ID, I Don't

When should the government be able to demand our papers?

| September 2, 2004


John Gilmore has been fighting an uphill battle. In the post 9/11 world, when the national security apparatus has been given carte blanche to fight the war on terror, Gilmore has been paying close attention to the erosion of civil liberties and analyzing the effects of identification policy in terms of both privacy and security. His findings? In addition to violating basic citizen's rights, identification-based security is significantly less effective than traditional random searches, since terrorist organizations can simply send operatives through checkpoints until they find an ID that works. But the clumsiness of the No Fly list, which has recently help up Ted Kennedy on several occasions, has not stopped its rapid spread through that national security infrastructure. More and more, private and public security organizations have been pushing for a national ID card which would be required in order for an individual to pass through security checkpoints. Gilmore has gone to court over the right of citizens not to carry a mandatory government ID, but the national trends point to its eventual adoption.

Still, Gilmore's battle is not the exercise in futility it seems; he has brought issues of privacy and liberty to the forefront of a national dialog in which such concerns are considered secondary at best. In doing to, he has attracted the attention and support of numerous civil liberties groups who were galvanized after the Supreme Court's June Hiibel decision, in which they upheld the right of police to demand a person's identification on pain of arrest. Gilmore began his fight as a marginalized Quixotic figure who was widely seen as going to excess, but he has helped raise consciousness about the government's own Quixotic excesses.
-- Brendan Themes

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