Why America Has Always Refused National ID

How have we gotten by without a national ID card for 230 years?

by Rick Brinegar

National ID Rejected by Americans

India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and most European countries have implemented National ID cards in attempts to improve national security, expose potential terrorists and control illegal immigration. Many developed countries, however, do not have such a card, including New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, the Nordic countries, Sweden and the United States. In fact, Americans have consistently rejected the idea of a national ID card.


The Social Security Number was created as an account number to be used to administrate the Social Security System. Efforts to make it a universal identifier have been consistently rejected.


The Social Security Administration task force on the Social Security Number rejected the extension of the Social Security Number to the status of an ID card.


The Health, Education and Welfare Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems concluded that a national identifier was not desirable.


The Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification rejected the idea of a national identifier.


The Carter Administration reiterated that the Social Security Number was not to become a national identifier.


The Reagan Administration stated that it was “explicitly opposed” to the creation of a national ID card. Reagan likened the proposal to the Biblical mark of the beast.


The Clinton administration advocated a “Health Security Card” to be issued to every American. They assured the public that the card would have “full protection for privacy and confidentiality.” However, the idea was rejected and a health security card was never implemented.


Congress repealed a provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which provided for including Social Security numbers on driver’s licenses.


On May 11, 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Real ID Act into law. The Bush administration and Homeland Security said that Real ID was not a national ID. However, they fooled no one. Was it an ID card? Yes. Was it passed by a national law? Yes. Then it’s a national ID.

American Nightmare: States Opt-out of Real ID

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, 25 states, over the past two years, have passed laws or nullifying resolutions stating that the states refuse to comply with Real ID. The Real ID Act is seen as an intrusion of privacy and a massive, unfunded Federal mandate. It has been delayed so many times that it is, in practice, dead on arrival, for now.


Many privacy groups have opposed the Real ID Act of 2005 since its inception, as being too invasive, excessively bureaucratic and too expensive. It turns state driver’s licenses into national identity cards, and imposes many new burdens on taxpayers, citizens, immigrants, and state governments. But it does nothing to protect against terrorism. Only two of the nineteen September 11th hijackers were on the FBI’s terrorist “watch list,” and neither of these two were known to have used fake IDs. The hijacker who flew a plane into the Pentagon, Hani Hanjour, had four driver’s licenses and ID cards from three states. The addition of technological features to deter forgery poses a dilemma: the more secure a card is, the greater its value, and the greater the incentive and reward for compromising the security of the card.


Civil liberties groups say that PASS ID, the administration’s attempt to “fix” Real ID by giving states more time, flexibility and money to meet federal requirements, would violate privacy rights in the same way the Real ID does. Twenty-four advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Network to End Domestic Violence, have sent Congress a letter opposing both identification programs.

National ID, No Matter What

Following the indefinite delay of Real ID and PASS ID, government bureaucrats have forcefully pressed on anyway, continuing their efforts to implement a National ID system.


In March, 2010, Senate Democrats introduced an ID card program named “Believe,” an acronym for Biometric Enrollment, Locally-stored Information and Electronic Verification of Employment. At the heart of the immigration bill is this requirement that would force nearly all Americans to obtain the new “tamper proof” Social Security cards while requiring that all employers purchase new $800 ID scanners. An ACLU representative commented, “Creating a biometric national ID will not only be astronomically expensive, it will usher government into the very center of our lives.” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained the position of the Democrats, saying, “For a long time it was resisted by many groups but now we live in a world where we take off our shoes at the airport and pull out our identification. People understand that in this vulnerable world we have to be able to present identification.”

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Commenting on the proposed biometric ID, an article in the Huffington Post revealed, “Immigrants are presumed criminals and terrorists before they’re given a chance to be half-treated as humans. That’s the whole thrust of the bill. Immigrants are presumed criminals or terrorists. The burden of proof is on them.” Attempting to appease critics, sponsors of the bill insist that no government database would house everyone’s information and that the cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices.


