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Ellison Wants National ID Card, Powered By Oracle 666

cplater writes: "This article discusses Larry Ellison's call for a U.S. national ID card, and his offer to provide the software for such an initiative." There's an advertising slogan to be proud of: 'Oracle, the Big Database behind Big Brother'. Or 'Oracle, the All-Seeing Eye'. Or 'If it's good enough for Orwell, it's good enough for your company'. Update: 09/23 23:22 GMT by M : Richard Jones writes "The British Home Secretary is considering compulsory identity cards, despite the fact that such cards would not have made any difference in the recent terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The British have generally opposed their reintroduction since the wartime system of identity cards was abolished in 1952."
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Ellison Wants National ID Card, Powered By Oracle

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  • by cdraus ( 522373 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:23PM (#2338865)
    At least I'd know who I was. Anytime I forgot I could look proudly down at my chest and point to my ID.
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:25PM (#2338868)
    Sounds like a fancy passport. Gee wiz, nobody will ever be able to forge that! What a complete waste of time. Why anybody listens to that Jack Ass is beyond me. He's just panicing because nobody wants to pay $8,000/cpu for his shitty database anymore.
  • National ID card (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonistron ( 523903 )
    We already have a national ID card, Social Security ones.
  • SSN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Neon Spiral Injector ( 21234 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:26PM (#2338874)
    First the Social Security Number which when proposed to the people of the US was promised to not be used as a unique identifier, but just a way of tracking your payments into your social security account. Try doing anything in the US now without that Unique Identification Number. Get a job, get a phone, open a bank account, get a loan.

    So now this, at least they seem to be a little more up front about the purpose.

    Yes, I'm outraged by the loss off life and destruction of property. But I'll be more outraged by the sheep that allow things like this to pass.
    • Re:SSN (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ainsoph ( 2216 )
      Yes, I'm outraged by the loss off life and destruction of property. But I'll be more outraged by the sheep that allow things like this to pass.

      Amen. Scary it is that we are being asked time and time again over the last week or so to get ready for a loss of 'freedoms' and how on CNN the other day Ashcroft was quoted as saying cheerfully(and I cannot find the link right now, will post)"From now on we are going to have to keep tabs on the majority of US citizens, including massive databases and databanks".

      This is the part that is scaring me the most (aside from people who are profiting off of this mess CNN, Ellison, etc..)

      • Re:SSN (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Darby ( 84953 )
        (aside from people who are profiting off of this mess CNN, Ellison, etc..)

        The totally scary profiteering thing from this is the airline industry.
        They just got $15 billion from the federal government to prevent bankruptcies, turmoil etc. and at the same time they have fired over 100,000 people. Isn't this what the money is supposed to prevent?!?
        Throwing money at the problem is necessary at a time like this, but do it with some sense. Have a firing freeze for a change. If routes are reduced, then maybe airline employees will work fewer hours,
        which might give them time to spend the paychecks they are still getting thus helping the economy.
        So 100,000 people at say $50,000 a year average (a guess, but fairly informed my dad is a pilot and my step mom is a flight attendant) is $5 billion a year they're saving as a result of these layoffs.
        This plus $15 billion from the government *and* jack up the unemployment rate with a lot of people who have limited skills in any other industry?!?
        My prediction is that the airlines will have record profits given this income and the lowered costs and the execs will all have huge bonuses.

        I am not saying that the industry doesn't need some help right now. I have no problem at all with the government paying to replace the planes that were lost in this tragedy. I also have no problem with an aid package for the industry, but have a little sense and do it in a way that will help the economy rather than do more damage to it in multiple ways.
        Require no layoffs without cause or no money.

    • Re:SSN (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spudnic ( 32107 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:42PM (#2338940)
      Is that really so bad?

      Your employer needing it is understood. He has to have your SSN to file forms and payments for you with the IRS. That was part of the original purpose, correct?

      Now for the other people. They need some way of differentiating between you and anyone else. They need a Unique Identifier of some sort. How else are they supposed to make a decision on whether or not to extend credit to you? Getting a phone or other utility turned on is a type of credit.

      Is it wrong for them to want to be able to go back and look at your history of paying other creditors? Getting a loan is not a right, it is earned by showing that you have fullfilled your obligations in the past and therefore, probably will this time.

      If we didn't have some sort of unique identifier assigned to each of us, how would you propose they do this? "Ah, you're a white guy living in a good neighborhood. Here's the $250,000 you needed." If you can't profile people by their past actions, you have to find some other attribute to judge them by.

      Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't think this would be such a bad idea. As Ellison said in the article, all we would be giving up is the "illusion" that we can't be tracked.

      • Sorry. That logic is like saying that because someone with a gun could come in and shoot you, you should just obey anyone who might have license to buy a gun.

        No, it's NOT wrong of them to go looking for information about you if they are going to loan you money. Background information is very important.

        And it can be obtained in other ways. Witness europe... you don't have a unique ID for them to track.. but try dealing with a bank, and you have to provide REFERENCES. That's a foreign concept here in North America, because we are used to these credit reporting agencies doing it for us.

        Your employer has your SSN, yes, because he's doing things on your behalf.

        Also... credit agencies do not specifically REQUIRE your ssn, and any non-employer type who asks for it usually has an alternate way for you to identify yourself as well.

        Think outside the box man.
        • You're right, I don't understand the use of "references" in Europe. So how does that work? I borrow money from 3 banks, pay them back properly, and then they give me a good reference should I need to borrow from someone else? Then I use those references to borrow money from bank number 4 and screw them. Then I go to bank number 5 and do the same thing.

          Do they really expect you to tell them that although I have excellent references from 3 banks that I have also screwed over 2 others? This makes no sense. I just don't see how this works. Do banks 4 and 5 then contact the banks who initially gave me the references telling them to withdraw them?

          Sounds extremely complicated and providing no higher level of personal privacy in return. But like you said, I don't understand how it works in Europe. Please enlighten me.
          • Well.. let's get something straight.

            Firstly, old references tend to be no good after a while.... if your bank reference is 5 years old... I doubt it will mean much.
            Secondly.. in general, those who pay their debts continue to do so.
            Thirdly.. a bank isn't going to suddenly let you scam 500,000 bucks or something just because you paid off a couple loans.

            IT's not 'extremely complicated'. If you want a bank to loan you money, IT's YOUR responsibility to provide them with evidence that you are trustworthy.

        • You're also pointing out another issue -- I have yet to get a credit report back that didn't have an errant issue on it.

          It became far too easy for people and companies to report this information -- well, it is at least becoming too easy for them to abuse this information.

          I cringe to think of how a national, fingerprinted ID system would eventually be abused.
      • Re:SSN (Score:2, Insightful)

        by BlueTurnip ( 314915 )
        If we didn't have some sort of unique identifier assigned to each of us, how would you propose they do this?

