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Sunday, November 14, 2004

To protect the innocent

Even before we moved to Israel, I followed with interest the on-again off-again debate over whether to institute a standardized National Identification Card in the U.S..

Having grown up in a family of civil libertarians, a part of me bridled at the very notion of being forced to prove my identity upon demand.  The idea that a representative of the government, whether police or military, could demand to know who and where I was at any given time made me very uncomfortable. Quite simply, it smacked of, "Halt! Show me your papers!"

Things as innocuous as ATM cards and EZ Pass have even come under scrutiny by libertarians because of their potential for abuse (i.e. tracking specific people without probable cause, or making note of travel /spending habits). 

However, having grown up in an era when trying to buy beer at 16 was more a battle of wits than a criminal offense, I wonder if my views on the subject might be dated. 

I came of age at a time when plane tickets could still be purchased without ID in any name and used by anybody.  You could withdraw money or close a bank account simply by presenting a handwritten bankbook, and a library card was considered a valid form of ID.  One could even give a younger brother one's Social Security Card and a copy of one's most recent report card and get him a duplicate driver's license with your date of birth and his picture on it!  (theoretically, of course)  ;-)

But in this age of heightened security and potentially dangerous strangers among us, is it still wise to have 50 different state driver's licenses acceptable as valid ID?  I mean really, would an airport ticket agent in New York really be able to spot a fake Wyoming drivers license?

Police departments all over the U.S. still have logbooks full of 'John/Jane Doe' arrests for the simple reason that the law does not required that one identify oneself upon demand.  Not only isn't it a crime to withhold identity... but the police are nice enough to tell you that you have the right to remain silent on this, or any other subject!

So what is it about a standardized national identification card that frightens everyone so much?  I may be wrong, but I get the sense that the wheels seem to always fall off the debate over such a standardized national ID based on two main sticking points:

1.  How much information should be included (i.e. medical history, driving record, arrest record, credit history, etc.)


2. The requirement that the ID be carried it at all times (under penalty of law).

I can understand the knee-jerk reaction over number one.  If I'm stopped by the police while committing a crime, I think my medical history should be beyond their reach. 

Likewise, if someone is hospitalized in an accident, I think knowing that they have terrible credit might unduly influence the level of care they receive (if they receive care at all!).

But requiring people to be able to positively identify themselves... where's the problem people?  The constitution still requires probable cause for an official to take you in hand, so what would an innocent person have to fear from his identity being known?  If I were (G-d forbid) in a serious accident, I'd like to think that I'd have more than just clean underwear to speak for my identity.

Here in Israel the law requires everyone above the age of 16 to carry identification.  Israeli citizens must carry their blue Teudat Zehut (identity card), temporary residents and permanent aliens have different colored cards, and foreigners are required to carry their passports at all time.

There was recently a well publicized case of an American tourist who was rounded up by the police in a sweep of illegal workers simply because she didn't have her passport with her.  She was rightly indignant that as a tourist she was treated badly.  But she completely ignores the issue of 'what if you were an illegal worker or a terrorist (not mutually exclusive groups, by the way), and not just some flighty tourist who left her passport in her hotel room?'

The Israeli national identity cards contain a lot of information... but IMHO doesn't cross over into 'Big Brotherland'.  It has your identity number, your name (first last and middle), your mother and father's name, your birthdate and country of birth.  In the plastic folder that contains the card, there is also a paper addendum that lists your current address, your marital status, your spouse's name and identity number, as well as the names, birthdates and identity numbers of all your minor children.  Additionally, anyone with a gun license must carry it together with their Teudat Zehut in order for it to be valid.

This may sound a bit intrusive to some, but somehow it bothers me less knowing that whatever I might view as a minor intrusion is certainly viewed by terrorists /criminals as a serious obstacle.

