HON. RON PAUL OF TEXAS
BEFORE THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
January 6, 2005
Government IDs and Identity Theft
Speaker, today I introduce the Identity Theft Prevention Act. This act protects
the American people from government-mandated uniform identifiers that facilitate
private crime as well as the abuse of liberty. The major provision of the
Identity Theft Prevention Act halts the practice of using the Social Security
number as an identifier by requiring the Social Security Administration to issue
all Americans new Social Security numbers within five years after the enactment
of the bill. These new numbers will be the sole legal property of the recipient,
and the Social Security administration shall be forbidden to divulge the numbers
for any purposes not related to Social Security administration. Social Security
numbers issued before implementation of this bill shall no longer be considered
valid federal identifiers. Of course, the Social Security Administration shall
be able to use an individual's original Social Security number to ensure
efficient administration of the Social Security system.
Speaker, Congress has a moral responsibility to address this problem because it
was Congress that transformed the Social Security number into a national
identifier. Thanks to Congress, today no American can get a job, open a bank
account, get a professional license, or even get a driver's license without
presenting his Social Security number. So widespread has the use of the Social
Security number become that a member of my staff had to produce a Social
Security number in order to get a fishing license!
of the most disturbing abuses of the Social Security number is the
congressionally-authorized rule forcing parents to get a Social Security number
for their newborn children in order to claim the children as dependents. Forcing
parents to register their children with the state is more like something out of
the nightmares of George Orwell than the dreams of a free republic that inspired
this nation's founders.
use of the Social Security number as an identifier facilitates the horrendous
crime of identity theft. Thanks to Congress, an unscrupulous person may simply
obtain someone's Social Security number in order to access that person's bank
accounts, credit cards, and other financial assets. Many Americans have lost
their life savings and had their credit destroyed as a result of identity theft.
Yet the federal government continues to encourage such crimes by mandating use
of the Social Security number as a uniform ID!
act also forbids the federal government from creating national ID cards or
establishing any identifiers for the purpose of investigating, monitoring,
overseeing, or regulating private transactions among American citizens. At the
very end of the 108th Congress, this body established a de facto national
ID card with a provisions buried in the “intelligence” reform bill mandating
federal standards for drivers’ licenses, and mandating that federal agents
only accept a license that conforms to these standards as a valid ID.
standards for driver's licenses and birth certificates creates a national ID
system pure and simple. Proponents
of the national ID understand that the public remains wary of the scheme, so
proponents attempt to claim they are merely creating new standards for existing
state IDs. However, the
“intelligence” reform legislation imposed federal standards in a federal
bill, thus creating a federalized ID regardless of whether the ID itself is
still stamped with the name of your state.
It is just a matter of time until those who refuse to carry the new
licenses will be denied the ability to drive or board an airplane.
Domestic travel restrictions are the hallmark of authoritarian states,
not free republics.
national ID will be used to track the movements of American citizens, not just
terrorists. Subjecting every citizen to surveillance diverts resources away from
tracking and apprehending terrorists in favor of needless snooping on innocent
Americans. This is what happened
with "suspicious activity reports" required by the Bank Secrecy Act.
Thanks to BSA mandates, federal officials are forced to waste countless hours
snooping through the private financial transactions of innocent Americans merely
because those transactions exceeded $10,000.
Identity Theft Prevention Act repeals those sections of federal law creating the
national ID, as well as those sections of the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act of 1996 that require the Department of Health and Human
Services to establish a uniform standard health identifier--an identifier which
could be used to create a national database containing the medical history of
all Americans. As an OB/GYN with more than 30 years in private practice, I know
the importance of preserving the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship.
Oftentimes, effective treatment depends on a patient's ability to place absolute
trust in his or her doctor. What will happen to that trust when patients know
that any and all information given to their doctors will be placed in a
government accessible database?
putting an end to government-mandated uniform IDs, the Identity Theft Prevention
Act will prevent millions of Americans from having their liberty, property, and
privacy violated by private and public sector criminals.
addition to forbidding the federal government from creating national
identifiers, this legislation forbids the federal government from blackmailing
states into adopting uniform standard identifiers by withholding federal funds.
One of the most onerous practices of Congress is the use of federal funds
illegitimately taken from the American people to bribe states into obeying
members of Congress will claim that the federal government needs the power to
monitor Americans in order to allow the government to operate more efficiently.
I would remind my colleagues that, in a constitutional republic, the people are
never asked to sacrifice their liberties to make the jobs of government
officials easier. We are here to protect the freedom of the American people, not
to make privacy invasion more efficient.
Speaker, while I do not question the sincerity of those members who suggest that
Congress can ensure that citizens' rights are protected through legislation
restricting access to personal information, the only effective privacy
protection is to forbid the federal government from mandating national
identifiers. Legislative "privacy protections'' are inadequate to protect
the liberty of Americans for a couple of reasons.
it is simply common sense that repealing those federal laws that promote
identity theft is more effective in protecting the public than expanding the
power of the federal police force. Federal punishment of identity thieves
provides cold comfort to those who have suffered financial losses and the
destruction of their good reputations as a result of identity theft.
laws are not only ineffective in stopping private criminals, but these laws have
not even stopped unscrupulous government officials from accessing personal
information. After all, laws purporting to restrict the use of personal
information did not stop the well-publicized violations of privacy by IRS
officials or the FBI abuses of the Clinton and Nixon administrations.
one of the most infamous cases of identity theft, thousands of active-duty
soldiers and veterans had their personal information stolen, putting them at
risk of identity theft. Imagine the dangers if thieves are able to obtain the
universal identifier, and other personal information, of millions of Americans
simply by breaking, or hacking, into one government facility or one government
the federal government has been creating proprietary interests in private
information for certain state-favored special interests. Perhaps the most
outrageous example of phony privacy protection is the “medical privacy'”
regulation, that allows medical researchers, certain business interests, and law
enforcement officials access to health care information, in complete disregard
of the Fifth Amendment and the wishes of individual patients! Obviously,
"privacy protection'' laws have proven greatly inadequate to protect
personal information when the government is the one seeking the information.
action short of repealing laws authorizing privacy violations is insufficient
primarily because the federal government lacks constitutional authority to force
citizens to adopt a universal identifier for health care, employment, or any
other reason. Any federal action that oversteps constitutional limitations
violates liberty because it ratifies the principle that the federal government,
not the Constitution, is the ultimate judge of its own jurisdiction over the
people. The only effective protection of the rights of citizens is for Congress
to follow Thomas Jefferson's advice and "bind (the federal government) down
with the chains of the Constitution.''
Speaker, those members who are not persuaded by the moral and constitutional
reasons for embracing the Identity Theft Prevention Act should consider the
American people’s opposition to national identifiers. The numerous complaints
over the ever-growing uses of the Social Security number show that Americans
want Congress to stop invading their privacy. Furthermore, according to a survey
by the Gallup company, 91 percent of the American people oppose forcing
Americans to obtain a universal health ID.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I once again call on my colleagues to join me in putting an end to the federal government's unconstitutional use of national identifiers to monitor the actions of private citizens. National identifiers threaten all Americans by exposing them to the threat of identity theft by private criminals and abuse of their liberties by public criminals, while diverting valuable law enforcement resources away from addressing real threats to public safety. In addition, national identifiers are incompatible with a limited, constitutional government. I, therefore, hope my colleagues will join my efforts to protect the freedom of their constituents by supporting the Identity Theft Prevention Act.