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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M utility Gavin Grahovac (9) throws the ball during A&Ms game against Georgia on Friday, April 26, 2024, at Olsen Field. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
Southern slugfest
May 23, 2024
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Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
A&M System’s Title IX director suspended after supporting Biden's Title IX changes
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
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A fighter jet squadron flies over during the National Anthem before Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Bryan-College Station Regional participants announced
Ian Curtis, Sports Writer • May 27, 2024

For the second time in three seasons, No. 3 national seed Texas A&M baseball will host the Bryan-College Station Regional, where it’ll...

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Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
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Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Someone is looking over your shoulder…

Citizens and government officials alike are searching for ways to guard against future terrorist attacks. One option that has been suggested in the past weeks is implementation of a national identification card system.
This idea was proposed to President Bush in a classified briefing last week. Proponents say ID cards would allow airlines to accurately identify passengers, which would help in the fight against terrorism. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans support such a program. Despite this support, ID cards are not the solution to terrorism. They would do little, if anything, to prevent future attacks. And they could do a great deal to destroy freedoms that Americans have enjoyed for more than 200 years.
Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, the world’s leading maker of database software, has offered to donate the software necessary to make a national ID program work. Under Ellison’s plan, all American citizens would be required to carry an ID card with personal information, a photograph and a digitized thumbprint. All of the information on these cards would be kept in a database used by airport security. Before a passenger could board a plane, he would have to swipe his card and place his thumb on an electronic reader. The computer would then match the thumbprint with the ID card and database information to verify his identity.
If this system had been in place a month ago, it would not have prevented the hijackings of Sept. 11. None of the terrorists were American citizens, and most appear to have been in the country legally. Even if the hijackers had been Americans, the organization responsible for these attacks could still have beaten the system. It could afford to teach people to fly airplanes, so it could surely have managed to produce a few fake ID cards. High school students have been doing it for years.
An even more serious problem with the ID card proposal is that there is little chance the information on the cards and in the databases would be used solely for air travel. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has already approved a national ID card system in Great Britain, and it will be much more extensive than Ellison’s plan. According to the UK’s Daily Mirror, British citizens will not only have to present an ID card to board aircraft, but also to buy gas, open a bank account or start a job. Also, in a nationwide poll performed by News of the World, a majority of the British respondents believed that, in addition to personal information, an ID card should contain its holder’s DNA details, criminal records and religion.
Under this system, anyone to whom an individual had to present his card, such as a gas station attendant, could become privy to personal information. ID cards could become scarlet letters alerting the public to an individual’s religious, ethnic or political affiliations. For example, how might merchants treat citizens who present cards with “Muslim” — or whatever other group has currently fallen out of favor with society — stamped on it? Or, if the card carried DNA evidence, what is to stop prospective employers from discriminating against applicants with high likelihoods of developing certain diseases?
The cards and associated databases would also give the federal government tremendous power. In the book 1984, George Orwell describes a nightmarish future police state where the government, known as “Big Brother,” monitors every move of its citizens. Mandatory ID cards could almost make Orwell’s vision a reality. The government would be able to track where people go, what they buy, how they worship — the possibilities are limitless. In Nazi Germany, lack of proper identification papers resulted in immediate arrest. What would happen to Americans caught without an ID card?
If an unscrupulous ruler came to power, the government could cause plenty of harm with the information at its disposal. Of course, few people think that our country is in danger of becoming a totalitarian nation. Some of these possible outcomes seem almost laughable right now. But to think that our government could never move in that direction is naive. Power corrupts, and controlling this kind of information would be dangerously close to absolute power.
It is both necessary and appropriate that our nation seek ways to avoid future terrorist attacks. We must be careful, however, not to overreact and put an end to individual rights in the process. A national ID card would create more problems than it would solve. Big Brother should find other ways to fight terrorism.

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