Montana Viewpoint

January 3, 2005

For centuries the privacy of the individual has been paramount in the protection of liberty; and nothing can bring the American political left and right together quicker than government assaults on that privacy. For this I am thankful, because I don’t have to decide whether I’m a liberal or conservative on the issue. Neither do you.

Recently Senators McCain and Lieberman put an amendment into the Intelligence Reform Bill that would have mandated birth certificates and driver’s licenses meet certain criteria in order to be accepted by federal agencies as proof of identification. McCain stated in his testimony that, “This amendment will not mandate a national ID card,” but that didn’t seem to give much comfort to those concerned about privacy or state’s rights issues.

Want to know which groups got their dander up? They included the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association of Governors, the American Library Association, the Cato Institute, Eagle Forum, and John Birch Society.

Well, the amendment got changed some, but the bill still requires the federal government to work with the states to come up with a standardized form for driver’s licenses, something that many feel is not much better.

A November 2004 statement from the American Library Association pointed out that 80% of the top 25 terrorist target nations had national ID cards, and one third of those countries used “biometric identifiers.”  Israel is an example of how well it’s working.

I don’t know how to make it harder for terrorists to do their dirty deeds any more than I know how to prevent crooks from getting guns, and I honestly think no one else does either, but like a steer, we keep trying. Well, yes, you could confiscate everyone’s guns and melt down sharp instruments, but that would be tough to do…as it should be.

We do not make ourselves more secure, however, by limiting our freedoms; so let me leave you with a few thoughts from great minds for you to contemplate as the New Year unfolds.

“Those who would give up a little liberty for security deserve neither.” Benjamin Franklin.

“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending to too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.” Thomas  Jefferson

And lastly and most insightfully, the words of the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas: “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air however slight lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

May liberty, prosperity, and peace of mind be yours in 2005.

Jim Elliott
Phone: 406-444-1556
Mail: State Senate Helena, MT 59620