COLUMN:National IDs nothing more than placebo

Blaine Moyle

National identity cards, just one step closer to protecting the safety of every American. Or rather, a way to single out people visiting here for any potential harassment and be picked up to be questioned by the police.

But let’s not rush into this too quickly. After all, we do have Social Security cards, drivers’ licenses, credit cards, bank cards, insurance cards, medic alert cards and library cards.

So what is one more card to most people?

One more card is one more step away from the little security we have right now. Our phone numbers and home addresses are already fair game to just about anyone looking to advertise, on my time. And in our increasingly high-tech world, our more personal information is open to the highest bidders, or just those that take the time.

One more card is little more than a placebo, to make people feel safe because when everyone is carrying a national ID, no terrorist or illegal immigrant can move about the country without the police knowing about it.

One more card is just one more hassle. There are suggestions that a national ID be required to be presented at any hotel when staying the night, so that the police can be informed of your position when you arrive and when you leave. Spring break trip across country? Sounds good. Forget your national ID? Hope you brought your tent, no hotel for you.

But those that do remember to take their cards on vacation can’t count on the knowledge they have escaped to have a quiet weekend. This would however be a parent’s dream, being able to check up on their kids, no matter where they try and have a vacation.

Of course these cards would be made sophisticated, much like a driver’s license. As we all know, the ability to replicate those is well out of the reach of college students, so terrorists don’t have a chance.

There are, however, suggestions that these national IDs become even more high tech, including features like finger print scans, retina scans and voice prints. The latter of which most cell phone users know to be far from a perfected technology. Having to repeat something as small as a friend’s name five or six times becomes more complex when having to rehearse your social security number and possibly some new complex PIN.

We are still a very far cry from using retina and fingerprint scans as well. Just trying to institute such a policy where every legal American has to be scanned and electronically finger printed before machines could be instituted would be worse than a day at the DMV.

Then all that is required is putting the machines in every hotel across America, as well as police stations, government buildings, airports and bus stations, and we have our “easy solution.”

Proponents claim that all these features are for our own protection as well as for anyone visiting from another country. America wouldn’t be changed into a police state, it would just make it possible for them to show up moments after the arrival of any visitors to question them because they come from another country.

Allowing every legal visitor from another country to be questioned simply because they have “visitor” rather than “resident” stamped on their ID is exactly my idea of taking another step closer to being a police state.

The change won’t be overnight, as proponents realize that we don’t have the ability to institute all the high-tech security measures. And the fact that all machines will be plugged into some central main frame. But if it works with the reliability that credit card machines do, millions of people will be without a hotel room and any other services that require the national ID scan.

With private information as free as it is, the system set up by the national ID card would leave all of us that more open to invasion of privacy by the police, federal authorities and anyone else who might be watching.

Even without all of the high-tech features, the card would still be used to single out residents from non-residents.

For a country that is supposed to be so open and welcome of diversity, we sure are working hard to make sure that those differences are kept separate and pointed out.

We need to realize that singling people out based upon their national origin and their status in the United States is not the way to go about things. Making people feel unwelcome and taking away both their privacy and that of us citizens is not the way to go about making us more safe.

Blaine Moyle is a senior in English and secondary education from Des Moines.