        Simple. You could voluntarily provide references, as you do when you apply for a job, for instance. If you don't have such references, you could put up some collateral or have someone with assets guarantee your loan. It happens all the time.

        And comparing an SSN to the kind of national ID card that is proposed is not valid. We are not required to show our SSN card to a police officer who stops us walking down the street. We don't show our SSN when we buy a loaf of bread. Some states require us to show a social security card to get a drivers license, and this bothers me a lot, but having to show a card on demand any time would greatly change the balance of power between police and citizens, and would probably be a violation of the fourth amendment.
    • Try doing anything in the US now without that Unique Identification Number. Get a job

      Yeah, but in this specific instance, you're wrong. How exactly is your employer supposed to pay the taxes into your social security account without that number?

      All the other instances, though, I agree iwth you.
    • by nido ( 102070 )
      Get a job

      not impossible, just go independant contractor, or use a payroll service that doesn't demand a number (such as American Contracting []).

      get a phone

      don't know anything about this one, though I imagine it's not impossible

      open a bank account

      open a non-interest bearing account, no need for a number. Don't try to open the account at one of those supermarket branches, go to a major office,

      get a loan

      You're better off debt free, but if you must, borrow from family, or apply for credit cards without using a number - not all will automatically deny you for not including a number.

  • of course! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grape jelly ( 193168 )
    Well of course Ellison would shamelessly promote Oracle to create a National ID. If he doesn't make his money off selling the database software itself (which he claims he won't), he'll make it off consulting fees or upgrades.
  • by TheVoice900 ( 467327 ) <kamil@kamilkisie ... inus threevowels> on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:31PM (#2338894)
    But Ellison said in the electronic age, little privacy is left anyway. ``Well, this privacy you're concerned about is largely an illusion,'' he said. ``All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy. Right now, you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment and tons of other information.''

    So since we are already losing our privacy and our civil liberties, we should might as well give up the rest of them to Larry and Oracle.. good idea. This is just another prime example of how in this day and age people are willing to let their stand by as their rights vaporize before their eyes. Too many people are willing to simply succumb to the will of corporations like Oracle, that's how things like the DMCA get passed. Of course, the big corps know this and use it to their advantage.
    • So since we are already losing our privacy and our civil liberties, we should might as well give up the rest of them to Larry and Oracle.. good idea.

      Because, after all, not having a way of uniquely idenifying citizens is a right our forefathers fought valiantly for.

      If someone would please just explain to me what right we'd be giving up here, I might care.
      • The problem isn't the "identifying someone" problem. It's the "having someone looking over your shoulder" problem.

        For example: since this card would be used to, say, identify people at airports, it is presumed that the government would be using them to track people's movements. I'm not entirely comfortable with the government snooping over my travel plans.
    • Bit I say in the electronic age, little security is left anyway. This security we're concerned about is largely an illusion. All we have to give up is the illusion of privacy to gain the illusion of security.
    • Nationalize Oracle without paying a dime to Larryboy and give away Oracle for free
    • Privacy freaks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Saib0t ( 204692 )
      I've been reading slashdot for several years now, and one thing I can see is that most people (who get modded up to at least 2) are privacy freaks

      Having a national id card that allows for one to say you're you through a picture on a card and fingerprints is not a bad thing at all. At least it can make everyone certain you're who you pretend to be.

      I've been living with an ID card for my whole life now (in belgium), there are no fingerprints on it, but there are my pictures, address, etc... and I don't have any problem with that. I have to show my ID card only to governement people, I can show it to anyone though, but am not legally bound to do so. tons of people have already seen my id card, address etc, do you think I get a pizza van in accross the street with 15 cops xraying my house? There are few things I need to use my ID card for: dealing with the administration, banking, crossing boundaries of Europe, when a cop wants to verify that I have everything all right with my car (taxes paid, car passed the yearly security test, ...) among others. What's bad with that? Do you think they enter everything I do in a database?

      To go on with the privacy stuff, if you guys (and ladies) don't trust your goverment with your personal information then ELECT PEOPLE YOU TRUST. If you're tired of corrupted congressman/president/parties then vote for someone else!.

      I don't see a single reason you'd want to hide things from your government, if you're a lawful citizen, then the cops/fbi/cia/nsa/whatever have absolutely no reason to get [extra] data about you, right? If that's not the case, then it's a sign you don't have the right people in the key positions in your governement.

      I'm not saying there's no corrupted people in my country government, far from that, but if they decided to go for an electronic version of my ID card with more data on it that allows for tracking things I do with that card, then I say "no problem, go ahead", if it can simplify things when dealing with day-to-day matters, then they get a high five from me.

      I think that those who want to hide things are those who should not be allowed to hide them. Yuo want to hide you have an affair with your secretary, fine with me, the governement is not interested in that anyway. You want to hide you're growing marijuana in your garden then you have a problem... If you want to be allowed to smoke pot, then make it lawful to do so instead of hide it. it seems like you're doing thinks backward. Make things legal instead of hiding the fact you're doing these things. If the people you have elected don't want to vote these laws, then vote for other people.

      Big companies give money to politicians to get the laws they want, that's called 'corruption' and is illegal. Corruption has always been there but it seems to me that USA got it to a point where people have absolutely no control over how things work now. Politicians will vote laws that favour big companies anyway, because having flourishing businesses in your country is good for the people, but with corruption/bribes/lobbies as they are, politicians don't vote these laws for the people but for THEM. Solution: make parties open their finance books, enforce anti-corruption laws, ban lobbying, make politicians have to say what they own when they enter a function and have they declare what they own when the leave that function and create something to control that. Sue the corrupted guys, ....

      So next time you have to vote again, vote for people you trust, I think it's high time the USA have a decent uncorrupted government and remember also that whatever government is in place in your country also has an influence on my country, whether I want it or not.

  • The WTC Law (Score:2, Insightful)

    by YKnot ( 181580 )
    Anyone mentioning the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon or the fourth crashed plane in an attempt to justify a change of law is not acting in the tradition of a free country. Using the terrorist attacks to finally get what Big Brothers always wanted should anger every free citizen.
  • by Deluge ( 94014 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:32PM (#2338898)
    If Larry Ellison were a lawyer, he'd be the epitome of ambulance chasers. I saw this guy on TV a day or two after the attack (or possibly even the very same day), on a news program no less, and what he had to say amounted to "I feel sorry for all those people, this is terrible, blah blah, ORACLE ROCKS!, this is such a national tragedy."

    Now, I can understand that there's some unsavory individuals who, for example, looted stores near ground zero in the midst of all the chaos. But to have one of the richest men on earth hawking his warez under the guise of offering insightful commentary on how the WTC attacks affected the tech sector is just sick beyond belief.

