Sarah Baxter of the Times (of London) reports on Rudy Giuliani’s proposal that every foreign visitor to the US be required to carry a biometric ID card containing a photograph and fingerprint information:
Giuliani is hoping to cement his status as the Republican favourite by promising to enforce immigration and border controls, drawing on expertise in combating crime from his time as mayor of New York. He announced last week that all foreigners, including holiday-makers, would be obliged to carry a “tamper-proof” biometric card, which could be issued at ports of entry.
“If you don’t have that card, you get thrown out of the country,” Giuliani said. He intends to call it a Safe card (for secure authorised foreign entry).
The proposal plays to his reputation for being tough on terrorism and shores up his credentials on immigration, but at the price of a row over civil liberties.
“The question is: in what circumstances will people be asked for their IDs?” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Will dark-skinned foreigners be asked for their IDs while a Caucasian person isn’t?” Opponents also believe it could be costly, cumbersome and could affect trade and tourism.
Sadly, according to Rassmussen Reports, voters favour the measure by a 71% to 16% margin. Gary Farber made a pertinent statement in ObWi comments the other day:
Schools need to thoroughly teach what freedom is actually made of, that it requires the rule of law, and how our laws have evolved, and why, and what injustices they’ve helped prevent, and why if America is to mean anything, it has to value these values.
And, of course, politicians also have to teach it. But that requires more bravery, and eloquence, than most possess.
Unfortunately, as his record has made all too clear, Giuliani doesn’t “value these values”; he harbours naked contempt for them.
Related: via Bruce Schneier, John Mueller, author of Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them, explains why US politicians and security officials pander to fears of largely unlikely terrorist threats by engaging in ‘security theatre’ (eg, Chertoff’s ‘gut feeling‘), and why the US public swallows the bullshit stagecraft whole:
Politicians are being politicians, and security businesses are being security businesses, he says. “It’s just like selling insurance – you say, ‘Your house could burn down.’ You don’t have an incentive to say, ‘Your house will never burn down.’ And you’re not lying,” he says. Social science research suggests that humans tend to glom onto the most alarmist perspective even if they are told how unlikely it is, he adds. We inflate the danger of things we don’t control and exaggerate the risk of spectacular events while downplaying the likelihood of common ones. We are more afraid of terrorism than car accidents or street crime, even though the latter are far more common. Statistical outliers like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are viewed not as anomalies, but as harbingers of what’s to come.
More from Mueller on the ‘Myth of the Omnipresent Enemy’ here.
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