Maybe with Ashcroft out of the way, a more palatable national identity solution can be considered and adopted in the U.S..  It may frustrate a bunch of youngsters from buying a six-pack of beer on the sly, and knock the married folks out of the dating scene.  But it might also create an environment where legitimate representatives of the government can, under very specific circumstances, require that you prove that you are who you say you are.  Forget all the 'Blue States/Red States' crap, for the moment.  Is the U.S. one country or a collection of many?

Somehow, my internal civil libertarian is less offended by a standardized national identity solution... especially when it becomes clear these days that names are seldom changed to protect the innocent.

What do you think?


Posted by David Bogner on November 14, 2004 | Permalink


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creating a new federal crime, that of not carrying an id around is oppressive. not only does it cause people to have to futz around with the government to get the thing, replace it when it gets in the wash, and pay some fee for it, but more importantly it changes the relationship between the police and the people in that the police would then have a reason to stop anyone merely to check their ids.

the practical considerations are even worse than the theoretical. faking a national id is no harder than faking a passport, so any real criminal will have a fake of one or the other anyway. will the guy at the airport screening booth be any more likely to understand the difference between a real Sri Lankan passport and a high quality fake Ceylon one(http://www.geocities.com/old_crazy_atheist/0919fake.html). using the Israeli model, who decides if the person without an id is 16? after all they don't have an id; so, do they get hauled in like that tourist or get a pass?

forget all of that and impose such a system, what is the benefit? police get a new reason to nose around and interview potential criminals. they already can do that if they have probable cause. actually they can do that anyway, and if they turn out to not have had probable cause it will still take a while to sort out while the potential perp, in the opinion of the shady officer, is in jail.

there is a real cost to having people delayed or arrested during their daily routines. kids need to be picked up at school, the funds to cover the account need to get to the bank before the end of the day, people need to get to their jobs on time, and tourists need to spend their money at the local attractions and hotels.

on balance, it seems at first unnecessary, because there is a system, albeit chaotic, in place, secondly without any additional benefit over the current system, and finally does impose real costs. so, i am opposed, and hope that the good people of Israel consider decriminalizing the act of walking about their nation without id.

Posted by: rammer | Nov 14, 2004 5:26:28 PM

your analysis scratches the surface of a fundamental issue - whether the course of democracy must eventually run out when protective measures are required to secure its citizens against those who can use the loopholes nefariously. certainly the lifestyle of using the system against itself is not old at all - it likely started the day after the constitution was drafted. but the stakes have risen, and the potential damage both physically and economically may be too great to continue holding dear to legacy notions of "freedom" from intrusion.

regarding your line "The constitution still requires probable cause for an official to take you in hand, so what would an innocent person have to fear from his identity being known..." may I state as a former urban prosecutor that the theory does not always lend itself to...umm...righteous practice.

Posted by: yonah lloyd | Nov 14, 2004 6:02:28 PM

Rammer... I'm not saying I disagree with everything you said, but here are a few points that stick in my craw:

1. People 'futz around with government' all the time. To get your driver's license, you have to go to the DMV... to get your passport you go to the Department of State. The National ID is an extension of the department of State. Requiring them to do this is not oppressive, nor is the legal requirement to carry a driver's license while driving or a passport while travelling.

2. It is actually quite hard to fake a passport, so I will take your statement to mean that it would be fairly hard to make a convincing fake of a national ID card. Additionally, if everyone in the country has one, it would be much harder to pass a bogus one the same way a Wyoming driver's license can easily slip by a NY cop.

3. As far as age goes, I don't find your argument compelling. The terror threat in the US is not coming from kids in their mid teens (yet, anyway). The reason for a national ID is so adults can prove who they are.

4. This does not give the police a new reason to nose around in our business. In fact it gives the citizen an easy way to satisfy an official who thinks you might be acting in a suspicious manner. Instead of having to haul you in and do a background check, you can prove you are a citizen with all rights to move freely around the country. In short, the suspicion is already there... but without a standardized way of identifying foreign nationals from US citizens, the police and government security officers are much more likely to inadvertently inconvenience legitimate citizens.