    Say what you will about evil corporate bosses, but at least Billy G had the good sense to keep his mouth shut.

    And now, of course, he is further attempting to turn the situation to his advantage. The man has no shame.
    • Greg Himowitz, analyst / talking head on CNBC, was livid with Oracle for announcing earnings while people were lying dead in the rubble. The other charlatan talking heads seemed to concur.

      Larry Ellison is a dick.
    • Say what you will about evil corporate bosses, but at least Billy G had the good sense to keep his mouth shut.

      Here's a survey. We're about to elect ruler of the world. The three candidates are 1) Bill Gates, 2) Larry Ellison, or 3) Scott McNealy. Who do you pick?

      Personally, I would pick Gates. Microsoft notwithstanding, he seems like the most "down-to-earth" guy who seems like a genuine real guy and family man. Ellison is a known asshole who only cares about himself, although clearly a smart guy. Ellison looks like what I would expect Satan to look like. McNealy is too snide and I've never been impressed that he actually has a clue about anything. :)

  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <> on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:34PM (#2338909)
    ...if it's optional.

    One unique ID that can log me into my systems, allow people to contact me, allow me to make purchases and make the coffee machine brew exactly the way I like it? Sign me up!

    This is no different than what we have now with Social Security Number, Driver's License, MasterCard, IP Address. The difference is that all these numbers aren't interchangable.

    Security issues? Use PINs or biometrics. Big Brother issues? Allow users to control their database entried, or opt-out entirely.

    I look forward to one card wallets.

    - JoeShmoe
    • Passport [] is an online service that makes it possible for you to use your e-mail address and a single password to sign in--securely--to any Passport participating Web site or service.
    • Read any Federal United States form that is covered under the Privacy Act. Much of the information on those forms is considered "optional." Your social security number, address etc., can be left off many forms, and said forms would still be considered complete.

      However, without said information, your eligibilty for aid, employment, etc., quickly becomes hard to prove or the government will refuse to process your request. Guess you should have filled out those "optional" fields.

      Many stores ask for your ZIP Code or phone number. Just like many federal forms you don't have to provide this, but almost everyone does. While a ZIP code tends to provide semi-random demographics, your phone number provides stores with your address. Of course, you can be asked not to be listed in the phone book, if you pay the "optional" fee of $1.50 a month and ensure that businesses you deal with do not "optionally" tell your phone number to their partners as well...

  • by T1girl ( 213375 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:35PM (#2338916) Homepage
    Need i say more? We've already got E-Z Pass, Acme Rent-A-Car's GPS systems and every "CRM" system devised in the last 5 years tracking our movements and purchases. I used to think people who claimed the government had implanted a chip in their brains to monitor their movements were crazy; maybe they were just prescient. This would be an instant challenge to hack. We already live in a country where the Pres' teenage daughters can drink on a fake ID, so there would be a big demand for faking these IDs.
  • Here in .be(elgium we have national ID cards, from age 12, you have to have them always on you from age 16 i think.
    It contains the usual stuff (name adress birthdate) and as an opt-out our version of what would be SSN#, only police and other officials can demand you to show it other people can ask it but you dont have to show it. I dont see the difference with having a driving licence on you or any other form of ID they use in the US
    • The difference between what you are describing and a drivers license is that you aren't required to always have your license with you, only when driving.

      If I want to take a walk down to the park, I don't have to worry about being stopped by the police for some reason and them hasseling me because I can't prove who I am.

      What happens if you don't have it on you? Is there a fine? What other countries have similiar ID cards and how are they used? I know we have a lot of very intelligent people from all over the world here that can provide some insight into a system that is already in place.
  • by garcia ( 6573 )
    no thank you.

    exactly what I say when the grocery stores ask if I want their little tracking device.

    we don't need it, we don't want it. no.
    • When asked for your card, ask the person behind you in line if they would like to have the 'points' or whatever motivates people to give up their freedom. You get the discount, the other person loses their privacy.
      It's a win-win situation.

      Jim in Tokyo
  • by trims ( 10010 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:45PM (#2338950) Homepage

    National ID cards (in the US, replacing the mishmash of Social Security, Driver's License, Military ID, blah blah) are actually a privacy enhancing thing, if backed up by the proper regulations.

    Right now, in the US, we (ie the individual) have virtually no way of tracking who is tracing us, and identity theft is difficult to trace. There are a thousand and one different places to steal access to, any one of which can be used to forge access to another. And furthermore, there is almost no way to keep track of who accesses what information.

    Even if the US put in reasonable privacy laws for the current system, keeping track of all accesses to your information is problematic, at best.

    I'd be all for a National ID card, should they pass reasonable privacy laws with it. And my definition of privacy laws is this: I get to control who has access to what information, I decide what information can go in the system, I decide the granularity of info given to people, I own my information, nobody can collect information about me (unless as an unidentifiable part of an aggregate) unless I explicitly permit it, and no one can share any information about me with anyone else. There would be exceptions for court-ordered disclosures for law-enforcement, but that's it.

    That system would be great: it would prevent a person with a suspended driver's license in one state from getting a new one in another, while at the same time prevent company A from discovering I like Mary Typer Moore shows by my viewing habits, then selling this info to company B.

    Having a properly monitored and regulated central database of personal info is far better than the completely insecure mishmash of crap we have today.

    But unless they put in those restrictions, Hell No!


    • *IF*

      that's the problem. The god damn SSN isn't used properly (my fucking video store demanded I give them my SSN or I could walk out the door w/o a membership -- they are the only store in town w/a decent DVD selection (3/6.00 ain't fucking bad))

      We already know that this will be abused and it won't work. Let's not beat around the bush here. It is going to go the way of everything else. HELL.

      I don't want to have a single unique identifier. My CC only has my purchases from my grocery store (if they want to know how many fucking bottles of Coke I drink so be it) but if they start tracking how many times I buy beer at the local drive-thru I am going to get pissed off.

      That's exactly what is going to happen. That damn ID UPC is going to be on my neck and seen from satellites up above.

      No thanks.
      • by EABinGA ( 253382 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @09:05PM (#2339204)
        The god damn SSN isn't used properly (my fucking video store demanded I give them my SSN or I could walk out the door w/o a membership

        I'll bet you did not have to show your SS card to the clerk. Few people ever ask to see an SSN card; they believe whatever you say.

        If someone absolutely insists on getting your Social Security Number, you may want to give a fake number. There are legal penalties for providing a false number when you expect to gain some benefit from it. For example, a federal court of appeals ruled that using a false SSN to get a Driver's License violates federal law.

