Monday, May 23, 2005

Hero Of The Month: Congressman Ron Paul of Texas (R)

Surprised that I would nominate a GOP'er as hero? Well, get over your surprise and pay attention: In a heroic act that goes beyond nonpartisanship, House Representative Paul was one of only three Republicans who voted against the Real ID Act earlier this month.

What's the Real ID act, you might ask? For one thing, the Real ID Act is an act that was attached to a military spending bill, so that when the bill makes it's way to the Senate, voting against it is potentially career suicide for any ambitious Sentaors . Just as was seen with John Kerry in the last election, in a campaign it doesn't matter why one votes against a bill, only that one votes 'No'. A vote against a military spending bill, for any reason, is exploited as a sign of someone who doesn't support the troops. This is just one example of what's wrong with politics in America, but that's for another column. Today it's time to explain what the Real ID act is, and how dangerous it is.

Essentially, a Real ID is an identification card that will replace your drivers license as your main source of identification. It will be a card approved by the Federal government, and owning one will be necessary for anyone who wants to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service.

On the surface, all it means to you is that it will be a royal pain in the butt to get your next drivers license, because to get the Real ID card that replaces it you'll need to dig through your stuff to come up with "photo identity documents" that prove you are who you say you are. Then you'll be issued this new card which will have some kind of electronic feature that stores all your information on it.

Supporters of the new card, including James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin say that the new card will:

"hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant,"

Hard to argue with that, no? But what we need to examine are a) will this actually stop bad guys from doing bad things, and b) does this represent an encroachment on the freedoms of us, the non-bad guys? In an era where politicians rarely vote against party lines, it's notable when a Republican votes against a Republican sponsored bill. Such is the case with our hero, Congressman Paul. As part of the debate on this act, Paul said:

This bill purports to make us safer from terrorists who may sneak into the United States, and from other illegal immigrants. While I agree that these issues are of vital importance, this bill will do very little to make us more secure. It will not address our real vulnerabilities. It will, however, make us much less free. In reality, this bill is a Trojan horse. It pretends to offer desperately needed border control in order to stampede Americans into sacrificing what is uniquely American: our constitutionally protected liberty.

A Republican standing up for civil liberties? This is big. He continues:

This bill establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated database of highly personal information about American citizens: at a minimum their name, date of
birth, place of residence, Social Security number, and physical and possibly other characteristics. What is even more disturbing is that, by mandating that states participate in the “Drivers License Agreement,” this bill creates a massive database of sensitive information on American citizens that will be shared with Canada and Mexico!

This bill could have a chilling effect on the exercise of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. It re-defines "terrorism" in broad new terms that could well include members of firearms rights and anti-abortion groups, or other such groups as determined by whoever is in power at the time. There are no prohibitions against including such information in the database as information about a person’s exercise of First Amendment rights or about a person’s appearance on a registry of firearms

This legislation gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to expand required information on driver’s licenses, potentially including such biometric information as retina scans, finger prints, DNA information, and even Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) radio tracking technology. Including such technology as RFID would mean that the federal government, as well as the governments of Canada and Mexico, would know where Americans are at all time of the day and night.

There are no limits on what happens to the database of sensitive information on Americans once it leaves the United States for Canada and Mexico - or perhaps other countries. Who is to stop a corrupt foreign government official from selling or giving this information to human traffickers or even terrorists? Will this uncertainty make us feel safer?

What will all of this mean for us? When this new program is implemented, every time we are required to show our driver’s license we will, in fact, be showing a national identification card. We will be handing over a card that includes our personal and likely biometric information, information which is connected to a national and international database.

H.R. 418 does nothing to solve the growing threat to national security posed by people who are already in the U.S. illegally. Instead, H.R. 418 states what we already know: that certain people here illegally are "deportable." But it does nothing to mandate deportation.

Why are we punishing Americans by taking away their freedoms instead of making life more difficult for those who would enter our country illegally?

H.R. 418 does what legislation restricting firearm ownership does. It punishes law-abiding citizens. Criminals will ignore it. H.R. 418 offers us a false sense of greater security at the cost of taking a gigantic step toward making America a police state.

And if you're not afraid of members of the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments having access to your personal information, what about the owner of the bar you party at? When you show your I.D. as proof of age to drink, the bartender may scan your ID card into a reader, thereby storing all your information. Do you trust that guy to not abuse this information?

Think there's nothing you can do to stop this? Well, you may be right, but even if you're Right, if you value the rights we are supposedly guaranteed, you owe it to your fellow Americans to at least speak up and say you don't like the Real ID act. The surest thing the proponents of this act have going for them is that Americans aren't paying attention. Here's a petition you can sign that says you are:

We all know we need to prevent terrorism, but as the world's lone superpower, we have the resources to do better than this. Let's challenge the government to come up with a solution that actually works, and doesn't open the citizens of America to identity theft and a reduction of our Constitutionally protected freedoms.

And once again, thank you Congressman Paul.

1 comment:

tobias_mifflemarb said...

Dear Mike V,

Nice write up. I am glad to see that you have discovered Ron Paul. Have yourself a moment and check his website:

Texas Straight Talk and Project Freedom continually prove that he is just about the only Congressman with both Constitutional sense and genuine care for country / constituents. That he is a Republican only proves that those who run around claiming to be Republican are anything but.

Tobias M.