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John Gilmore on national ID cards and freedoms of assembly, travel

Previous Politech messages:

Some background on John's lawsuit is here:


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: "The Safe Side of the ID Debate"
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 11:28:09 -0800
From: John Gilmore <gnu@toad.com>
To: center@cis.org, gnu@toad.com
CC: declan@well.com

[This is in response to 
http://www.cis.org/articles/2005/mskoped32205.html  ]

Mr. Krikorian,

Thank you for your discussion of the REAL ID act.  As a US citizen
without an ID, I find your arguments unconvincing.

You are correct that "regular people have been producing
government-issued photo IDs 'for everyday commercial and financial
tasks' for a very long time."  The distinction that you aren't drawing
is between having to identify yourself because another person won't do
a voluntary transaction with you without it, and having to identify
yourself to exercise your constitutional rights, or because the
government has required it.

No law requires me to have an ID.  I don't have one, precisely because
I want to be the canary in the coal mine.  I want to know how many
rights an honest, hard-working, un-documented person still has.  The
only way to find out is to live that way.  I'll tell you what I've learned.

I have many bank accounts; I'm a wealthy man.  My signature and my
money were always good enough for the commercial purposes of the banks
and brokers involved.  But now I can't open another account, because
the PATRIOT Act demands an ID that the banks don't themselves need.
Will the next law require that my banks close all my existing
accounts?  I won't be able to have a checkbook or a debit card without
getting a government-issued ID?  I'll have to keep my money in my
mattress and my stock certificates buried in the backyard?  It's
already that way for young people who haven't opened their first

I have flown as a commercial air passenger for decades.  But I haven't
been able to travel in my own country since 9/11.  Not just the
planes, but the trains and ships and many of the buses now demand
"government-issued photo ID".  So does driving a car, of course.  I'm
effectively under regional arrest, unless I can find a car driver who
will take me as a passenger.  No common carrier will carry me, despite
their requirement to serve the entire public; they've been ordered not
to by the government.

The ID demand is justified by checking it against a list of
"terrorists".  These are not terrorists -- they are terrorist
*suspects*.  No conservative has questioned whether the Executive
Branch has the power to make an enemies list of suspects, without
warrants, charges, proof, judges, juries, or convictions, and deny
fundamental constitutional rights to the people on that list.  I
question it.  Will you?

I've been invited to speak to conferences.  I couldn't speak there
because the government ID demand prevented me from traveling to where
the audience was.  This is a direct violation of my First Amendment
right to speak.  Texas tried to require ID from non-Texan speakers
many years ago, and arrested a Missouri labor organizer for failure to
register.  He won his case; that requirement was unconstitutional.

I've been unable to meet with business associates, family, and friends.
This is a direct violation of my freedom of assembly.

I am pursuing a constitutional lawsuit against these restrictions on
my constitutional rights of free movement, speech, and assembly.  I
can't enter the federal court buildings where my suit is being heard.
That's a violation of my right to petition the government for redress
of grievances.

The relevant statute requires that federal buildings be open to the
public.  Not the ID-waving public -- the public.  It is being ignored.
There is no statute that authorizes ID checks in airports.  A series
of secret directives from FAA and TSA mandate the practice.  What was
once a search "limited to weapons and explosives, and no more
intrusive than necessary for that purpose" (US v. Davis) has become a
general warrant, despite the Fourth Amendmenet.  The Executive Branch
was quick to seize this power; where are the conservatives who will
tell it no?

As a conservative, I ask you to look at these facts and tell me
honestly that our historic freedom to travel, to speak, to associate,
to assemble, to petition, to be free from arbitrary search, is being
conserved.  Instead it is being destroyed, by secret Executive Branch
directives.  And in your article, you advocated that the Legislative
Branch join the Executive in validating and expanding this

If you believe that people without IDs should be unpersons, able only
to live on the street because they can't get a job, rent an apartment,
have a bank account, speak to their representative, or move around the
country, the honest thing to do is to advocate for a law that requires
every person to get an ID.  Let it be debated.  Let its
constitutionality be tested.  Instead, you advocate further creeping
restrictions on who is permitted to have an ID, and what they are
permitted to do without it.  That's intellectually dishonest.

Your article's best example of why better IDs are needed was a quote
from the decidedly non-conservative 9/11 Commission report: "Fraud in
identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many
entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding
aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure
that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are
terrorists."  They, and you, ignored the fact that Americans have a
constitutional right to move around their own country freely --
whether they use airplanes, trains, buses, horses, or their own feet.
The government of a free country cannot "ensure that people are who
they say they are" by throwing up a checkpoint and demanding papers.
Even in airports.  Are you living in a free country?  I'm not.

The REAL ID Act is not the only alternative to a national ID card, as
you claim.  A principled conservation of our fundamental rights and
freedoms is an alternative to a national ID card.  I hope you will
join me in such conservation.

	John Gilmore
	PO Box 170608
	San Francisco, California, USA  94117
	+1 415 221 6524	voice
	http://papersplease.org      (details on my travel lawsuit)
	http://www.toad.com	     (my home page)

Posted by Declan McCullagh on Mar 24, 2005 in category privacy

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