5. You make my point for me when you say that there is already a system in place 'albeit chaotic...'. This chaos that currently exists is exactly how the 9/11 terrorists (sorry Beth) got into the country... entered flight school... and moved about unnoticed. Chaos is exactly what a standardized national ID card would seek to eliminate.

6. "i am opposed, and hope that the good people of Israel consider decriminalizing the act of walking about their nation without id." I'm aghast that you would wish such a thing on Israel. One of the only ways that the police and border patrols have been able to spot the wolves among the sheep is through the national ID laws. I really hope you are not suggesting that the Israeli government abandon the one thing that is successfully keeping our buses and cafes from blowing up more often.

Yonah... I never said anything about democracy running out. I suggested that the 'tug-o-war' between civil liberties and national security is an old one and that the white knot tied in the middle of the rope moves from side to side as these two needs battle for supremacy. G-d forbid one or the other should win completely since that would mean either anarchy or a police state. I agree with you that any system, no matter how well though out is subject to abuse. But I would rather have an unfortunate encounter with an overzealous policeman or prosecutor than (G-d forbid) bury a loved one due to our inability to properly identify a terror threat.

Posted by: David | Nov 15, 2004 9:47:41 AM

"Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."
-- Benjamin Franklin

I already have two government-issued identity cards: my social security card and my drivers license. My birth certificate, while not government-issued, also serves. I'm quite well identified as is, and I will fight tooth and nail against any additional "security" enhancements that infringe on my liberties.

The government regularly oversteps its bounds -- witness John Ashcroft's focused attack on the Bill of Rights. Why should I give up any little bit of freedom and assume they will not go further?

Let's take your Israeli national identity card, for example, and assume that establishing your identity is its intended purpose. To do this, it should contain your name (first last and middle) and your identify number -- and nothing else. Your parents' names? Not you. Your birthdate? Not you. Your birthplace? Not you. Your address, marital status, spouse's name and identity number, names/birthdates/id #s of your children? All not you. It can be argued convincingly that all that extraneous information is helpful in establishing who you are, but IT IS NOT WHO YOU ARE.

But why not give up that information? Because you shouldn't have to. Because it's not YOU, that's what your name and ID number is supposed to prove. The rest of it is intrusive snooping that can (and I believe eventually will) be used in new and creative rights-infringing ways.

I don't believe that having such a card would significantly deter terrorism (if it does at all). Documents can always be forged, a determined terrorist can always find a way to kill, and me giving up my rights is not an appropriate way to seek to stop them.

The United States is founded on the concept of personal liberty. If we infringe on those liberties we make a mockery of what our military and founders fought and died for -- and we hand "them" a victory.

And David, I say this as delicately and diplomatically as I can, but your position is not necessarily one from which I think you can or should preach on the USA's actions in this matter. You have voluntarily left the USA's freedoms behind to move to a place where such infringements are accepted (even welcomed, it sounds like). Your perspective can't help but be altered by that. It's not exactly "American" any more.

Posted by: Chuck | Nov 15, 2004 10:00:34 AM

Chuck... I left the country but did not renounce my citizenship. I still care deeply about the welfare and safety of the US and its citizens. It is precisely because of this that I see that old '60s era phrase 'love it or leave it' as a gross oversimplification. So long as the US allows me to participate in its processes, I will do so, just as I served in its military, with pride and reverence.

You are correct, in assuming that my experiences have colored my perspective. But that happens to people whether they move to another city state or country. I accept your comments in the spirit I hope they were offered... but I also hope you know I wasn't preaching. Most everything I write here is a personal exploration of ideas. It has the added benefit of drawing out opinions and viewpoints from smart folks like yourself, so my ideas don't stagnate in a vacuum. My views on everything from politics to marriage have been deeply influenced by the ongoing discussions that take place her on treppenwitz. You and I have never met, but I see no need to ask you to be delicate... just intillectually honest (which to my knowledge you always have been).