        Making a 9-digit number up at random is a bad idea, as it may coincide with someone's real number and cause them some amount of grief. It's better to use a number like 078-05-1120, which was printed on "sample" cards inserted in thousands of new wallets sold in the 40's and 50's. It's been used so widely that both the IRS and SSA recognize it immediately as bogus, while most clerks haven't heard of it. There were at least 40 different people in the Selective Service database at one point who gave this number as their SSN. The Social Security Administration recommends that people showing Social Security cards in advertisements use numbers in the range 987-65-4320 through 987-65-4329.

        There are several patterns that have never been assigned, and which therefore don't conflict with anyone's real number. They include numbers with any field all zeroes, and numbers with a first digit of 8 or 9.

        Follow this link [] to see more details on the structure of SSNs and how they are assigned.

      • I recently applied for membership at the local Hollywood Video. When asked for my SSN on the form, I put the following:

        N O Y F B

        Guess what it stands for?

    • by dragons_flight ( 515217 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @08:59PM (#2339190) Homepage
      Fair enough, but what will the default settings be? I think it's obvious enough that most people won't concern themselves much with managing their information, or who learns what.

      If it includes too much information then we worry that this information can be too easily exploited to harm people. If it includes too little, advertisers will still require some other monitoring system when you make purchases etc. Of course you could make other systems illegal but that has lots of other problems.

      Putting in a bunch of personal controls is useful for you, but what about your grandma or neighbor or cousin? We still have to figure out what an appropriate level of privacy is in general, cause most people won't deviate much from what they are told they ought to have. Perhaps this means it should be totally opt-in. Or, maybe the National ID should only be tied to activities that legitimately require ID now, such as driving, bank records, military, credit cards, etc.

      Given the complexity of modern life and the amount of goods and services we use for with others are responsible, where should the limits on privacy be? And what is the level of acceptable intrusion, if any?
    • I own my information, nobody can collect information about me (unless as an unidentifiable part of an aggregate) unless I explicitly permit it,

      I agree with your overall point, but I disagree with this one. Credit agencies, who collect credit information about individuals, are a very necessary evil. First let me say that I don't defend any of the big 3 credit agencies, who for the most part are arrogant, inaccurate, assholes who are badly in need of some reform. That said...

      I don't want people to be able to opt-out of credit reporting. If banks couldn't find out what kind of credit risk you are, then rates would go up for all the people with good credit to equalize it out. Personally, I have clean credit and I don't want to have to pay to support a bunch of deadbeats.

      And who knows, maybe a national ID would help the accuracy somewhat.

  • What this is:

    A verifiable ID card.

    It's just like any identification system (credit card, driver's licence, passport, etc.) except it has the ability to be instantly verified (scan bar code on ID card and you get a picture / name from the database). Yes, it has a great potential for abuse (it would be fairly simple to track usage of such a system and thus track a person's activities / whereabouts to some degree)). But this is not a NEW potential for a buse. And most heartening is that a government run system has ACCOUNTABILITY. Take out your wallet, now take a look at your credit / debit cards. Think about the fact that every purchase you've made with those is stored away in a database and accessable (and researchable!) by someone who is not directly accountable to you.

    Now, think about other ways this could be used. Imagine being able to have a verifiable identification system for police, government agents and employees.
  • better idea (Score:4, Funny)

    by ocie ( 6659 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @07:52PM (#2338978) Homepage
    Let's not waste money on an expensive database system. Let's just find all the bad people and make them wear easily identified tags around their necks..
  • To be perfectly honest, Oracle does not scale well into that range of database. We are talking about 300 million people now, and it will grow to 500 million soon enough. That's the minimum number of records (it'll be much higher when other tables and relations are formed). So there are billions of records (maybe trillions within a few years of use as we would need audit trails on something like this), and the number of transactions it would need to support per second would be astounding. How many people are pulled over for just traffic offenses every second? Let us not forget reports, data mining (why else would you use a database rather than just a set of cards?), and other quesries.

    Sorry, I don't think Oracle is upto the task of being Big Brother's best clerk.
    • It seems like you are assuming that it would be semi-centralized, which it does not need to be. Duplicate and distribute database updates in a timely fashion (i.e. hours to days delay time) to enough boxen to enable suitable performance (i.e. down to a state, regional, county, city, or site level depending on population density and usage). There's no reason why an airport couldn't have it's own box with the database on it. And Oracle (with inexpensive hardware) is very much sufficient for a task on that scale. There's not much need to update such a database on a finer timescale than a few hours so you don't lose much. Plus, you don't have to worry about some nimrod at spilling coffee on the router and screwing up your connection to "the one true ID database" and having to slow to a halt to wait for the connection to come back up (similarly, a skiddie couldn't close down an airport with a DDoS attack).
      • I was also thinking a replicated database may be a partial answer, but not at airports. Think about it. You would need all possible records there, otherwise you would be going back to some central repository. While a local PD would have a fairly high cache hit by a partial replication, an airport will not.
        So how much data will a replication need? Well, a fingerprint characteristic is at minimum 4K, but to make it more accurate across varying conditions it will probably have to be bigger. Throw in a photo, and we are well into 10K+/person. With 300 Million we are probably talking around 3 TBytes.
        While I've worked with larger datasets, but I don't think this is something you can just plop into any old IT shop in the near term. I also feel this about where Oracle really starts to stop scaling linearly.
        No one has even discussed the bandwidth or DB horsepower to support real time identity checks yet either. Certain data will need to be real time. Warrant's for arrest is one thing. Also queries will need to be real time, otherwise the DB serves no purpose to the people in the field.
  • by Robber Baron ( 112304 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @08:14PM (#2339047) Homepage
    It boggles the mind how somebody so obtuse could become so wealthy. Larry, pull your head out of your nether orfice and think:

    We already have many forms of identification. ID's which can easily be counterfited. How many fake driver's licenses, Passports, and credit cards are there in circulation now? How in your wildest dreams do you think you will be able to prevent counterfitting your new "Big brother" ID?

    Everyone's vitals presumably will be stored in a giant database. What happens when the database is hacked and Abdul's fingerprints are matched with his newly counterfitted ID? That's right, he breezes right through security and we're right back to square one again! A cool hack would be to replace Dubya's prints with ohhh say...Ted Kazinski's...

    Besides, in any case you dumb shit, all the terrorists have to do is keep their noses clean! That's right, come to the country and apply for one of these silly ID's..."got any priors?...No? you are Mr Atta!" Make their first offense the big one and what good will the silly ID do? Absolutely Jack Shit! What about foreign nationals? Are they going to be issued temporary cards for the duration of their stay? Based on what? What they disclose at the point of entry? This is a non-starter.

    You really want to do your bit to help prevent terrorism Larry? Why don't you take a couple of your billions and endow a few schools in third-world countries? Maybe through education the worlds desperate will learn how to escape from their desperate situations and they will be less likely to commit desperate acts.
  • ``Well, this privacy you're concerned about is largely an illusion,'' he said. ``All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy. Right now, you can go onto the Internet and get a credit report about your neighbor and find out where your neighbor works, how much they earn and if they had a late mortgage payment and tons of other information.''

