ACLU Tells Congress that National ID System Would Be Ineffective, Expensive and Deeply Misguided

November 16, 2001 12:00 am

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ACLU Special Feature: Five Reasons National ID Cards Should Be Rejected


WASHINGTON — Testifying before a House panel this morning, the American Civil Liberties Union said that a national ID system would be ineffective, overly expensive and deeply misguided.

“None of the proposed identification systems would effectively sort out the ‘good’ from the ‘bad,'” Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, told the panel. “An identity card is only as good as the information that establishes an individual’s identity in the first place. It makes no sense to build a national identification system at a cost of billions of taxpayer dollars on such a faulty foundation, particularly when possession of the ID card would give you a free pass to board an airplane or avoid security checks at federal buildings and other public places.”

Corrigan testified this morning before the House Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee. Other witnesses at the hearing included former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former Sen. Alan K. Simpson (R-WY) and former Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL) as well as representatives from the Oracle Corporation and the government of Belgium.

Proposed plans for a national ID system fail to meet the test of increasing safety while simultaneously protecting civil liberties, Corrigan said. “It’s quite clear that a national ID system would have done very little to prevent the attacks of September 11,” she added. “Because of this, and because it infringes on the most basic of American freedoms — the right to be left alone — Congress should oppose any national ID proposal.”

Corrigan also noted that the cards would provide a new tool for racial or ethnic profiling and would lead to far more illegal discrimination, not less. She said that the failure to carry one’s identification would become an extra pretext for the unwarranted search, detention and arrest of minority citizens and non-citizens. The effect of this added government scrutiny on one’s status in this country would have a stigmatizing and humiliating effect and would undermine their right to equal treatment under the law, Corrigan testified.

Also of concern to the ACLU is the exponentially greater threat of having damaging private information fall into the wrong hands when data is consolidated into one giant, extraordinarily complex computerized repository. “A Big Brother-like national ID would put the most sensitive information about all of us into one giant clearinghouse with its contents accessible by an accidental keystroke or one bad apple employee,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan’s Testimony on National IDs can be found at:
/node/21054 The ACLU’s Special Online Collection — Safe and Free in Times of Crisis — can be found at:

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