National ID card in the US

by Miguel de Icaza

Some folks are opposing the national ID card in the US, for more details see the web site. A FAQ is available from BoingBoing has a call for action.

To get the law approved, legislators used a clever hack: the actual RealID thing is not being discussed or debated, instead it was just hidden inside another piece of legislation which will likely get approved (some military budget).

Bruce Schneier, security and cryptography expert also has some negative things to say about the plan, but focuses more on the lack of security that this will bring and comments on the legislative hack:

If you haven't heard much about REAL ID in the newspapers, that's not an accident. The politics of REAL ID is almost surreal. It was voted down last fall, but has been reintroduced and attached to legislation that funds military actions in Iraq. This is a "must-pass" piece of legislation, which means that there has been no debate on REAL ID. No hearings, no debates in committees, no debates on the floor. Nothing.

ID cards have successfully been used in totalitarian regimes to impose the will of those in control. Am not saying this will be the case in the US, but I figured I might share some perspective:

  • In Lebanon they were effectively used to identify the opposition and carry massacres effectively (both major groups: christians and muslims).
  • If you saw "Hotel Rwanda" you probably saw the checking of the national ID document to sort out your ethnic affiliation and how folks dealt adequately with people.
  • In Military-Dictatorship Latin America, National ID documents were imposed to keep track of those who opposed the dictatorship: Trouble makers, haters of the freedom to do what they are told (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Franco's Spain).

Of course the situation is not the same in the US. In Lebanon people are pretty much "born" into their political party, as their political party is very much tied to the religion.

Probably other developed nations of the world have National ID documents and they have been very happy with it, I have probably not paid attention to those.

My point is that its a resource easily abusable by those in control. If you care about these issues, you got less than 48 hours to call your representative.

Posted on 09 May 2005