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April 21, 2008

Bureaucratic bookkeeping vs. targeted surveillance

Today’s Downsizer-Dispatch . . .

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Quote of the Day:

“Nothing is as terrible to see as ignorance in action.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Source: engraved on a plaque at the Naval War College

Subject: Bureaucratic bookkeeping vs. targeted surveillance

Which is more likely to protect you from terrorism, a database and a plastic ID card, or targeted surveillance of probable terrorists?

REAL ID is mere bureaucratic bookkeeping. It aims to put EVERY LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN in a database, give us a special ID card, and then constantly ask us the totalitarian’s favorite question, “May I see your papers please?”

But how exactly would a REAL ID card protect you from a suicide bomber? Could you throw it at them, or use it to shield yourself from the blast? Would a suicide bomber even . . .

  • Worry about having a REAL ID, or . . .
  • Choose a target where an ID was needed? 

The characteristic failing of military strategists is that they “re-fight the last war,” using tactics that might have worked in that war, but that are now obsolete. The architects of REAL ID are doing exactly that, re-fighting the events of 9-11, when terrorists used ID cards to board airplanes. But . . .

Why should the terrorists repeat that tactic when there are so many softer targets? This is an obvious question, and probably an irrefutable objection. Nevertheless, the architects of REAL ID still want to . . .

  • Number and track and inconvenience all of us
  • Increase our risk of identity theft
  • Erect yet another traditional component of a police state

Beyond these negative outcomes the most that REAL ID is likely to accomplish is to help forensic investigators establish, after an attack has already happened, that the terrorist . . .

  • Had no REAL ID, but executed his attack anyway
  • Obtained a REAL ID legally
  • Forged a REAL ID
  • Bought, borrowed, or robbed a REAL ID that was sufficient to his purpose

Learning these things after the fact won’t do much to protect anyone. 

The REAL ID databases and ID cards will cost a lot but accomplish little. They will ensnare ALL law-abiding citizens, but FEW if any law-ignoring terrorists. What we need instead is targeted surveillance of probable terrorists. This means . . .

  • To infiltrate the places where terrorist cells are born

We must find and stop terrorists at their source, because by the time a REAL ID database and card might possibly play a role, it’s probably already too late.

Most importantly, we must moderate or eliminate those aspects of our foreign policy that motivate Muslims to radicalize into deadly, suicidal terrorists. This includes wars and occupations in Islamic lands, as well as financial and military support for dictatorships in Islamic countries.   

Governments burden their subjects with the exact weight of tyranny they believe those subjects will bear. We must prove ourselves unwilling to bear the burden of REAL ID. We must demand that our government protect us with targeted surveillance of probable terrorists, and not with bureaucratic bookkeeping, databases and plastic cards.

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Jim Babka
President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.

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