DownsizeDC.org
April 18, 2010
Open Letter Against Biometric National ID
By John Markley

DownsizeDC.org is pleased to join with over 40 other organizations in signing a letter opposing the proposed creation of a biometric national ID card.  It was sent to the White House, the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  Here is the complete text:

We write today to express our opposition to a proposal by Senators
Charles Schumer (D - NY) and Lindsey Graham (R - SC) to create a
biometric Social Security card - one that relies on personal
characteristics like fingerprints to identify individuals.  No one
disputes that our broken immigration system harms both immigrants and
non-immigrants, but a full scale National ID system is not the solution.

Both Republicans and Democrats have opposed a National ID system.
President Reagan likened a 1981 proposal to the biblical "mark of the
beast," and President Clinton dismissed a similar plan because it
smacked of Big Brother.  A National ID would not only violate privacy by
helping to consolidate data and facilitate tracking of individuals, it
would bring government into the very center of our lives by serving as a
government permission slip needed by everyone in order to work.  As
happened with Social Security cards decades ago, use of such ID cards
would quickly spread and be used for other purposes - from travel to
voting to gun ownership.

Contrary to the contentions of Senators Schumer and Graham, it
would be impossible to create such a system without establishing a
national database - a central electronic repository - of Americans'
personal information.  Every government identification system currently
in existence requires a database.  Databases are necessary in order to
reissue lost or stolen cards and as a check on fraud and abuse.  Without
record keeping, the same Social Security number and birth certificate
could be used again and again to issue new cards to different people -
defeating the entire purpose of the system.  Such a central repository
will be irresistible to identity thieves, hackers and those who want to
misuse personal information for crimes like stalking.

The cost of this system will be extraordinary, running to hundreds
of billions of dollars and dwarfing the expense associated with other
parts of immigration reform.  As one example, the federal government
recently began to issue a limited number of biometric ID cards, called
Transportation Worker Identification Credentials.  It is estimated that
the Department of Homeland Security will spend $1.9 billion to issue
cards to approximately 1 million workers.  Expanded to the entire US
workforce of 150 million people, that would translate to a
proportionately greater cost of $285 billion.  A biometric system would
likely have to be fee based - requiring not just government permission,
but also a government fee to work.

Adding insult to injury, this unaffordable scheme will probably
never work.  Even ignoring the enormous difficulties of creating a
system to fingerprint every worker and distributing readers to employers
across the country, the truth is that some employers prefer the
ambiguity of the current process.  Unless significantly greater
resources are dedicated to enforcing the law, employers will continue to
have a strong incentive to circumvent a broken system.  Such enforcement
could be accomplished just as easily without a National ID.

A biometric ID system would be controversial and unpopular with
constituencies across the ideological spectrum.  It would require the
fingerprinting of every American worker - not just immigrants.  It would
also require the creation of a bureaucracy that combines the worst
elements of the Transportation Security Administration and state Motor
Vehicle Departments.

For all of these reasons we believe that a National ID system
should play no part in the otherwise needed reform of our immigration
system.

Sincerely,

American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
American Policy Center
Americans for Tax Reform
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Calegislation
Campaign for Liberty
Center for Digital Democracy
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Citizen Outreach
Citizens Against Government Waste
Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Consumer Action
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Watchdog
Cyber Privacy Project
Defending Dissent Foundation
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
Equal Justice Alliance
Former Congressman Bob Barr
Hispanic Leadership Fund
Home School Legal Defense Association
Indian American Republican Council
Liberty Coalition
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Lawyer's Guild--National Office
National Whistleblower Center
Patient Privacy Rights
Privacy Activism
Privacy International
Privacy Journal
Privacy Lives
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Privacy Times
PrivacyRightsNow Coalition
Rutherford Institute
The 5-11 Campaign
The Identity Project
The Multiracial Activist
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
World Privacy Forum

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