Got I.D.?

The final stripping of our hard-won, Constitutional right to privacy will not come as a raw power-grab by jack-booted agents of the state, but as a glossy new product sold to us by slick tv ads, promising to bring us the convenience that only a National Identification Card can provide.

A mandatory national ID card -- don't you dare leave home without it! -- is the holy grail of autocratic snoopers, a group that columnist William Safire calls "zealots of intrusion." Lately, they have gotten more sophisticated in their reach for this holy grail, -- instead of thuggish demands to "show us your papers," the card will be marketed like a super-sophisticated credit card that every consumer needs. One can expect that the cards will come in a choice of designs and colors, and who can doubt that there will be vanity versions for the gold and platinum crowd?

Cantankerous critics like me will be dismissed as fussy old fogies. "You carry a driver's license," they'll scoff, "so what's the big deal?" Well, as Safire points out, this is not a license, but an electronic dossier that will open your private life to their scrutiny. Thanks to computer chip technology, not only will this piece of plastic have your photo, address, and signature, but also your retinal scan and DNA information ... plus much, much more -- inlcuding your medical records, credit rating, employment history, bank balance, voting records, arrests, product preferences, Internet purchases, and membership in groups.

"Carry your E-Z One-Swipe Convenience Card," will be the pitch -- or else. Or else, what are you hiding?

This is Jim Hightower saying ... This is no Orwellian paranoia, it's already in the works. State driver's license bureaus are planning to link their databases, Oracle Corporation says it will donate the software for the government to create the national ID system, and powerful members of congress are pushing legislation. To fight these zealots of intrusion, contact: Electronic Privacy Information Center 202-483-1140.

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