National ID Cards, a Mere Band-Aid?

Published in Business Week Online on November 5, 2001, Lorraine Woellert presents an argument that National ID cards are not the answer to advancing security in the United States. In the article titled “National IDs Won't Work,” Woellert begins by reasoning why people have the need for increased security. She introduces the idea of a national ID card and explains the inherent benefits of increased security but that the ID cards will in fact put the United States at a greater risk. According to Woellert, a national ID card would violate our freedoms and cost tens of billions of dollars while still being vulnerable to forgery. The author ends with what seems to be the most horrific fault of a national ID card. ID cards may “lull” the public into having an artificial feeling of security, thus creating more opportunity for terrorist attack.

I agree with Woellert in that creating mandatory national ID cards generates security problems rather than increasing security. I believe that flaws such as high cost, invasion of privacy, and false sense of security, outweigh the benefits that could become of this ID.  

Lorraine Woellert claims that almost anyone would be able to obtain a forged national ID because technology is not advanced enough to be impenetrable. This supports her claim that an ID card would not increase security, nor protect the United States any further (para. 3). She goes on to say, even standard ID cards are expensive and creating an ID on a grander scale would increase the already large costs (para. 4). I agree with Woellert in that there would have to be an advanced identification system to enable one to obtain an ID card. Social security cards and birth certificates can easily be forged, so people who present these forged documents would be able to appear less harmful under a false identification card. Possibly including an eye scan or finger print would prevent the common thief but would be penetrable by sophisticated thieves. This would compromise security in the United States thus increasing danger. If a criminal were to obtain a false identity and live under an alias, they may go unnoticed without a trace of their past. In an article in Techknowledge, Adam Thierer asks readers to consider how effortless it is to create a license. He quotes USA Today to confirm that technology has made counterfeiting IDs effortless. “Gone are the crude, cut-and-paste fake IDs common a few years ago that were so obviously bogus….but often they're good enough to fool bartenders, nightclub doormen and, sometimes, police officers” (para. 8). If teenagers with little computer experience can forge licenses, then imagine what a dishonest person who has advanced technological knowledge could do. In an article posted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Bruce Schneier claims, “No matter how unforgeable we make it, it will be forged. And even worse, people will get legitimate cards in fraudulent names” (para. 10). The cost of an unforgeable card would be unreasonable and unaffordable for the government and the people. If retina scans or even thumb prints were used to identify the card holder, costs would increase further and may not guarantee security. About 300 million people (the United States population) would have to register and complete these scans. Along with other expenses such as: facilities and staff to create cards, automatic card readers and staffing to monitor and repair the readers, the cost of national ID cards would amount to a multi billion dollar operation that would take many years to create and manage.

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Woellert goes on to claim that forcing citizens to obtain national ID cards would be an invasion of privacy and security. She speculates that a “smart card” could hold information of your ethnicity, religion, political leanings, or products you consume on a regular basis, enabling discrimination (para. 6). Because the card would be required, someone may be able to easily view information, and possibly steal identities. If a required ID card were to be put in effect, it would encroach on privacy because people would be forced to reveal personal information. Eventually when an individual applies to college, he or ...

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