Bush Endorses National ID and New Government Secrecy Measures; ACLU Slams Parts of President's Homeland Security Plan as Shortsighted

July 16, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today strongly criticized provisions in the newly announced Bush Administration homeland security proposal that could lead to forcing a national ID system on the American public and weaken federal and state government openness laws, such as the Freedom of Information Act.

“”This plan proposes a national ID — an internal passport — pure and simple,”” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel on privacy rights. “”It’s astonishing that the Bush Administration would back a proposal that has been slammed from all sides of the political spectrum as ineffective, expensive, easily compromised and dangerous to core American liberties.””

Commenting on the proposed weakening of the laws that ensure that federal and state governments operate in the open, Timothy Edgar, the ACLU Legislative Counsel on national security issues, said, “”A government of the people, by the people, and for the people must be visible to the people. It appears that the Bush plan contemplates concealing from public disclosure both information submitted by businesses to the federal government, and information they submit to state and local governments.””

The reworking of state and federal openness laws and a national ID card are two provisions in a plan announced today by the Bush Administration to grant itself broad new powers in the arena of domestic security. Many of the other sections of the proposal are non-objectionable, the ACLU said, but the provisions dealing with a national ID and the limitation of public disclosure of information about “physical and cyber critical infrastructure”” are enormously worrisome.

Congressional proposals similar to the national ID measure in the White House plan have been the target of intense criticism by a strange bedfellows coalition of groups from across the political spectrum, including the ACLU and Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum. Even the vigorously apolitical National Research Council called a plan to standardize driver’s license across the country a “”nationwide identity system.””

Regarding the changes to federal, state and local freedom of information laws proposed by the White House, the ACLU’s Edgar said that the proposals would actually diminish security by hiding from the public information about actions corporations are taking and are not taking to protect the public from attacks on critical infrastructures.

“”Public debate can force corporate action to address vulnerabilities,”” Edgar said. “”Government secrecy would stifle that much-needed debate.””

Also problematic in the proposal are measures that would:

  • Permit the extradition of American citizens – simply on the say-so of the Attorney General and Secretary of State – even to countries with which the United States has no extradition treaty;

  • Severely damage already fraying relationships between law enforcement and the community by putting local and state police in the business of immigration enforcement on a massive scale;

  • Fail to require states to provide adequate checks and balances to ensure fairness and equity for individuals subject to quarantine;

  • Threaten individual privacy rights by expanding information sharing and enhancing database technologies without detailing privacy policies and protections.

  • Study measures to further involve the military in law enforcement activities despite past abuses involving soldiers trained primarily to kill the enemy, instead of enforcing civilian laws with due regard for constitutional rights.

    More information on national IDs and government openness can be found at:

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