    Getting credit reports is a far cry from having a system in place to fingerprint every American and track all of their movements.

    Yes, he's only talking about airports, but that would change VERY quickly once the system is in place.
  • The British Home Secretary is considering compulsory identity cards, despite the fact that such cards would not have made any difference in the recent terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The British have generally opposed their reintroduction since the wartime system of identity cards was abolished in 1952.

    It's not clear to me that it "would not have made any difference." It would be a lot harder for these people to purchase airline tickets if they had to show IDs that said their visas were expired. Two of them were, in fact, wanted for questioning by the FBI.

    There is some potential for abuse with national ID cards, but we shouldn't exaggerate too much. I believe almost all western European countries already have them and they are not totalitarian regimes.

  • ...but I came up with this idea as well, after considering all the options. It's the only real way to insure security in America today. I considered it in the same light that ebay ranks sellers on their service. People get extra credit for being good merchants, and buyers are less reluctant to send a paypal check to them, relying on the credit to assure them they'll get their stuff.

    In the same manner, we might be able to flash such a card in the airport and not have so much hassle getting on the plane. And someone who doesn't have one would be subject to more intense 'scrutiny'.

    The downside, of course, is - as Ellison puts it - we would have to accept the limited measure of privacy we probably already have. But the positives might outweigh the negatives.

    I would allow it if it were completely voluntary. I know, I know, it really wouldn't be voluntary if you couldn't get on a plane without one, but I don't know how to make this place safe, and there don't seem to be too many alternatives at this point.

    We are truly being attacked from all sides, here, from within and without. If this tragedy has made hundreds more would-be martyrs and suicide bombers out of our enemy, then terrorism might become more commonplace in America. Is it not already a daily part of life in Israel, Northern Ireland, and England? It seems to me that we could see such mundane but equally terrifying events as maniacal suicidal guys in cars mowing down people at a park or a beach, running through shopping centers with guns, all sorts of exploitations of our complex and highly-technological society.

    Of course, the concept of America as the shining beacon of Freedom, Justice, and Liberty would be gone. It would be a frank admission that such ideals can't work in this day and age.

    I'm really torn on this subject, and I know that my 'devil's advocate' position supporting those cards is probably not popular, and certainly in opposition to the idealism I had in my younger days; but it's possible that I hadn't thought it out back then.

    It's not so much fun being an American anymore...
    I truly welcome your opposing viewpoint here, but please, if you do respond to this, tell me 1) are there viable alternatives to this that will stop the terrorist threat (um, beyond 'threat', really...), and 2) what, in combination with reduced surveillance, would reduce terrorism? Besides having a 'non-corporativist' government, of course. We suspect that might work, if we could only get ourselves to try that.
    • Bah! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @08:44PM (#2339150) Homepage Journal
      There is no security anywhere. The best, and ultimately, only security is for each citizen to keep security in his mind at all times and question anything that seems out of place. No gimmick will buy you absolute 100 per-cent security. No silly little ID card, no amount of crypto backdoors, no amount of bank account back tracking will do as much to save you as one guy standing up and going "What the FUCK do you MEAN you want a million short options on American Airlines?!" Or one pilot holing up in the cockpit and landing the plane at the nearest airport.

      It's complacency that burned us once and as much as we want to go back to our complacent little sheep lifestyles, that is no longer an option! These gimmicks are trying to restore a happy illusion that we're safe again and can go back to our complacent little lives, but even if they succeed for a few years, they will ultimately guarantee another tragedy like this down the road, when someone figures out how to defeat the measures.

    • tell me 1) are there viable alternatives to this that will stop the terrorist threat (um, beyond 'threat', really...), and 2) what, in combination with reduced surveillance, would reduce terrorism?

      First of all, ID cards would do little to stop terrorism. They might help with things like hijacking, but there are alternatives. They would do nothing to keep non-suspect US citizens off planes, and I see no reason why US citizens could not be recruited to carry out these kinds of attacks. It's happened before. Besides that, the airplane trick won't be used again for quite a while. Security is already too tight and passengers will almost certainly fight back now that they know death is likely rather than just being held hostage. ID cards also wouldn't keep people from building bombs, smuggling in chemical weapons, or planting nukes on container ships set to detonate in port.

      What would really help with planes is truly secure bullet proof doors and cameras in the cabin that allow the pilots to see what's going on. Facial recognition systems could be used in customs to help keep known terrorists out of the country. Unlike putting these things on city streets, there should not be any civil rights objections because 1)You don't have regular civil rights in customs anyway and 2)Cameras in customs would have a much lower potential for abuse and could be monitored for abuses more easily.

      Most real security will come from breaking up the groups that do this. Terrorists will always be able to work around security. It's hard to make perfect security, and perfect security is oppressive by nature -- we don't need or want that. Working around limited security takes coordination and money. Breaking up the groups and removing their money supplies will do far more to protect us than any ID card and is a far better long term solution.

    • In the same manner, we might be able to flash such a card in the airport and not have so much hassle getting on the plane. And someone who doesn't have one would be subject to more intense 'scrutiny'.
      Why do I hear the sound of a rubber glove smacking on some security officer's hand????
  • Ok, help me out here. What's so bad about having a national ID card? As it stands now, there's no really good way to verify someone's identity. There are probably dozens of Aaron St.John's out there, and at least a couple Aaron Michael St.John's. Odds are that there is probably an Aaron St.John or two with my birthdate as well. If I had a unique ID number, it would be real easy to tell me apart from the other Aaron St.Johns, especially the criminals Aaron St.Johns, the Aaron St.Johns not elligible to work in America, and the wanted Aaron St.Johns.

    Maybe I'm the only one who just doesn't see why having some sort of unique ID makes us into opressed citizens. Which freedom, exactly, would we be losing here?
  • by levendis ( 67993 )
    ``We need a database behind that, so when you're walking into an airport and you say that you are Larry Ellison, you take that card and put it in a reader and you put your thumb down and that system confirms that this is Larry Ellison,'' he said.

    Ok, Larry, and what happens when someone steals your card and your thumbprint?

    This is reactionary and stupid. A national ID card will only promote a police state, and if that happens, the terrorists have already won.
  • "Hey, baby, what's your GUID?"
  • [] provides great information and testimony against a national ID system. This is from 1998, and this has been going on for some time.

    If you're looking for more information, you can just go to and search for "national id" you'll find plenty of information about why they are a very bad idea....

  • The last thing I was is to give my valuable data to anyone else to hold. Put it on a RFI chip and inject it. It will hold more data than a tatto and look better to (I wonder what stretch makes wold do to a 3d barcode).

    Then airlines would only need to install recievers in the seats (13a practices an unpopular faith, No plane ride for you).