Just a note about the 'extra' information on the national ID card here. Israel is a country with a relatively small pool of names. In addition, more than half the population has a tradition of naming kids after their parents... and the rest have a tradition of naming after recently deceased relatives. The extra information allows various government agencies to place you within the generational framework. We are also a society that has a lot of holdovers from the early socialist founders, and there are countless benefits and programs that grant monitary and other tangible benifits based on marital status, number of children and such. In each of these many offices, your proof of eligebility is your national ID card. It is not enough to assume that the computer system of one ministry will be aware of the birth of your latest child which was recorded in the computers of another ministry.

You spoke of granting a victory by infringing on personal liberties. I partially agree. But I also think that the current IDs that each of us have (driver's license, Birth certificate, SSN, etc.) are a collection of band aids on a rather serious wound. At a certain point, it might make sense to take away the 'official ID status' of these many documents (reducing them to something like the stature of a library card). They would still be valid in the area for which they were issued... but they would no longer be called upon to serve as official ID (something they were not originally meant to do).

The framers of the constitution lived at a time when nearly everyone knew one another by name or reputation. My humble opinion is that they would laud the continued balancing (read struggle) of securing the blessings of liberty against the need to provide for the common defense.

Thanks for weighing in.

Posted by: David | Nov 15, 2004 10:37:37 AM


I hardly think that David was "preaching" – rather, I think that he was inviting an honest and serious discussion on all aspects of this issue. I don't think that his responses to Rammer's assertations were confrontational in nature – I think he was attempting to debunk some of the common knee-jerk reactions to this VERY charged question.

I can't speak for David, but with regards to your observation that our perspectives are not exactly "American" any more I feel the need to pipe up and offer some of my own opinions.

While on a return trip to visit family this past summer, we were both very surprised by the manifestations of America's current "security" situation. While I find it difficult to accurately articulate what I mean by this, I hope that the following will illustrate what I mean:

I had occassion to be in mid-town Manhattan a few days before the Republican National Convention. Every where I went there were loud rumblings regarding the upcoming Convention. These rumblings emerged primarily from democrats whose sensibilities were deeply offended by the over-zealous security precautions being imposed on the city – and indeed, as many businesses simply shut their doors for the duration of the Convention because the complications of remaining open drastically reduced their ability function properly – the rumblings resonated deeply.

The idea of a large chunk of mid-town Manhattan ceasing the day-to-day routine in order to host a political forum is truly horrifying! THINK about the ramifications of this! Clearly the line of deliniation regarding civil liberties was blurred – NOT TO MENTION THE MORE MUNDANE ASPECT OF THE ECONOMY!

As my sister-in-law (who lives near the UN) quipped, "They (the Republicans) are gonna arrest any one who even twitches in the President's direction!"

Back to my day in Manhattan: as I ran errands and visited friends at their various places of employment I began to be better able to identify what was tugging at me and why I felt so oddly "exposed." Without exception, when I entered enclosed public spaces and corporate work environments there was a mighty effort to look impenetrable, but little substantive enforcement.

What do I mean?

Take Grand Central Station where a deployment of National Guardsman at first looks quite impressive. Until you realize that like NYPD's finest, the Guardsman seem more intent on rousing indigents than surveying the crowd for potential security threats.

Take each corporate building I entered.

I was asked (as was each person without a corporation issued-ID tag) to present a picture form of ID (ironic, given the current thread, no?!), a call was placed to the person with whom I wished to visit, I was escorted through a badge reader (hi-tech, expensive piece of equipment which identifies each and every employee as they ENTER AND EXIT the building – looked alot like pin-ball arms!), I was delivered (by security) directly to the office of the employee with whom I was visiting.

