Beware the ‘Lame Duck’ Congress

by | Nov 15, 2004

In the midst of all the election hoopla, one thing remains certain. Congress will return for a final, end-of-the-year session on November 15. This is the most dangerous time of the year–a time when bad bills become bad laws with little fanfare from a distracted media and populace. Adding to this dangerous mix is a […]

In the midst of all the election hoopla, one thing remains certain. Congress will return for a final, end-of-the-year session on November 15. This is the most dangerous time of the year–a time when bad bills become bad laws with little fanfare from a distracted media and populace.

Adding to this dangerous mix is a “lame duck” Congress full of soon-to-be-former Representatives and Senators, eager to strike one last legislative blow before they pack their bags and leave. In short, this is the time of year when grassroots activists and champions of liberty must be most vigilant. Their activism is often times all that stands between tragedy and triumph.

Beware the lame duck Congress and beware the following four legislative nightmares that are targeted for passage in the dark of night.

National ID Card

Many issues are important, but this is the big one. We must stop the very real threat of a national identification card. John McCain has once again wandered off the reservation. Under the guise of fighting terrorism, he and many other Big Brother proponents in the House and Senate are pushing hard to pass a back-door, defacto, national ID program. The prospects here are downright frightening. McCain and his cohorts want to standardize state drivers’ licenses at the federal level and link all state drivers’ databases. This monstrous power-grab by the federal government would create the very real possibility of adding technology such as radio frequency identification chips to driver’s licenses, thereby enabling Big Brother to track every movement a licensee makes.

We simply must make certain that “the McCain amendment” is stripped from both versions of the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act”–Senate bill S. 2845 and House bill H.R. 10. The following facts about why a national ID program should be avoided at all costs are taken directly from an open letter to the House and Senate that the American Policy Center co-signed with over 50 other organizations.

A national ID will not prevent terrorism in the United States. According to Privacy International, of the top 25 terrorist targets since 1986, 80% have long-standing national identity card programs, and one-third of those countries have cards with biometric identifiers. In fact, the top target, Israel, has a national ID card that uses biometric identifiers on the card. Yet such cards have done nothing to stop devastating terror attacks on those nations.

Furthermore, identity cards tell nothing about an individual’s intentions. Timothy McVeigh and the Beltway stalker would both have qualified for a national ID card.

Any form of identification can be counterfeited. Despite best efforts and anti-counterfeiting technology, the new $20 bill has been counterfeited. Even assuming a national ID card that is counterfeit-resistant, terrorists and criminals will spend any amount of money to either counterfeit the documents, or corrupt a government employee to issue a fraudulent identification. Creating a single national identification makes it much easier to counterfeit and steal someone’s identity.

A national ID system would divert resources from more productive counter-terrorism measures. One estimate of the initial cost of such a program goes as high as $25 to $30 billion dollars, with another $3 billion to $6 billion per year to run it. Our limited resources could be better spent on increasing border security and dealing with the two-year backlog of intelligence needing to be translated at the FBI.

A national ID would depend on a massive bureaucracy that would limit our basic freedoms. A national ID system would depend on both the issuance of an ID card and the integration of huge amounts of personal information included in state and federal government databases. One employee mistake, an underlying database error rate, or common fraud such as identity theft, now rampant in the U.S., could take away an individual’s ability to move freely from place to place or even make them unemployable until the government fixed their “file.” Anyone who has attempted to fix errors in their credit report can imagine the difficulty of causing an over-extended government agency such as the department of motor vehicles to correct a mistake that precludes a person from getting a valid ID.

A national ID would both contribute to identity fraud and make it more difficult to remedy. Americans have consistently rejected the idea of a national ID and limited the uses of data collected by the government. In the 1970s, both the Nixon and Carter Administrations rejected the use of social security numbers as a uniform identifier because of privacy concerns. A national ID would be “one stop shopping” for perpetrators of identity theft who usually use social security numbers and birth certificates for false IDs (not drivers’ licenses). Even with a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint on each and every ID there is no guarantee that individuals won’t be identified – or misidentified – in error. The accuracy of biometric technology varies depending on the type and implementation. And, it would be even more difficult to remedy identity fraud when a thief has a National ID card with your name on it, but his biometric identifier.

A national ID could require all Americans to carry an internal passport at all times, compromising our privacy, limiting our freedom, and exposing us to unfair discrimination based on national origin or religion. Once government databases are integrated through a uniform ID, access to and uses of sensitive personal information would inevitably expand. Libraries could be pressured to use the ID instead of, or in addition to, library cards.

Law enforcement, tax collectors, and other government agencies would want use of the data. Employers, landlords, insurers, credit agencies, mortgage brokers, direct mailers, private investigators, civil litigants, and a long list of other private parties would also begin using the ID and even the database, further eroding the privacy that Americans rightly expect in their personal lives. It would take us even further toward a surveillance society that would significantly diminish the freedom and privacy of law-abiding people in the United States.

The national ID program has been put on a fast track to pass during the lame duck session.


National Heritage Areas

Heritage Areas are little more than federal zoning schemes. Federal money for Heritage Areas is administered through the National Park Service to radical preservation and conservation groups that are hell-bent on locking away anything and everything within the Heritage Area that they see fit. In other words, the Park Service teams up with local greens to take away YOUR private property rights. Once an area becomes a Heritage Area, local control over zoning and land use is lost. Period.

These disastrous bills have passed the House and are currently awaiting action in the Senate. It is vital that property rights and limited government activists contact both of their Senators and tell them to vote NO on any and all National Heritage Area legislation. Each of the following Heritage Areas would be created in the state of the sponsoring Representative.

  • H.R. 280: The National Aviation Heritage Area — sponsored by Rep. David Hobson (R-OH)
  • H.R. 1862: The Oil Region National Heritage Area — sponsored by Rep. John Peterson (R-PA)
  • H.R. 1618: The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area — sponsored by Denise Majette (D-GA)
  • H.R. 1798: The Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area — sponsored by Rep. Nancy Johnson
  • H.R. 4492: “To extend the authorization for certain national heritage areas.” Proponents of Heritage Areas claim that federal funding and oversight is only temporary. As this bill shows, nothing could be further from the truth. H.R. 4492 would extend federal funding and oversight.
  • H.R. 4683: The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor — sponsored by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)
  • H.R. 3257: The Western Reserve Heritage Areas Study Act
Peyton Knight is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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