Timothy McVeigh, alleged perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing,
is said to have believed that, while he was in the Army, the government
implanted a microchip tracking device in his buttocks. Most of us would
dismiss this as the ravings of an obvious madman. But to Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, McVeigh is just a bit ahead of his time; she is a believer in
“biometric” tracking of all of us. She proposes, as part of legislation
for tougher control of illegal immigration, a national identity card for
every man, woman, and child in America.

Captivated by advanced technology, Feinstein says that such a card
could include a magnetic strip or microchip containing a digitized form
of each citizen’s vital statistics, photograph, fingerprint, voiceprint
and retina scan. The card would be linked to massive new federal computer
databases, and would be presented whenever an American applied for
employment or government benefits. The card would have to be renewed
annually, presumably requiring refingerprinting to verify identity.

Now, subjecting every American to the humiliation of annual
citizenship checks could hardly win popular support if presented purely
as an employment program for tens of thousands of new federal document
inspectors and file managers; an overriding justification must be found.
In past decades, the magic words national security might have
persuaded Americans to meekly sacrifice their traditional liberties. The
Cold War is no more, but Feinstein has found an equivalent: the current
“war” against illegal immigration. Once the 260 million legal inhabitants
of America have been scanned, everyone caught with their fingerprints not
on file might be presumed illegal and deported or imprisoned, solving the
problem once and for all.

Whether Dianne Feinstein actually cares so deeply about the scourge of
illegal immigration remains open to considerable doubt. Aside from
happily placing her own home in the care of an illegal alien some years
back, she strongly supported throughout the 1980s various San Francisco
ordinances that declared the city a “safe haven” for all illegal
immigrants and prohibited any local cooperation with immigration
authorities. But politicians follow the polls, and if catching all those
illegal nannies and gardeners now requires every American citizen to
carry a microchip, so be it. Gov. Pete Wilson endorsed much the same
approach just before the 1994 election when he said that actual
Proposition 187 would probably require establishment of a national ID
card.

Compared to Feinstein’s proposal, Pat Buchanan’s foolish idea of
building a massive wall across the thousand miles of our southern border
is far less harmful to American freedom.

A national ID database represents the slipperiest of all civil liberty
slopes. A system employing tens of thousands of government clerks and
administrators and costing tens of billions of dollars to build and
operate would surely not remain limited to catching illegal nannies. Why
not use it, at virtually no additional cost, to track convicted child
molesters as well? Who would dare object? Why not then also track the
movements of convicted murderers. And rapists. And drug dealers and
felons in general. And fathers behind on their child support. And
tax-evaders. And “political extremists.” Members of “religious cults.”
Drug addicts. AIDS carriers. Gun owners. With each turn of the political
cycle, left and right would add their favorite batch of social enemies to
the surveillance list.

Or consider employment issues. Since every private employer would have
to obtain federal authorization before offering any individual a job, a
database record of race, ethnicity and gender could be used as an
extraordinarily direct means of enforcing future affirmative action
regulations. Imagine business owners receiving computerized responses
such as “employment permission denied; you already employ too many white
males.”

Perhaps considerations such as these have persuaded the Clinton
Administration, Sen. Ted Kennedy and other leading liberal members of
Congress to put aside any civil liberty concerns they might have and
fully endorse legislation along the lines of Feinstein’s “Big Sister”
proposal. Some moderate Republicans such as Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming
and Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas are also on board. However, leading
conservative Republicans and libertarians–House Majority Leader Dick
Armey of Texas, strategist Bill Kristol, the Cato Institute, the National
Federation of Independent Business–are absolutely opposed, as are civil
liberties groups such as the ACLU.

Requiring the law-abiding 98% of American’s population to carry a
national ID card or undergo retinal scanning is un-American in the
strongest sense of the word, and the only long-term beneficiaries of such
federal policies would be the recruiting sergeants of the Michigan
Militia. Our fractured society already contains large numbers of violent
and paranoid individuals terrified of imaginary government plots against
their freedom. Politicians who would give true substance to such fears by
affixing microchips to every American’s identity must be held accountable
for the likely consequences. One Oklahoma City bombing is enough.



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