Thursday, May 19, 2005

What to do about "Real ID?"

So, national ID -- the third leg of the police state tripod* -- nears perfection with the passage of "Real ID." This is nothing we didn't see coming, of course. But what are we going to do about it?

We can certainly talk about it. We can piss and moan, and point out the insidious nature of the bill. And a lot of people are doing a very good job of that -- see Real ID Rebellion for examples, inline and linked.

I think it's going to take more, though.

Don't get me wrong; agit-prop is certainly a big part of any attempt to roll back this abomination, and a number of writers, including those at RIDR, are doing yeomen's work on it.

It's just not enough, that's all. This one is going to require active resistance, folks.

A lot of the resistance to Real ID is stuff that we should be doing anyway. Avoid doing business with people who demand government-issued ID -- including, where possible, banks (you may want to get an offshore account), federalized mass transit services such as Amtrak and the airlines, etc. Use cash, gold or electronic currencies where you can. Buy a pre-loaded debit card that can be reloaded on the Internet or at local kiosks -- and buy it before you're required to present your new internal passport for the privilege of doing so. If possible, get it with a fake name (if you're doing that, don't reload it over the Internet from home, with a card that has your real name on it, etc. -- keep it completely de-linked from your real identity. Use it to get cash from ATMS rather than to make over-the-counter purchases that might result in ID checks).

More active resistance? It's certainly called for.

The first and most obvious resistance activity is invidual and obvious: Just Say No. If you can figure out how to live without a driver's license -- and many, many people have done so for many years -- then go without one. If you can get by with a license of limited utility, then how about this: Most states don't require that one take the test every time one renew's one's license. They just charge a fee. So, instead of going down to the local bureau and letting them apply the "new standard" to you, just mail a check to your state's Department of Revenue, with "driver's license renewal" written in the memo line. Then keep the canceled check (or the uncashed check if it's returned) with your old license. You thus have proof that you've a) taken the test as required and been issued a license and b) paid, or attempted to pay, the tax associated with the license. It may not get you on a plane. It may not get you out of a traffic ticket. But it will probably work as photo ID for buying a beer or a pack of smokes and such -- in other words, it will probably be sufficient for most businesses whose owners don't have government ramrods up their rectums.

A second possible response, of course, is counterfeiting the papers. In theory, this is becoming more and more difficult, but I suspect that a combination of bureaucratic corruption, police laxity and individual initiative will make it not only possible, but create a growth industry. There's always the hope that employees of the issuing bureaus will accept, um, "additional cash fees for expediting special services" such as creating a real driver's license for a fictional person with your physical characteristics. Despite the more precise biometric information the new cards will incorporate, most police officers aren't likely to demand a fingerprint or DNA sample on a routine traffic stop, if your appearance matches the photo on the document. If the cards themselves can be counterfeited for a reasonable fee, there's no particular reason why the Internet can't be used to exchange the information that will allow forty, instead of one, "John Does" who look a lot alike to use the same driver's license, with 39 of them simply being reproductions of the one original.

The above, of course, will be difficult and legally risky. But then, so is living in the police state. Do you prefer to take your difficulty and legal risk standing, or on your knees?

Hopefully, as with the first American revolution, we can count on some external assistance. Eastern European hackers have been bending and breaking US data facilities for years, in addition to throwing viruses fast and furious at the average Windows user. Perhaps they'll take up the challenge of compromising and corrupting the databases upon which Real ID will necessarily depend. Perhaps some kind of financial incentive can be offered for them to do so. I'm thinking of the kind of thing described in Jim Bell's "Assassination Politics -- but instead of applying it to having the thugs killed, apply it to the destruction of their work product.

Not that shooting the bastards isn't an option -- as Heinlein points out in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, a few dead ID checkers would encourage a more casual attitude toward checking ID -- but let's not go there.


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* Different authors offer different criteria for defining the police state. Mine are: Compulsory indoctrination of the citizenry in the ruling group's ideology ("public education"); the supercession of trial by jury with bureaucratic edict ("administrative law"); and the imposition of an internal passport system to facilitate surveillance and control of movement (national identification standards").

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