    If it's good enough for my dog its good enough for me. If you want the ultimate in security add DNA encoder so the chip wipes upon removal (dead or alive).
  • If there were a national card required for all plane/train/bus/boat tickets, that wouldn't be much different than the current situation where if you don't pay be credit card (in which case they presumably have ID'd you), it's supposed to be suspicious enough for them to check you out (it wasn't for two of the hijackers - you can bet it is now).

    Also, require the card for all car purchases and rentals. Once you have a car, you can go where you like without having to flash the card at checkpoints - but then they can already scan your license plates....

    Of course, the card would have to contain a retinal scan or somesuch. And you'd have to have safeguards about a great many situations where it would be illegal to require it. So you could still go shopping in stores or clubs some consider politically or religiously incorrect without your identity being compromised at all. You just couldn't travel any great distance without leaving a clear record of who you are when you obtain that seat to travel in.

    This targeted transport identity card wouldn't take any freedom I care about, but would really restrict the capabilities of any plots that require travelling without leaving traces. It would also mean that of the 7 million foreigners who have overstayed their temporary visas (according to 60 Minutes tonight) there'd be some much better clues on where to track them to to get their visa situations resolved.

  • National identification cards have nothing to do with fighting terrorism or crime. Like all other legislation, a national identification system, if passed, would only affect honest people. Criminals and terrorists would find ways around the system, such as counterfeiting or hacking the database. Government clerks could be tricked--or bribed--into placing false information in the database. Criminals could even stay clean long enough to get into government offices, only to help other criminals get false IDs and database records. There are workarounds to every law, and so anytime a new law is created, an infinite amount of new troubles are created as well.

    Now let's talk about the Social Security Number mentioned by several folks. Before I say this, I am not a lawyer, but this information is the result of a LOT of reading. Ask an expert in this complicated field before believing anything I'm saying here...

    The SSN was originally a simple account number, yet it is now used as a national identification number by federal and state government agencies and corporations. (Example: I think every state requires your SSN before they issue a drivers license.)

    By the way, the issues mentioned here about SSN and employment are a big misunderstanding: Your employer has no business knowing your SSN, as they are not required to act as a free agent to the IRS or to Social Security. Nearly all companies do because they don't know this, or wish to avoid possible troubles with the IRS. There are companies out there that don't withhold payments to you. [](See Arrow Custom Plastics' "Withholding Statement." []) Also, check out the Yahoo! group: legality-of-income-tax at ax/ [].)

    Unbeknownst to most Americans, the IRS is a voluntary system--enforced only because of contract law! Nearly all Americans have no clue what their signature means on the social security form, or on the IRS forms they mail to the government every year. These forms are contracts, and by signing them, you are voluntarily agreeing to abide by various sections of government code which, as far as I understand are not positive law. (The constitutional amendment was never ratified []!) The whole system operates on smoke and mirrors, as most Americans simply aren't aware of what's going on. Do you honestly want to give the government more power to track you around? My suggestion: the various government agencies should start doing their current jobs, before inventing new ways to bury themselves in work.

    Don't misunderstand me: I love this country. I pay my taxes. I'm pissed off about what happened on the 11th and I certainly hope the government gets the "folks" who committed these atrocities, but when it comes to big-brother type things that won't help prevent another disaster, I say go back and reread 1984 before you take these matters so lightly.

    Just my $.02.

    • by ainsoph ( 2216 )

      The whole system operates on smoke and mirrors, as most Americans simply aren't aware of what's going on.

      I am recontextualising that statement to make comment.

      Not to sound like some Anti-NWO freak here, but really really people need to take a look at what is going on here.

      Dont want to open a can of worms, but I was out of the country during the the "election", and for all intents and purposes, people the world over viewed it as a Coup. Pure and simple. Its not what CNN said. Its what the person in the street and the international media were saying. Like you average European.

      Next, support for the administration was pathetic, his and crews numbers were so low, here and abroad.. He had no support.. And rightly so, look at the dismantling of progressive efforts, and a return to 50's style cold war ethics and games.

      So when this horrible tragedy happened on the 11th, as shocking as it is, isnt it amazing that those approval numbers went up to 90%, the world over, and all discourse about what a numbskull we have in office has been obliterated for fear of being called "anti american' and the same old cold war era crap. Even people who critique the Bush policies for a living are hanging up their hats "In this time of need".

      Now, with the magic approval ratings so high, and critical thinking at such a low, is it not kind of odd that a plethora of REALLY scary ideas are being drawn up and passed through the senate and congress right now as we speak with absolutely no discussion or representation of what it is that the people here truly want? Maybe we should wait until the population is thinking more clearly?

      Also, how bout all this money being handed out, another 40 billion for emergency military aid, seen as a down payment by congress on a larger sum yet to be announced. Add that on top of the other 40 billion added to the 300 or so billion the defense budget was already at. The Cheifs of Staff were pissed off earlier this year that Bush could not round up more budget for the boyz. And now he was just handed a "blank" check.

      And they have given partial OK for the missle sheild. How the hell did that happen. Search the news over the last week, they slipped that one by us while we were awating news of some city getting Anthrax in our drinking water.

      So yeah, maybe a ID card is no big woop. But as part of a larger package of privacy and security measures that are becoming instantly enacted on the American people. You gotta wonder who this war is really being fought against. At this point it seems it is only us.

  • Didn't IBM sell ID carding systems to the Nazis? It's one of the reasons the Nazi's were so effectuve at tracking down Jews, IIRC. I wonder how a National ID is any different.

    There is no way that a National ID would have prevented 18 *foreigners* from boarding planes and whacking them into buildings. Sorry Larry.

    Oohh yeah, can I have mine imprinted with 666 too? Maybe the end really is near?

  • INSPASS (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday September 23, 2001 @09:33PM (#2339282) Homepage
    The US has an official ID card now, called INSPASS []. If you have one, you can go through an automated express lane when entering the US at major airports and some border crossings. Getting one requires going to an INS office, showing a passport, being fingerprinted, photographed, and having a hand geometry scan. The systems at airports currently validate identity with a hand geometry scan only, but that may change as the technology improves.

    This is the system most likely to be expanded into a national identity check system. At the very least, we'll probably see that level of physical identification at all INS-controlled entry points.

  • Larry says
    `Let me ask you. There are two different airlines. Airline A says before you board that airplane you prove you are who you say you are. Airline B, no problem. Anyone who wants the price of a ticket, they can go on that airline. Which airplane do you get on?''

    I know Larry thinks this is a rhetorical question to which A is the obvious answer, but personally, if it would make things faster and less bureaucratic, I'd go with B myself. The simple fact is that hijacking is a really, really, really, infrequent occassion. There are far more probable ways to get yourself killed that merit more worry.
  • I for one think that this is a bad idea. I think that such a federally mandated ID card would really hurt the alcohol industry. After all, all the under age college students will no longer be able to purchase alcohol with horribly faked out of state ID's. Ellison is the devil.

