In the recent past, there have been several highly destructive terrorism attacks that have led to the loss of thousands of lives and caused irreparable damage to property in the United States. In particular, the September 11 attacks were widely regarded as terrorism attacks resultant from the rather relaxed visa verification and other identity identification procedures. The fact that the perpetrators were able to conduct their activities within the United States soil as well as travel abroad for supplies have triggered a raging debate on the importance of introducing a national identification card system. This research paper shall examine whether the introduction of a comprehensive national identification card system would help thwart future attacks. How beneficial would such a system be or would it come with more burdens than the resultant merits?
Clearly, the current system of identification and documentation failed to detect these terrorists. Findings after exhaustive investigations were conducted stated that two of these prominent hijackers were on the United States watch list (a list that entails the most wanted suspects). In addition, visas belonging to another two hijackers had expired and thus they had overstayed. Finally, one hijacker had violated the terms and conditions under which a student visa is granted. He had failed to attend classes for a considerably long time. However, these individuals were allowed to roam freely and their colleagues were free to exit and enter the United States as they pleased. In fact, they visited various states within the United States. It was observed that in the span of less than one year, one hijacker made more than seven trips out of the United States. Of the 19 suspects involved, all had obtained valid social security numbers while 13 hijackers obtained their documents and cards via a legal procedure. Moreover, they operated valid bank accounts and had ATM cards just like any United States citizen. In light of these staggering findings, it is quite evident that the current systems of identification that have been put in place by the United States government are insufficient and provide very many loopholes (Wang, 2010).
I believe that a national card system would have been extensively helpful in thwarting and apprehending these terrorists before they committed these heinous crimes. Nonetheless, a national identity card implementation program poses several challenges. First, should such a system be voluntary or should it be mandatory? Secondly, should this system be applied to every individual or should it be applied to non-citizens thus integrated with the current visa system? Where should this system apply: in all government and commercial transactions or only in major entry points such as airports and border entry points?
The case for the introduction of a national identification card system as a means of curbing terrorism primarily centers on three major factors. First, how effective would this system be towards curbing crime and apprehending suspects? Proponents for the implementation of the national card system argue that it is harder for individuals to use false identities in order to obtain driving licenses and social security numbers. On the other hand, opponents argue that a national identity card simply confirms one’s identity and history. Thus, it does not anticipate or indicate intent towards committing a crime in future. I feel that a national card system would thwart some crimes and lead to the arrest of some suspects. Nonetheless, it is not a complete panacea to terrorism and would-be perpetrators.
Secondly, would this system impinge on individuals’ privacy rights? There has been a growing concern that the introduction of a national card system would provide an avenue for the United States government as well as the private sector to collect and disseminate the people’s personal information. Even if this information was safely stored in a database and was not privy to dissemination, employees would have access to an individual’s personal data which they could use for their personal gain. For instance, findings from a report by the Detroit Free Press indicate that in a span of 5 years, over 90 percent of the police officers working in Michigan used the police database for their own gain (Elrick, 2001). Additionally, the precedence set by the usage of social security numbers has demonstrated that a national card system would be potentially used inappropriately. The social security numbers system was introduced in order to calculate taxes and other employee benefits. Nonetheless, investigators and other private companies can easily track and discern an individual’s number through the internet. Whereas proponents argue that the introduction of a national card system would not be detrimental to the inherent privacy concerns since the government already collects so much information that it would not learn anything new, I believe that this system would provide an easier channel via which the government and the private sector could access an individual’s personal information (Woellert, 2002).
Thirdly, would this system provide an avenue for segregation, ill-treatment or abuse from the authorities or law enforcement agencies? The United States is a multi-ethnic and multiracial community. Would law enforcement agencies compel people, more so those who appear to be of Arab origin, to produce their identity cards in the street? On the other hand, this would save time and effort needed in forwarding any suspects to a police station. Individuals would simply produce their national card which would be scanned for authenticity in a very short time. Therefore, an efficient database would take lesser time to verify the identity of an individual thus safeguarding an individual’s civil liberties (Encinas-Franco, 2005).
In conclusion, the introduction of national identity cards would help thwart various crimes and lead to the apprehension of suspects involved in terrorism. Nonetheless, it does not provide a panacea for all the instances of terrorism.