Given my new day-to-day reality of having my personal effects searched before entering ANY non-residential enclosed space you would think that this routine would have escaped notice. And YET! what was oddly unsettling was the knowledge that while clearly no expense had been spared to secure these workplaces, NO ONE EXAMINED MY PERSONAL EFFECTS! Translation: I could have had a kilo of C4 in my bag, or any other number of non-metal weapons which would have gone undetected by the in-place security measures!

Note: these security measures WERE NOT IN ANTICIPATION of the upcoming convention! They represent the new reality of NYC employment.

I respectfully submit that a National ID card may not do anything to render these practises unnecessary or obsolete. I also understand that the vast majority of American citizens are not subjected, on a daily basis, to this kind of a security regimen.

You understand, I am NOT advocating searching the personal effects of every man, woman and child entering an enclosed space on US soil. Rather, I am suggesting that discussions such as the thread David initiated in this particular post be evaluated with an open mind and with an eye to the unfortunate reality that terrorism has sadly become a global reality.

No disrespect to Mr. Franklin intended, but he lived in a very different era. And before you hastily point out that the citizens and employees of NYC had neither freedom nor security the week of the National Republican Convention, I ask you what the alternative could have and should have been? What are the alternatives for the security measures currently in place in our airports, in our government buildings, and in our metropolitan areas?

I also hope that you don't mean to imply that since we "voluntarily left the USA's freedoms" (and by that, I assume you are referring only to the physical soil, because we have not – nor do we intend to ever – relinquish our US citizenship!) that we A) are no longer Americans, B) that we no longer have America's interests at heart, C) that we forfeit the right to question the policies of our government or the consensus of our fellow citizens.

Certainly, my "world-view" has been altered due to my personal experiences. Hopefully, my experiences serve to broaden my perspectives and to increase my knowledge. I would hate to think that your intention was to imply that our choices have limited our ability to think critically about these issues.

Posted by: zahava | Nov 15, 2004 11:41:47 AM

There is a balance that has to be reached. The time has come here in the good old USA to accept that if we want more security we need to make a couple of adjustments.

It doesn't feel good, it is not nice, but what are we going to do. It is similar to the discussion we had about Halloween and what practices should be allowed for safe trick or treating.

I don't have an idea to share here, but I don't see why we cannot strike a balance. I prefer to be safe than sorry.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 15, 2004 5:52:36 PM

That's what I get for "dashing off a quick comment before I go to bed."

I realize David wasn't "preaching," but rather expressing an opinion and stimulating conversation. I also didn't mean to sound as jingoistic as I did -- I'm hardly a "America, love it or leave it!" kind of guy. My point, though, was that those of you who have left the US to live in Israel have chosen to live a life with fewer personal liberties and have thus been ... "conditioned" to be more accepting of such losses. Which is fine, but I think in doing so you've given up in some small way the... Well, not the "right," but perhaps the standing(?) -- to talk about how we should live here. It's akin to me telling my ex-roommates how they should vacuum their carpets -- even if I plan to move back in some day.

But whether you're here or there or where ever, I go back again to Ben Franklin, who said it better than anyone: "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."

Posted by: Chuck | Nov 15, 2004 6:46:26 PM

Zahava... aw, what the heck, I'll talk with you off line (for a change). :-)

Jack... That balance you described is the location of the knot in the middle of the tug-o-war rope. I have no problem with people pulling in different directions, since that is what a democracy is all about.

Chuck... I knew where you were coming from, but my lovely wife (like most wives) is conditioned to come to her hubby's defense. I imagine Beth could do some serious shin kicking if the need arose. :-)

You are right, we have become accustomed to a different level of government involvement in our daily lives, only because Israel is a few years ahead of the U.S. in dealing with terrorism. If and when the next round of attacks occur in the U.S., you will need to push hard to make sure the government does only what is absolutely necessary... not everything they want. Again, that is what the tug-o-war is all about.

