Terrorist Fences & Retina Scans
May 4, 2006 - 2:36pm ET
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Okay, Peter Beinart wasn't completely serious about building a fence on the Canadian border. But he dismissed it on practical grounds only. Beinart's more sincere proposal in his latest Washington Post op-ed is that we invest in the creation of a biometric screening program on the border:
<!--StartFragment --> On national security grounds, then, if America wants to build a wall along one of our borders, it should be our border to the north. More practically, the best way to prevent terrorists from entering the United States, according to experts such as Richard Falkenrath, a Brookings Institution scholar and former deputy homeland security adviser, would be to invest in a state-of-the-art terrorist watch list complete with biometric screening. After all, terrorists are most likely to enter the United States the same way the Sept. 11 hijackers did -- through airports.
<!--StartFragment -->What Beinart neglects to mention is not only that such a "state-of-the-art" system costs billions and raises significant concerns about civil liberties and privacy, but the effectiveness of biometric screening in preventing terrorist attacks such as 9/11 is questionable, at best. Skeptics argue that a biometric ID card is only as good as the underlying birth certificate, Social Security number or driver's license it's based on:
"All an ID card with a biometric (identifier) will prove is that the same person who has that fingerprint or iris-scan obtained the card; it doesn't prove their actual identity," said Barry Steinhardt, an associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Many of the hijackers on Sept. 11 were traveling with legitimate (identification) documents. And those who had fraudulent documents found it very easy to obtain them."
Certainly, Beinart isn't the only self-described "liberal" to recommend intrusive data collection in the name of national security. Dianne Feinstein also champions a national ID. Recommending more law enforcement and more personal data collection is typical of Democrats' ideas for how to deal with extremist groups who use violence for political ends. Absent any deeper thinking about what the government should or can do to protect Americans from these threats, they fall back on increasing surveillance and military spending .
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