  • Maybe someone should take that information which Larry thinks the government should have, and pretend to be Larry Ellison. Oh, wait, it's already been done []...

    Sure, we'll provide the server software. Oh? GMAC wants to jack into it? Guess you'll be client software, huh?
  • Welcome to the United Socialist States of America.
  • People who know me, know that I am a techie, who is very skeptical about what he reads. People also know me as a Christian, albeit one who is not very devout. However, after reading this article I think that's going to change. It's going to change completely. This is one step closer to having, verbatim, what Revelations predicted would happen. I never, ever thought I'd bring religion into a discussion like this. I've always kept my religious views to myself, but I cannot do so any longer. This is just too creepy. I never thought, that anytime soon this would occur. I wasn't even sure if it was symbolic or if it was literal, but now that it is being seriously considered I can no longer afford to assume that it is purely symbolic. I promise you this though. I will NEVER accept such a thing. Even if I die. My soul is worth far more to me than even my life, and as it is written in Revelations, those that accept the mark are numbered as one of the beast's and will be cast away. I'm sorry if this makes me appear ignorant, but I think the time has come for me to cease my total pursuit of worldly things and start looking at what is most certainly going to come, and soon.
  • Having the national Big Brother database running on Oracle would be a huge bee in Microsoft's bonnet. Perhaps they should go for it just on that basis.
  • Check this picture out:

    Nifty Pic []

    That pic had the caption:

    'Police held two men at gun point in New Jersey after a bus driver reported they spoke, "little English," and seemed "suspicious."'

    The read this quote from MSNBC []

    Daily life in America is likely to change as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks -- with the newly created Office of Homeland Security likely to play a role in those changes, current and former government officials said.
    "I think in order to defend the homeland, we're going to need more information about virtually every citizen. So we're going to have more databanks and databases that have information about us,"

    Even as Americans returned to their normal pursuits, surveillance was increased. For example, there were car inspections at the Mets-Braves baseball game at Shea Stadium Friday night -- the first major outdoor sporting event in the New York area since the attacks.

    Here is a copy of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 [] second draft.

    As well as the "Mobilization Against Terrorism Act". []

    All I can say is, be careful what you wish for and what saying "Oh whats a little ID card."

    It won't stop there.

  • Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison is calling for the United States to create a national identification card system -- and cautioned, "Bill Gates is the Antichrist. I admonish you, my brothers and sisters, in JayEEzuhsizah NAYMAHhh, to let me into your life and so I can provide Oracular Salvation from his diabolical plans for your immortal soul. Amen! Let me hear you say AMEN! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!"
  • Want to eliminate griefers over-night from the Web?

    All you need is a way for sites to recognize someone they've seen before so a boot becomes permenant. Note that thid does NOT mean knowing wh oyo uare in the real world or anything about your real world identity. What it DOES require is an ID which is permenantly boudn to a user and of whicha suer can never have mroe then one.

    Soiund familair? You already have oit-- iuts called your SSN. But what is needed is a way to authenticate yourslef remotely as the one and onlky leigitimate holder of the SSN. A national SmartCard would sovle that.

    It would ALSO make identity theaft impossible. Identity theaft is a quickly balooning real world problem that has stung thousands so far with bills for products they didn't purchase aand screwed up their credit reports in wast hat takle huge amounst of time and energy 9and ocassionally legal action to fix.

    So it coems down to what do you want? A vauge undefiend "danger to your privacy" or a real and rpesent danger to your economic well being today?

  • Maybe Ellison is the Antichrist and he's a major proponent of the mark of the beast for all transactions. Oh wait, i'm not Christian...well in that case maybe it's time to move from the US, where there are so many people that act like sheep, to New Zealand where there are more sheep than people.

  • One bright side (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SecurityGuy ( 217807 ) that its always helpful when people show their true colors. I've had Oracle on my list of useful technology to learn, but no longer. Much as I'm not the rabid open source advocate, I'm being given little choice between Larry "National ID" Ellison and Scott "All your privacy are belong to us!" McNealy. I can only advocate technology that isn't advocated by its maker to harm me.

    And yes, I consider anything which facilitates a police state to be harm. A true national ID will be used to tie you to EVERYTHING, just like other near national IDs are now. That level of tracking is simply not justifiable.

  • I think a national ID card system is a good idea.

    I consider myself a staunch libertarian when it comes to the Bill of Rights, and to personal freedoms in general. So I can hardly believe I'm saying this! But hear me out. I propose a few rules for a national identity card system that would provide us with all the benefits of nearly unforgeable proof-of-identity without compromising our right to privacy or any other right which we currently enjoy.

    1) Central to the identity card system is a suite of protocols for digital signature operations; key signing, verification and exchange; and key revocation. The principals of public-key cryptography form the basis of the system and can be used to implement rest of the features, which I outline below. The system is designed to facilitate cryptographically secure communication between private citizens, thereby giving us rights that we practically don't have today!

    2) Nobody can ever be compelled (forced) to show his card. Similarly to the right of a business to refuse service if you don't wish to furnish your social security number, organizations may choose not to talk to you if you won't furnish some proof of identity, but proof of identity can never be required by a government agency, or in relation to the fulfillment of certain human needs (food, water, air, clothing, shelter, communication).

    3) Every individual can create new, anonymous identities at will. These pseudonyms can be nothing more than a keypair and a globally unique identifier (and perhaps some optional contact information). The private key of each pseudonym is only stored in encrypted form, having been encrypted with the public key of the person who uses the pseudonym. Thus, the owner of the pseudonym can prove that he "is" the pseudonym, but only with his consent, and only under circumstances that he controls.

    4) When a citizen's keypair is created, the private key is split using a keysharing algorithm into a large number of shares (~10,000 should do, or fewer for pseudonymous keypairs). The keyshares are distributed (in secret) to randomly chosen individuals. We perform the keyshare operation such that 60% of the shares must be recovered in order to recover the key. In a situation where some person, organization or government needs to crack the identity, he can appeal to these 10,000 people as a sort of "jury of peers" to see if he can convince them to divulge their keyshares. Once an identity has been cracked, private communications to that identity can be decrypted.

    5) In order to protect against algorithmic attacks, a number of various symmetric and asymmetric cryptographic algorithms are supported by the system. Communications between agents in the system take place using algorithms and keylengths agreed upon by the participants.