As far as your analogy: "It's akin to me telling my ex-roommates how they should vacuum their carpets -- even if I plan to move back in some day.", I have to point out that our continuing obligation to pay taxes in the U.S. is sort of like you continuing to share the rent after you moved out. It sorta does give you the right to have a say in how the vacuuming is done. That's why we still vote.

Posted by: David | Nov 15, 2004 8:49:27 PM

Oddly enough, I did not comment the first time with the realization that David had already penned a response to Chuck's first comment. I saw his comment appear magically above my own as I saw the page reload. With the many similarities in our response, is it any wonder we've been married 13 years?!

Chuck – you didn't sound, well... exactly jingoistic.... BUT, your words did hit a nerve. As David began his post, our fascination with this particular topic predates our move to Israel by quite some time.

In 1993 I worked for a small design firm in SoHo. Even though not exactly "on top" of the World Trade Center, we could feel the aftershocks from the bomb in the building where the studio was situated.

Even though the damage from the first attempt to kill everyone in the twin towers was nominal (considering the potential damage, not to mention the far-more-devastating effects of the second attempt) it was a frightening day to say the least. Information was slow in coming and it was hard to get a hold of friends and colleagues whose jobs and professions placed them in the immediate area during the attack.

Fast-forward 8 years to 2001. Clearly, someone did their homework. Although there has been much speculation that the terrorists did not expect the level of devastation that they achieved, I doubt that is of any consolation to the families of the victims or to the brave rescue workers who heroically attempted to find life buried beneath the rubble.

What I am trying to get at with all this preamble, is that it was our experiences ON U.S. SOIL that began the exploration of this topic, not our move to Israel.

Also, and of equal importance, neither of us is trying to tell anyone how they should live "there."

David, I think, was doing a bit of an on-line survey to poll folks on their opinions in order to further define his own.

I was simply trying to further his point that Americans already suffer a number of losses vis-a-vis the whole personal liberties thing. I was floored by the fact that so many democratic (read: very ACLU) folk didn't even blanche at the idea of handing over a form of picture ID to (often) poorly-trained-private-rent-a-cop types in order to enter their place of employment – especially when the practise really does little to diminish very real security threats.

So... in closing (and with full knowledge of David's second response to Chuck) I will add that it is ALWAYS a pleasure to share and explore ideas with intelligent people – even, and sometimes especially, if their point of view doesn't necessarily mirror our own.

I really wasn't kicking any shins before (sorry, honey!). I obviously don't have any answers (or qualifications for that matter – hey, I'm a graphic designer, for Pete's sake!). I do, however, honestly believe that a free exchange of ideas and experiences can help expose a variety of perspectives which are pertinent to the public sentiment regarding the security solutions which are being developed daily.

Chuck, if nothing else, I appreciated the passion of your response. I hope that you can appreciate that the passion of my response is fueled by a deep love for the family and friends we left behind in the States, and a deep concern for their safety – physical AND constitutional.

Posted by: zahava | Nov 15, 2004 9:47:32 PM

I have to point out that our continuing obligation to pay taxes in the U.S.

The fact that you continue to pay income tax here is in large part why I support your continued right to vote in US elections and comment on these types of matters.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 15, 2004 11:37:29 PM

I'm just not sure the US has come to that point yet.

-Your idea of a mandatory, on-your-person-at-all-times card would work really well for avoiding terrorism, I think. But for day-to-day life, it would be a nightmare.

-I have to carry my card when I'm out running with my dog at 6am? Where? In my underwear? And if I don't have it with me, I can be arrested? A cop now has probable cause to stop me for... jogging? And I'm just a girl facing maybe a little sexual harassment. Imagine if I were a black man. It's just begging for abuse.

-Terrorism isn't the police's job. They aren't trained adequately, or screened well enough. Nor should they be.

-Even if it were a national policy of everyone being fingerprinted, and all of the cops carrying palm pilots that have satellite uplink capability, it would seem more reasonable to me. With notable exceptions, of course, you always have a finger with you.

