National ID System Fails the “Duck Test”

February 20, 2002

By Peyton Knight

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck. It is a DUCK! The push for a national identification system is in full swing by state driver’s license bureaucrats. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) has launched a campaign to convince the federal government to allow them to add driver’s most sensitive information to state-issued licenses.

At issue is the establishment of a National ID system, something that in these times of heightened concern for security has the allure of providing security, but would, instead, steal everyone’s right to privacy. All totalitarian governments require national identification cards. Our form of government, however, holds that the preservation of individual liberty is its highest priority. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights exists for this single purpose.

The AAMVA would include information on a driver’s license that would range from fingerprints to biometric data. The AAMVA is lobbying for millions of dollars of federal money to study the creation of a national database that would cost billions of dollars to link every state; this is total centralization of critical and, until now, private information. The end result is the dreaded, national ID system that privacy advocates have been fighting for years.

Led by the Free Congress Foundation, forty-three national organizations have joined together to oppose this latest assault on privacy. These include the American Legislative Exchange Council and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Organizations as diverse as Eagle Forum and the American Civil Liberties Union have found common ground. Letters have been sent to President Bush and Secretary of Transportation, Norman Mineta.

Apart from the obvious larger threat, the AAMVA effort is on a fast track. Betty Serian of AAMVA stated at a January 14th press conference: “We want to move swiftly. As swiftly as we can. First and foremost, we want a short-term legislative agenda which we hope to move forward within the next thirty to sixty days to include such things as uniformity, security features on licenses that would be standardized across the states.”

By contrast, Twila Braze, president of the Citizen’s Council on Health Care, one of the signers of the protest letter, said her organization “views the national ID as a tool that will allow government tracking of private medical decisions, government health care databases, unconsented medical research, and use of health care data to create public policy supportive of health care rationing.”

A national ID system will be rampant with fraud and abuse, but mistakes made by bureaucrats alone would make citizens’ lives a living hell. Currently, 30% of the information stored in federal databases is incorrect. A single mistake on your new national ID card could make it impossible for you to drive a car, apply for a credit card, or even get a job.

A national ID system will not, however, produce a safer, more secure nation. The data to obtain ID cards, as well as the cards themselves, can be forged. This has already been demonstrated by the terrorists who laid waste to the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11th.

The choice between liberty and security is a false one. Choose liberty and you’re just as secure. Choose “security” and you’re no safer. Government officials simply want to be able to track your every movement, purchase and doctor’s visit from cradle to grave.

Americans have to act quickly to inform the White House and the Congress that this proposal must be rejected before we are all forced to “show our papers.”

Peyton Knight is the Associate Editor of The DeWeese Report and the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at

Tom DeWeese
[email protected]

Tom DeWeese is President of the American Policy Center and National Grassroots Coordinator for CFACT (Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow) working to help local activists organize into Freedom Pods ( He is also the author of three books, including Now Tell Me I Was Wrong, ERASE, and Sustainable: the WAR on Free Enterprise, Private Property, and Individuals.