    One caveat: This all assumes that the identity cards are perfectly secure automomous computer systems. That is: the identity card is solely responsible for performing all the cryptographic operations, and information can never be read from an identity card without the consent of its owner. This daydream is probably the biggest flaw in my plan.
  • by Chris Y Taylor ( 455585 ) on Monday September 24, 2001 @12:50PM (#2341668) Homepage
    The most commonly used form of ID in this country seems to be the driver's license. People ask to see it at a lot of places that have nothing to do with driving. My local video store won't rent you a movie unless you have one. What is the connection between being able to drive a car and operate a VCR? The reason it is used like that is that most people already have one, and so they are a convenient form of ID that also has your photograph to allow the clerk to verify that it is actually you. I know people who have a driver's license even though they don't drive, just to use as an ID. A lot of states (maybe all) offer the option of getting a generic driver's license style ID that is only valid for identification purposes. That way people who cannot pass the requirements to get a driver's license can still conveniently purchase beer, cash checks, rent a rug cleaner, etc. Still, I have known a few adults that don't have either a driver's license or a state photo ID. They weren't anarchists, they just didn't need it. They used public transportation to get to work and they paid for almost everything in cash, so they never felt motivated to spend an afternoon standing in line at the DMV to get something they didn't need. Such people very much are the exception these days, but it isn't illegal to not have a photo ID. The driver's license seems to be an excellent example of an optional license that is nonetheless almost universal because of its usefulness.

    What can we learn from this that could be applied to a Federal ID? Perhaps the ID could be purely optional. People could get one if they wanted a secure ID. To make it popular, the government should also make it so that the ID grants the user permission to do something useful or fun, so that way a lot of people would sign up for one. Even combining all current Federal IDs (like pilot's licenses) into one would probably not have enough users to make the ID popular for identification. Another permit (or permits) need to be invented and added in to increase the IDs popularity further. A federal driver's license wouldn't work unless it was easier to get than a state one, and I don't like that idea because we have enough people who can't drive on the roads already. Making it so you need an ID to do anything that you currently don't need an ID for (like air travel) is going to meet political resistance (perhaps deservedly) from whatever lobbying group engages in that activity, so for the Federal ID to make it into law the activity should be something that you can't do now, but that a large enough group of people might want to do to kick start the use of the ID as a form of identification.

    But the whole point of doing this exercise is to reduce terrorism (isn't it?). And many people here have rightly pointed out that a better ID system would not have prevented this recent act of terrorism. The passengers were not wanted felons. The FBI was suspicious of some of them, but we don't restrict people's air travel whenever they are under suspicion by some federal agency of maybe being associated nefarious activities. Even the knives they used on the plane were, from all accounts, small enough that they were not restricted items, and could have been carried onto the plane in plain sight of the security guards (I used to legally fly with my pocket knife all the time, I would just put it in the little tray as I went through the detector and no security guard even hesitated to hand it back to me on the other side because it was small enough to be permitted on the plane). Is it possible to have a federal ID that is optional, provides the user with permission to engage in some new activity, and would also somehow reduce the likelihood of terrorism? Yes. Make it a federal concealed carry weapons permit. I still wouldn't let anyone carry a gun on a plane unless they had taken the FAA's (supposedly very difficult) course on the use of firearms in an aircraft, but that could be an option like having a commercial or motorcycle rating on your driver's license. Who would want to go through the time and expense of training for and passing the FAA course just so they could carry a pistol* on an airliner? Well, after recent events, I think a lot of pilots and commercial aircrew would like to have that option. Don't forget the first thing the terrorists did was apparently to slit a stewardess's throat, so a lot of flight attendants are no doubt feeling very nervous and unlike the rest of us aircrews spend a lot of time in the air so their chances of being hijacked are much better. A lot of people would still get the regular (non airplane rated) version of the permit to allow them to carry a pistol in any state. Body guards (or "executive protection specialists") are an example of a profession that could greatly benefit from such a permit (so much so that it is amazing that one does not exist already) and whose presence deters terrorism. Salesmen or other business travelers who have to travel between multiple states, and may have to travel through dangerous neighborhoods or carry valuable items would likely flock to such a permit. Former police officers**, DA's, and other people who may make dangerous enemies would want one, as would people who have been victims of violent crimes and/or rape before and now feel the need to be able to protect themselves, and a lot of the normal everyday citizens who now get state carry permits because for whatever reason they want to be able to defend themselves from attack. Of course the permit would be in addition to, not in replacement of, the current state concealed carry licenses, otherwise the proposal would be plagued by state vs. federal jurisdiction turf wars (and rightly so) and would never get out of the courts.

    Of course the permit should require a thorough FBI background check in order to limit the chances of a terrorist or criminal being able to get one. As long as the FBI had the attention of such a proactive chunk of the population, they could even take that opportunity to provide a little education on what unusual or suspicious behavior might indicate a terrorist cell or impending terrorist activity, give them the appropriate contact information (maybe a federal crime hotline printed on the card somewhere?), and ask people to give the Bureau a call if they notice anything. Sure that doesn't technically have a lot to do with carrying a gun, but that would be a good opportunity for the FBI to increase its chances of getting a useful tip; and, hey, what does donating organs have to do with driving a car? Even if a terrorist did get a federal carry permit, it is likely that a LOT more upstanding citizens would have one as well. Without such a license, the terrorist would still carry his weapon (a terrorist who won't break the law is not very effective), but the odds of a law abiding citizen that could offer resistance to the terrorist having one is much smaller.

    Before anyone starts a gun-control argument over this, I would like to point out that this is not something that most states don't already have. The problem is that different states have different reciprocosity agreements with other states so that most state concealed carry permits are valid in some, but not all, other states and will accept some, but not all, permits form other states... resulting in a confusing hodge-podge of conditions. A federal permit would clear up the red tape by providing a universal standard simplifying the bureaucratic mess that currently exists. Also, the background check and qualifications could be made more difficult (at the risk of making the ID less universal) to further reduce the chances of criminals or irresponsible people from getting one. Surely only the most extreme gun control proponent would want to prevent even someone like a bodyguard, or an ex-DA who has prosecuted organized criminals, or the administrator of a medical facility that has received death threats from anti-abortion groups from being permitted to carry a weapon for self defense. The gun control politicking could be saved for when it came time to figure out how tough the standards should be for getting one. If you can think of a different optional federal permit or license that a Federal ID could be based on (espeically if it would actually reduce terrorism), then by all means suggest away. I admit, after all, that even if you combine a federal carry permit, pilot's license, and other federal ID's together, it still may not have the "critical mass" of users to replace the ubiquitous driver's license.

    * Before this restarts the "what does a bullet do to a pressurized aircraft?" argument, the FAA obviously covers what type of ammunition can be used in an aircraft and what areas of the plane are vulnerable to gunfire.

    ** I'm sure that the police in a lot of areas would show turn a blind eye to an ex-cop who was illegally carrying a weapon because he was worried about being recognized by criminals but a such favoritism might not be universal, like the license would be.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"