Thursday, July 08, 2004

Your irises please,

Hiibel notwithstanding, we have generally resisted being a country in which the authorities could order, "Your papers please." The new fast-lane check-in (see, for example, Mark A. R. Kleiman: Security and privilege) at airports will accomplish much the same thing, but in a way that we will all be begging for it.

The new procedures invite travelers to register with the authorities and ask to have a background check done in advance. Those who pass will be given special short-line security treatment at airports. Why not? Who wants to wait in long lines? Does it really matter that you will be identified by biometric markers: fingerprints and iris scans? (For details, see, for example, IHT: Airport screening: Life in the fast lane.)

Pretty soon, we will all -- at least those of us who don't want to be taken for suckers at the airport -- have our fingerprints, irises, and security information stored in the government's security database. Not because someone like Ashcroft forced this on us; we will have asked for it ourselves.

I'm not sure whether to give the security freaks credit for creating this program with this result in mind. Are they really that clever? But whether or not it was intentional, the result will be the same. The government will have definitive identifying hooks into most of us.

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