Saturday, April 03, 2004

Homeland Security

Are we ever going to be secure with thousands of unidentifiable people in our midst? Can we check every bag, secure every aircraft, every train, every building, every gathering place, every power plant, every dock, every vehicle against satchel bombs of one kind or another? Can we protect our air, water, and food from lethal contaminants everywhere? In a few words, aren’t we going about this in the wrong way?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to approach homeland security like we approach motor vehicles and handguns? Every car is inspected and registered in a database by make, model, and description, or it can be impounded so it can’t be driven. Yet people can enter the country illegally at most places along our border or obtain a drivers license with a fake piece of paper without even as much as a picture on it. Are we stuck in such a time warp that we can’t have a positive, verifiable personal registration system because we think the government is someday going to gather us all up and put us in jail if we are registered in some database. On the contrary, we should have a system where the government can gather up those who aren’t registered in a database and deport them or otherwise determine why they are here illegally. Only then will we have any hope of being secure in our person and property.

Such a registration system could be very simple, consisting of simply a number and a picture in most cases. When you are involved in legal infraction, go to board a plane, or interview for a job you produce the picture and the number and the airline or employer looks up the number in a database. If the picture stored there doesn’t match the picture you furnished, or doesn’t obviously look like you, further investigation is required. In cases where people have criminal records or other past history of illegal behavior, a fingerprint or a DNA sample may be required. For citizens to be registered in the database would require proof of domestic birth or naturalization.

For people requesting entry to the country, a much more complete registration would be required. For limited term visitors, a visa with pictures and fingerprints, together with purpose of entry, country of origin, planned itinerary, length of stay, and most importantly, a responsible party in the country whose responsibility it would be to keep track of the whereabouts of the visitor, and notify authorities if such whereabouts were ever in doubt. This party could be a tour company, employer, school, a relative or friend being visited, or a series of hotel registration and departure notifications. The database computer would automatically kick out the names of those who have overstayed their visa or whose whereabouts have been determined to be uncertain.

I suspect the reason we don’t already have such a system has more to do with special interests and politicians desire to utilize undocumented labor, expand tuition receipts, or pad voter rolls. And the price is our homeland security.

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