I wouldn't ever ask that Israel give up their policy. But we aren't Israel. We aren't literally surrounded by our enemies and 10% of our population doesn't want us dead.

(And the National Guardsmen in the airports and Grand Central are scaring off the lone wackos, not Al Qaeda. The people watching the big guys are necessarily a tad more subtle.)

Posted by: Tanya | Nov 15, 2004 11:57:25 PM

I'm sorry, I just don't see how me carrying an ID card can do a single thing to prevent a terrorist from doing whatever the hell he wants. IDs can be faked -- because any document that is created can be recreated. Tanya's idea of fingerprinting is the surest thing I've heard yet to establish identity.

Regarding taxes... I wasn't aware you were still paying US taxes. With that in mind, I agree with Jack that you do have the right to comment, vote, etc. about matters over here. My previous commnts were based on the assumption that you were ex-pats living there now with no formal ties to the US.

Posted by: Chuck | Nov 16, 2004 1:03:26 AM

i guess the part i don't really understand is how establishing ID would somehow establish intent to cause harm. without establishing that link, the foundation of the argument is absent. However for discussion let's assume there is some benefit, is it worth these costs?

in specific reply to your points.

a. futzing with the government is expensive. it wastes the people's time and causes the government to create and pay for offices that are expensive and officials that are corruptible.
b. in my former state drivers are not required to carry their license. should they be asked for it they are required demonstrate that they have been issued one, which can be done subsequently without actually producing the physical card; so, the requirement you are suggesting is much beyond the current restrictions in at least some states.
2. it is quite easy to fake a passport, you can buy them from Sealand or other enterprises that cater to travelers who want realistic looking documents to provide to nosy officials or threatening terrorists. moving the authentication problem from Wyoming drivers licenses to Ceylon passports does nothing for actually identifying someone.
3. according to some sources (http://www.middleeastfacts.com/Articles/teenage_suiciders_bombers.htm) the average age of bombers has dropped to about 20 or 21. don't know if it's true, but 16 is close. So how does one prove that he is 15 to the officer who stops him? does that mean there should be a curfew for them to prohibit them from going around unescorted?
4. if the police let anyone acting suspiciously walk away merely by showing a card, then they are not doing their job. they should instead take the chance of asking to see the card as a pretext to look for bulky clothing, smell for drugs or alcohol, examine associated people's reactions and listen for accents. that is what they should be doing and if they find any of those things they should investigate further. identity is not an important part of that process. in fact, they can already do this under color of checking for sobriety or many other reasons; so, again the card is immaterial.
5. limited chaos is under appreciated. by distributing power and funding widely among different organizations and institutions each keeps checks on the other and there is at least limited competition to provide services. for example the public school district in which i live is pretty good even though it holds a monopoly on state funding for education, because, were it not, i would live elsewhere.
6. i definitely believe that Israelis and their police should use the best techniques to defeat terrorism and protect the people. the laws should be tailored to permit them to do their work efficiently and well. i also respect how hard a job it is in that my brother works in law enforcement in America where the job is relatively easier. i just don't know of any reason that general ID laws are helping, while i do see many drawbacks.

perhaps that is the real difference; we both see the drawbacks, but where i don't see any benefit, you do, and further you believe that the benefit outweighs the cost. if a majority of Israelis agree great. even so, as things improve, as we all hope, and the civil liberties tug-of-war can go the other way, then reconsider this law. we recently disposed of a similar small infringement on freedom, the "assault weapons ban," which seemed at the time to be a good idea to most Americans even though most Israelis must have thought it to be an unwise infringement.

Posted by: rammer | Nov 16, 2004 4:52:46 AM

we recently disposed of a similar small infringement on freedom, the "assault weapons ban,"

How was this an infringement upon freedom?

Posted by: Jack | Nov 16, 2004 7:34:05 AM

Jack... I didn't mention it then, but this is one of the ethical issues that I had in mind last week while discussing the issues involved in voting in a US election while living abroad.

