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Executive Orders and the National ID Card

Executive Orders and the National ID Card

by Don Lobo Tiggre


The recent and little-lamented demise of the U.S. national ID (NID) legislation has stirred up a recurring argument among people interested in freedom. Some say that the repeal of the NID language from the 1994 immigration reform act (passed by the "Republican Revolution" Congress) constitutes a major victory and perhaps even a sign of times changing for the better. Others say that the repeal was at best a moral victory and that the Feds are going ahead with the NID anyway, just as the supposedly dead "HillaryCare" is being enacted one piece at a time. The pessimists are particularly concerned about Bill Clinton's ability to achieve the same result by edict: he can just issue executive orders to all federal employees, requiring them to require what amounts to a national ID from citizens.

My crystal ball isn't quite clear enough for me to say whether the pessimists or the optimists are closer to right on this one, but experience with Leviathan certainly suggests that it never gives up easily. I do, however, want to take a look at this business about the executive orders. There has been a lot of talk about executive orders in patriot circles for some time now, and many libertarians and others have started going on about them also—and it's pretty scary stuff, what they're saying. According to some, the current chief executive has issued more executive orders than all of his predecessors combined, and he's using them to achieve by bureaucratic edict what he cannot accomplish through legislation (or have the Congress accomplish for him). Others say that the Constitution was suspended by an emergency executive order 60 years or so ago, and this explains why the Feds don't give a damn about heeding the laws that were specifically created to restrain their actions.

There are many other claims and stories—are any of them true? What is an executive order anyway? I thought I knew the answer to this, but just to make sure, I interviewed a federal judge (who shall remain anonymous).

Executive Orders

An executive order is basically a bureaucratic version of a private company's management policy; it's an instruction from the chief executive to federal employees. Executive orders are supposed to apply only to people within the "company", but it's easy to see how such a thing might be misused. A president who failed to get the Congress to pass a new tax for him could, say, order the employees of the IRS to collect at a higher rate, right? Wrong. As I said, executive orders are meant to be internal commands, governing only the behavior of federal employees themselves. Bill Clinton might be able to order all IRS employees to wear casual clothes on Fridays, but he can't order them to require citizens to come in for audits in suits and ties. According to the law, the president cannot order federal employees to do anything that affects citizens directly in any way that goes beyond laws passed by Congress. He can tweak how federal employees go about implementing regulations, but the regulations themselves need to come from Congress. And he can't order them to do anything illegal, either.

What this means is that if, as per our example above, the president ordered federal employees to collect more taxes than they were supposed to, according to the laws passed by Congress, any citizen affected would have standing to file suit in federal court. Furthermore, if any federal employee received an order that he or she thought was illegal, he or she would also have standing to file suit in federal court. And they should win. My emphasis here on the "should" is important, since in bringing suit against the federal government, you are asking the judge (a federal employee, after all) to reprimand his or her own employer. Some would do this—the judge I interviewed, for example, would—but others (perhaps some appointed by the current president) might not. This practical consideration of the politicized nature of the American judiciary may make it seem that a president most likely could get away with whatever abuse of executive orders he pleased, but there are other pragmatic political realities to consider. For instance, in the current president's first term, he issued an executive order requiring doctors in all federal government hospitals (armed services, VA, etc.) to perform abortions. A huge number of these doctors simply refused to obey, even though the chief executive is also their commander-in-chief. The number was so large that they could not all be punished or coerced (nor even disciplined), so Clinton backed down.

If someone were serious about bringing suit in order to stop an executive order they thought went too far, they'd have to be mindful of political realities and hire someone who could help them file the suit in a court that was likely to hear their case more favorably. But they could do it. With the right judge, they should even prevail. But the funny thing is that amidst all the talk I've head about executive orders, I have never heard any mention of anyone ever trying to take the appropriate legal steps to stop one. It's clear that the Constitution cannot legally be set aside by an executive order, but even backing away from such egregious possibilities, where are the suits against the Feds on the other issues of concern to patriots? Maybe I'm missing something, but it sure seems that people who fear that the president is gaining the ability to rule by edict as did the kings of old should at least try to stop him with a lawsuit before giving up in despair.

National ID Cards

Okay, now back to the NID. Given what I learned from the judge, I'm not sure that worrying about executive orders is the best way to spend my emotional energy—but that doesn't mean that I'm not worried about the NID. It is certainly beyond question that the Social (In)Security Number is being abused and is now making it possible for both government and private agencies to track people who have committed no crimes, in gross violation of their individual rights. The SS card is a sort of NID already, especially since it's required of all subjects/citizens before they can get a job, which most people have to have if they want to live. Other IDs are optional, but you have to have an SS card to work. And those other IDs, especially driver's licenses, are rapidly becoming standardized repositories of large amounts of data on almost all subject/citizens in the U.S. anyway.

Even if the SS numbers were eliminated, however, and no single ID card ever became standard nationally, U.S. subjects/citizens would still have a very serious threat to their freedoms to deal with: all the databases the NID was supposed to make it easier for law enforcement to link people to. Without the cards it might take a few more minutes for the police, IRS, NSA, etc., to enter your fingerprints or other identifying features into their systems, but they'll still be able to do it. It's the existence of the systems themselves that threaten freedom. It's the masses of centralized, collated, indexed information that government and private agencies have been amassing on individual citizen/subjects that form the greatest threat.

The "Deadbeat Dad" Database

Take the "deadbeat dad" database, for example. This is not a proposal, nor an urban legend. It's real, and every time someone gets a job (or even changes their job within a company), their information (however they happen to be IDed) is supposed to get checked against the database. And that's just one database. There are also the medical databases that insurance companies use, the credit history databases (not to mention credit card purchase records that are subject to subpoena), tax databases, scores of criminal databases, and many others. Never mind that all of these databases can and do contain erroneous information; the main thing to understand and remember is that such huge collections of data on nearly all people in a society can be a formidable tool for tyranny.

Let me put it this way; just think of how much easier it would have been for U.S. government officials during the time slavery was legal to track down people running underground railroads if they had had access to the kind of detailed information the current U.S. government has on almost all subject/citizens.

Remember what the Feds did to Peter McWilliams, just because he criticized U.S. drug policy. How many more people will be harassed, imprisoned, and killed as a matter of routine when the Feds can track every person's actions, business dealings, medical condition, location, associations, beliefs, etc.? Is that the way the "land of the free and the home of the brave" is supposed to be?

Don Lobo Tiggre can be found at the Liberty Round Table
and soon at his new site
Doing Freedom

from The Laissez Faire City Times, Vol 4, No 9, February 28, 2000

Printer Version

Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in... — Dianne Feinstein, CBS-TV's "60 Minutes, February 5, 1995.

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