REALID/NIR: Apartheid Pass Laws Reinvented

DHS proposes guidelines for proving one’s identity and residence when applying for a Real ID card. Yet while the department concedes it’s a monumental task to prove one’s domicile or residence, it leaves it up to the states to determine what documents would be adequate proof of residence–and even suggests that a utility bill or bank statement might be appropriate documentation. If so, a person could easily generate multiple proof-of-residence documents. Basing Real ID on such easy-to-forge documents obviates a large portion of what Real ID is supposed to accomplish.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly for Americans, the very last paragraph of the 160-page Real ID document deserves special attention. In a nod to states’ rights advocates, DHS declares that states are free not to participate in the Real ID system if they choose — but any identification card issued by a state that does not meet Real ID criteria is to be clearly labeled as such, to include “bold lettering” or a “unique design” similar to how many states design driver’s licenses for those under 21 years of age.

In its own guidance document, the department has proposed branding citizens not possessing a Real ID card in a manner that lets all who see their official state-issued identification know that they’re “different,” and perhaps potentially dangerous, according to standards established by the federal government. They would become stigmatized, branded, marked, ostracized, segregated. All in the name of protecting the homeland; no wonder this provision appears at the very end of the document.

One likely outcome of this DHS-proposed social segregation is that people presenting non-Real ID identification automatically will be presumed suspicious and perhaps subject to additional screening or surveillance to confirm their innocence at a bar, office building, airport, or routine traffic stop. Such a situation would establish a new form of social segregation–an attempt to separate “us” from “them” in the age of counterterrorism and the new normal, where one is presumed suspicious until proven more suspicious.

Two other big-picture concerns about Real ID come to mind: Looking at the overall concept of a national identification database, and given existing data security controls in large distributed systems, one wonders how vulnerable this system-of-systems will be to data loss or identity theft resulting from unscrupulous employees, flawed technologies, external compromises or human error–even under the best of security conditions. And second, there is no clear guidance on the limits of how the Real ID database would be used. Other homeland security initiatives, such as the Patriot Act, have been used and applied–some say abused–for purposes far removed from anything related to homeland security. How can we ensure the same will not happen with Real ID? […]

And there you have it, from Shneier.

Attention needs to be drawn to the similarities between the Apartheid system’s Pass Laws and ID cards. People think that there is no similarity because the reason for the laws is not explicitly ‘race’. What they fail to understand is that the effect of these ID cards is the same as racist Apartheid, only it applies to everyone. Everyone becomes ‘black’ (underprivileged) and only the state is ‘white’ (elite class).

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Posted in Insanity, NIR, Told You So
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