need only look at the comment section of the New York Times’ article on this story to see a discouraging sample of Americans who have surrendered in this way. They have been told the new driver’s licenses will protect them from terrorism, and they ask no further questions. They take their government at its word. Worse, such people hold in suspicion and contempt those who would challenge the state’s claims. Many will not listen to the reasons others have for rejecting this move by the government. Nevertheless, my reasons are these:
First, we will not know exactly what information has been encoded into our machine-readable cards. More precisely, we will have no way of knowing for certain how much of our lives has been entered into the chip in our driver’s license. This information will be available to any law enforcement officer who demands to see our license.
Second, given the scope of the NSA spying program, it is not only technologically possible but seems likely that our movements will be recorded each time our card is “read.” This would include TSA checks in airport terminals and traffic stops by local police. It could also include our presence anywhere that a government agency decides to place a reading device—sidewalks, government offices, above city streets and interstates. And there is no reason to believe that businesses such as department stores will not read our chips as we pass through their doors in order to advertise directly to us, or that the businesses will not share this information with the government. When our whereabouts are known and recorded by the government, we are in a real sense already imprisoned.
Each of these reasons illustrates an astounding and unjustifiable violation of our privacy. Further, it is unclear how such an information system will enhance our security. Known terrorists are subject to lawful surveillance and arrest. A regime that surveilles all of us, like the NSA spying program, is undoubtedly intended to target us.
We, the nation and the globe, are headed for an economic catastrophe. The financial sector is as abusive and heedless as it was in 2007, wages are as depressed, unemployment is worse. Ordinary Americans are more vulnerable than they were eight years ago, and social tensions are running high. Those who control the government see this and have prepared themselves with the most advanced police state the world has ever known. Machine readable ID cards will bring us all further under the domination of that police state. It is the net tightening.
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