National ID card nearer?

National ID card nearer?

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

The Bush administration soon may take another step closer to a police state. High level adminstration officials have climbed on the bandwagon for a national ID card.

The card is the brainchild of Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, a software company based in Redwood City, Calif. Last week Ellison told the San Jose Mercury-News (www. that he had meetings in the past week with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and officials of the CIA, FBI and other agencies to discuss the proposal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has endorsed the plan, and some executives have joined the parade for it. Even, surprisingly, some highly visible civil libertarians have stated the idea is worth pursuing.

“We are in the process of putting a proposal together and analyzing what it would take to get something running in a matter of a small number of months, like three months,” Ellison said.

The software executive first presented the idea about a month ago during a television interview. In that conversation he offered to donate the software. Oracle is the number one maker of database software. Ellison is one of the wealthiest men in the world. His fortune is estimated at $15 billion.

The proposed cards would contain a chip which can be used to store personal information about the bearer, such as medical and financial data, any criminal record, if the person is wanted on a warrant, fingerprints, hair and eye color and other data. Ellison claims they would be voluntary for all Americans.

“Wouldn’t you feel better,” he said, “if everyone who walked into an airport showed their ID card and put their thumb in the scanner, and you knew they were who they said they were?”

These cards would be mandatory for foreign visitors, including students on visas and aliens living and working in the United States.

Civil liberties critics say the cards would put too much power to track citizens into the hands of the government. “ID cards were used by the South African government to keep apartheid in place and by Malaysia to separate religious people by group,” according to Mark Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit group.

Rotenberg, the American Civil Liberties Union and other critics, fear the cards would be required to board buses, apply for jobs, or even to enter cities that are facing terrorist threats.

Backers of the proposed cards think these concerns are exaggerated. Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf said he sees nothing the matter with a national ID card. Schwarzkopf said he’s had a military ID card since his cadet days at West Point and hasn’t lost any freedom.

Lawyer Alan Gershowitz believes the card would reduce or eliminate racial profiling at airports. “What’s in it for me is the same thing that’s in it for you: a safer America.”

Opponents to the proposal ask the question is: if this power is given the government, can we trust them not to abuse it?

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