A March 24 article in the Seattle P.I. headlined "New Driver's License OK'd for Border" describes the new "enhanced" $40.00 Washington State driver's license Washington residents will be able to use in lieu of a $97.00 passport newly required for Americans who want to re-enter their own country by the rules of the Dept. of Homeland Security's Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative due to kick in January of 2008.
The new law, if approved by Homeland Security, is a passport alternative, a compromise between the strict new federal passport guidelines and the economic necessities of not putting stones in the path of a $35,000,000 per day border trade, plus preserving ease of cross border passage because of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games.
The new driver's license will contain an RFID chip, a soon to be an unavoidable, inescapable, ubiquitous feature of our lives. The RFID chips enable the authorities to access a data base detailing the history of our lives. If you have any convictions, you will be "flagged." But what does that mean? What then?
The US and Canadian governments are cooperating on the NEXUS card which facilitates border clearance for low-risk, pre-approved travelers. But what does that mean? That citizens will need government permission to travel? What if a citizen is not approved as low risk? Will being "flagged" for any reason mean you can't travel? Ever again? We've all heard of no-fly lists--is this new program going to be a no-travel list?
The article cites a series of databases made available to the authorities by the RFID chip. Gov. Gregoire expresses happiness that more databases will be added to the card as time goes by. But what databases? Political activities and affiliations? Medical databases that will show if a woman has had an abortion? (Kansas and South Carolina have already worked on that.) Sexual orientation? Will being gay, or a woman with a past abortion, or a liberal, or a Democrat qualify a person to be "flagged"? More and more databases means more and more reasons for people to be "flagged".
Last week a federal checkpoint was set up outside Forks, Washington on the southbound lane of Highway 101. All people being stopped had to have proof of citizenship. The article doesn't say what that proof had to be, or if anybody was "flagged," arrested, detained, or what happened to any who were. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said the use of more and more random checkpoints is in our future.
To my mind this is the establishment of an internal passport system. Every citizen, whether pre-approved as low risk, or not, will need government permission to travel even a short distance. If you leave home to go to the grocery store and run into a random checkpoint and are flagged, or detained, does that mean you won't see home again for two years, or just what does it mean?
All these and more security/surveillance measures enacted by Bush/Cheney and their Republican enablers in Congress have been the stuff of newspaper articles, etc. But now they are being enacted in the field, coming to a street and highway and grocery store parking lot near you. You don't have to worry about finding them--they intend to find you. This is the Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act, post-habeus corpus America the neo-cons and social conservatives have given us. They promised us healthy family values but destroyed the Bill of Rights; they said they wanted limited government but gave us unlimited government. They claimed to love freedom more than anybody but gave us facist checkpoints. They claimed to be the most loyal of Americans, but it doesn't look that way to me.