Friday, September 14, 2007

Those terrorists...

So, I need to renew my driver's license. I went to the Illinois DMV armed with my old driver's license, my passport, a canceled check, and a piece of mail, thinking that with all of these things I would be set. However, they turned me away immediately for not having my social security card with me. I told them I knew my number, they were not impressed (this is understandable), I told them I could get it faxed to them in a matter of minutes, they were not impressed. Finally, in a bit of a tiff, I asked them why they needed my social security card when I had two forms of U.S. photo I.D. with me, as well as proof of my residency in Illinois. Their response, and I quote, was "To prevent fraud after 9/11."

Now, excuse me for a second while I ponder this statement. First off, I was unaware that there was a particular increase in identity theft concurrent with the attacks of September eleventh. Second, I am confused as to how preventing people from getting an Illinois driver's license will a) prevent them from getting on an airplane and crashing it into a building or b) prevent them from committing any other form of atrocity except, perhaps, living in Illinois and owning and driving a car. Third, I am very baffled, since social security cards are perhaps the easiest piece of identification to fake, as they have only a number, name, and signature, and they are printed on plain blue paper. In fact, had I actually lost my social security card, I imagine that it would be easier and less time-intensive for me to forge a new one using photoshop and online images than it would be to go to the social security office and get a new one sent to me.

Fourth, I am unaware as to how giving my social security number to the idiots at the DMV will prevent fraud. Excuse me if I am wrong, but it really does seem to me that the reason we have a problem with identity theft and social security fraud is, quite simply, that there are quite a few transactions where the only identifying information on them is a social security number and name. Every time that I give my social security number to someone else, it goes into another database to be stored with a bunch of other people's social security numbers. The more times I give out my social security number, the more possible times there are for someone to steal it. Making an easily forged social security card necessary for a driver's license in fact does nothing to ensure the safety of my social security number; if anything, it makes it more dangerous for me.

Finally, since this doesn't prevent terrorists from flying in our planes, trains, buses, and taxi-cabs, perhaps with dirty bombs tucked away in briefcases or boxcutters with which to hijack whatever, well, the question is what does this rather useless rule do? It seems like a simple rule to, generally, make life harder for immigrants and keep those gosh-darned illegal immigrants off of American soil. One more hoop for them to jump through before they can be treated as human beings. Of course, it's easy to hijack the public's fear of anti-American terrorists coming over and doing evil things to keep everyone else out as well, which in some ways we've already done (one look at the signs on American customs outposts convinces you of this - the 'welcome measures' include fingerprinting for all non-U.S. Citizens who enter the country, I believe). This is just one more example.

Of course, it could also be to prevent terrorists from stealing my social security number and crashing it into a building. You know, like they do.

1 comment:

Duff said...

This reminds me of that talk of creating a national id to prevent terrorism. How would that do anything? I mean logically, is a national id could prevent terrorism, it ought to be effective on other violent crime (as terrorism is just violent crime without a specific person in mind but with a specific ideological reason). But this is also unclear. I really dislike it when people propose a solution to a non-problem, merely for the sake, I would guess, to feel like they are doing something for the issues facing our society. And yet, there are some problems that are to be solved not by doing anything new, but merely just doing what you already do, just doing it well or better and not being lazy about it.

In general I think a major problem with many bureaucracies is they understand that an action ought to be taken when it has a specific and well-defined problem to address. Solutions to ill-defined problems tend to be non-productive, as there is no clear instance where it should be applied and why. (Having such an instance would constituent making the problem well-defined.)

Bruce Schneier, a security guru of sorts, once likened instituting such non-solutions, or solutions to ill-defined problems, as planting a 30ft super sharp spike in the middle of a wide field. Yes, if the enemy runs into the spike as they come at you, they will be hurt. The spike itself it hard to tackle and remove. But they could also just step around it.