Could Court Case On Names Encourage National ID?


Civil libertarians see yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling that requires disclosure of suspects’ names to police officers as a significant setback, says the Christian Science Monitor. It is unclear whether it may help open the door to the issuing of national identification cards or terrorist profiling at bus terminals, train stations, sports stadiums, and on city streets. “It’s a green light to explore the bounds of how much personal information can be demanded on pain of arrest,” says Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute in Washington. “It also gives a green light to perhaps the Congress to move with a national law.” Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington says the decision has clear implications for the war on terror. “We know identification continues to be one of the key demands of government agencies involved in homeland security,” he says. “[This decision] – depending on how broad it is – could open the door to new demands for identification.”

The Monitor says the case marks the first time the nation’s highest court has endorsed a provision compelling citizens to reveal information in a citizen-police encounter that may become a police investigation. In effect, the 5-member court majority says that in most cases it is no significant intrusion for police to request – and a suspect to provide – his name. “One’s identity is, by definition, unique; yet it is, in another sense, a universal characteristic,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. “Answering a request to disclose a name is likely to be so insignificant in the scheme of things as to be incriminating only in unusual circumstances.”


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