Critics respond that this proposed biometric card is actually an end-run around opposition to a national ID card, and that it would be impossible to create such a system without creating a national database. “It is fundamentally a massive invasion of people’s privacy,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel of the ACLU. “We’re not only talking about fingerprinting every American, treating ordinary Americans like criminals in order to work. We’re also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification.”

ID Systems Have Life of Their Own

The issue seems to be not so much whether we should use a piece of plastic to prove who we are, but whether we should build a massive network of databases, identity papers, and access control points to determine our status and confirm our identity. Once the button is pushed to launch a nationalized identification program, the program can take on a life of its own.


A unique, nationwide identifier is attractive to businesses and identity thieves. The original Social Security card read, “NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION.” It was intended, in the beginning, to make sure workers paid into a system that could pay benefits later. However, the Social Security number has grown to become a forerunner of national ID. It is required for taxation and receiving benefits from many government services. Private database companies use the Social Security Number as the unique identifier for tracking immense amounts of personal information.


The original driver’s license gave very specific permission to operate a vehicle on public roads. Washington bureaucracy often works against our nation’s founding principles of limited government and individual liberty and would like to turn your driver’s license into an “internal passport,” in other words, a license to leave your house.

A Choice Between Freedom and Slavery

Law enforcement and other government agencies would soon ask to link into your national ID information. Others would begin seeking access, such as employers, landlords, private investigators, credit agencies, landlords, civil litigants, mortgage brokers and direct mailers. There is a deep-seeded aversion, in every American, to being stopped by sentries for “your papers please.” Every time an officer would scan your ID, a permanent record would be created, along with time and location. All of your movements inside your own country would be monitored and recorded. The personal privacy that Americans have always expected would be gone.


“Those who are willing to allow the government to establish a Soviet-style internal passport system because they think it will make us safer,” according to Ron Paul, “are terribly mistaken. Subjecting every citizen to surveillance and ‘screening points’ will actually make us less safe, not in the least because it will divert resources away from tracking and apprehending terrorists and deploy them against innocent Americans!”

Your Right to be Anonymous

Throughout history, citizens of other countries have endured harassment and intimidation by government agents. The Committee for State Security or KGB in the Soviet Union and the Gestapo of Nazi Germany set up checkpoints and demanded state-issued identification papers under threat of arrest and imprisonment.


On the other hand, Americans, for the most part, have benefited from 4th and 5th Amendment rights to travel and transact freely, while enjoying a certain degree of privacy. We exercise anonymity when we vote. Without the secret ballot we would be susceptible to harassment and intimidation. America’s Founders published anonymously and most of the foundational writings were published anonymously, including the Federalist and Anti-Federalist papers. Anonymous expression was important for the creation of the United States. The men who argued about the Constitution needed to be able to speak their minds without fear of retaliation. Opponents of national ID cards often express the fear that any regime that standardizes ID cards will create new opportunities for encroachment and abuse.

Is Resistance Futile?

Our personal information is extremely valuable. Our medical information, employment and criminal history, litigation, bankruptcies, transaction and payment history are highly prized by government and industry cyber-intruders. Data corporations are capturing huge stockpiles of personal information on you so that airports, retailers, police and other government authorities are equipped to identify and track you. They will aggressively use any means available to extract your personal information for their control and profit.


There is no provision in the Constitution that gives the federal government the right to force Americans to be fingerprinted and to carry an identification card against their will. If we don’t resist now, we will all eventually have to posses one of these cards to function in American society. Without a biometric card, you will, in effect, become a non-person. It is no longer a matter of how far the federal government will go. They have already rejected the protection of liberty and limits on government intended by our American forefathers. We are aware of their ultimate goal, despotism.

National, Then Global ID

Americans have rejected a national identity system for 230 years, and have prospered as a nation. However, in the not-too-distant future, a global identification law will apply to every person in every country on earth. Most Americans will believe they are honoring God when they become part of this global identification database. The Bible calls this “the mark of the beast.” It will seem to be the logical, safe, sane and smart thing to do. With the mark, you will be promised improved security. You will be allowed to buy food, water, medicine and clothes. You will be able to work and get paid. But, with these privileges comes a terrible penalty. The Bible plainly says that, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God…He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” (Revelation 14: 9, 10) [NKJV]

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