Bold Words Used for Bad–Take 2

Last May, I wrote a post about how public officials use bold, scary words to maneuver people into doing things. As with the original post, this one is also focused on the REAL ID national identification system. With a regularity that’s beginning to get annoying (Secretary Chertoff just happened to give testimony on the topic prior to the 9/11 anniversary), the Department of Homeland Security has renewed its efforts to get Congress behind the REAL ID program.

One of my favorite arguments trotted out for consumption is the case for identity protection:

Through REAL ID, we’re not only preserving people’s privacy but strengthening it. By improving the quality of our ID documents, we’re protecting against one of the fastest rowing crimes in America today – the crime of identity theft. There is no greater violation of privacy than when criminals gain total access to personal information in the process of stealing someone’s identity. (link)

Then there’s the national security angle:

We believe that delay in implementing REAL ID could be detrimental to our national security. In the National Intelligence Estimate that was released in July, it clearly states that Al Qaeda will “intensify” its efforts to put operatives inside our country. Clearly, time waits for no one and neither do our enemies. Across the nation, the American people support the creation of secure driver’s licenses and other forms of identification that cannot be exploited or forged by terrorists. Our states have an obligation to their people to respond to what the 9/11 Commission recommended and what this Congress affirmed. They have a duty to help us repair the security gaps that were so tragically exploited on 9/11 by implementing REAL ID as quickly as possible. (link)

Hmm. Could this statement be a jab at the 13 states who’ve passed laws opposing REAL ID? However, this obvious protest has been ignored. Now, “starting on May 11, 2008, Americans will need a federally approved, “machine readable” ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments or take advantage of nearly any government service.” (link) Living in a state that chooses not to comply? You’d better have a passport.

“Citizens in states that don’t comply with the new rules will have to use passports for federal purposes.” (link) That might be a bit of problem given the recent backlog of passport applications due to changes in the rules requiring passports for air travel from the U.S. to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. (link) Imagine if everyone in those 13 states needs a passport to board a plane or go to a national park.

I’m not against national security (far from it actually), but don’t try to scare me into doing something because you can’t come up with a logical explanation or a better solution. Perhaps I’m in the minority. Perhaps there are more people who agree with H.L. Mencken—“Most people want security in this world, not liberty.” (link)



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September 2007
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