Tanya... Several people have weighed in with the issue of inconvenience to the public. At present the perceived inconvenience does outweigh the potential benefit. But what if another mega-attack occurs? Try to think back to October of 2001 and how everyone was trying desperately to think of ways that the terrorists could have been identified before they were able to act. Also, fighting terrorism IS the police's job, just as it is the job of every citizen. Being on the lookout for suspicious packages... reporting people acting in a suspicious manner... responding to government appeals to be on the lookout for a specific vehicle or person... these are all jobs that fall to the police, and to the public. A standardized form of ID offers the police an opportunity to expend 15 seconds rather than 15 minutes trying to establish that the person photographing a reservoir is a U.S. citizen who is an amateur photographer and not an Iranian national trying to find a vulnerable spot in our water supply.

I like your idea about fingerprinting... it was actually one of the things that was suggested for inclusion on the national ID. There would also be a bar code that could be scanned in the field and relayed to a central computer to make sure the card is authentic.

I would suggest to the US that they not get too comfortable saying "We're not Israel... we're not surrounded by our enemies". The US was attacked already on a grand scale and it is reasonable to believe that the groups responsible are interested in being able to duplicate such an attack. The U.S. borders are very porous, so the ability to quickly and easily identify people who belong from those who don't is not just a theoretical discussion anymore.

Chuck... You carrying a card may not help one bit. But EVERYONE carrying a card makes those without proper ID stand out a bit (which is exactly the point of the exercise). The police don't need to stop every person on the street and demand their papers (nor should they be able to on a whim). But if the intelligence services get a specific threat warning about a potential attack, it would become crucially important for the police and military to be able to quickly identify those without proper documentation.

Rammer... Yes, futzing around with the government is expensive... so are terrorist attacks. Somewhere in the middle is a solution that makes financial and constitutional sense.

Yes, everything can be faked... but a scannable bar code whose encryption can only be identified by a government computer is something that is a reality today, and could be implemented on a moment's notice. You'll notice that passports already have such codes.

The age issue is going to remain like arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. A mature looking 15 year old will probably undergo a little extra scrutiny if he has the misfortune to be in an area where a specific alert has been issued. I'm sure if you asked any of the families who lost loved-one's in the 2001 attacks, they would say that they would gladly have their teenage children occasionally inconvenienced if it wold make things harder (notice I didn't say impossible) for the terrorists to operate on our soil. As I said, police would have to have scanners hooked up to a central computer system to identify real cards from bogus ones. This technology exists today and would easily piggyback on the existing nationwide police computer communications systems.

I can't believe that you are not able to see ANY benefit. Also I didn't say that any benefit outweighs the cost (monetary and constitutional). What I have been saying is that the center point on the tug-o-war rope may have to shift slightly to the right if the threats to US security continue to grow.

Jack... I would prefer not to get into the whole 2nd amendment discussion here (at least not now). Suffice it to say that some people who feel that the constitution promises them the right to carry guns - any guns- also feel that these rights were compromised by the assault weapon ban. Those same people feel that a wrong has been righted by allowing the ban to expire. This is another rope that will continue to be pulled in small increments from one side to the other. You currently have states like New Jersey, New York, and California where it is nearly impossible to get a gun permit. And then there are states like Vermont where any citizen can carry openly. This is a 'hot potato' issue that will continue to be tossed from state to federal level for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: David | Nov 16, 2004 9:11:39 AM

Jack... I would prefer not to get into the whole 2nd amendment discussion here (at least not now).

Ok David, I can respect that. But I have to be honest it is taking all my restraint not to unload the whole carbine here and now.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 16, 2004 8:26:50 PM

Jack... thanks for holding your fire. :-)

Posted by: David | Nov 16, 2004 9:19:35 PM

My pleasure, I wouldn't want to take any flak as I am ill-equipped to deal with it. :)

Posted by: Jack | Nov 16, 2004 9:44:40 PM

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