Bad IDea

A few weeks ago, a young woman, we’ll call her ‘Jane’, was traveling from Vancouver, British Columbia to meet with us at the DR HQ in Baltimore to discuss our upcoming documentary.

Thing is, flying from Vancouver to Baltimore is pretty pricey and Jane had been traveling a good bit in recent weeks. So, to save some money, she opted to cross the U.S. border via a shuttle bus to take a flight from Seattle to Baltimore, a much cheaper option.

While this seemed like a no-brainer at the time, Jane soon came to regret this decision. Being the only Canadian on a bus packed with American tourists, the U.S. border patrol asked to look through her bag. Jane complied. Then they informed her that they needed to go through her day-planner and her laptop. Confused, but knowing she had nothing to hide, Jane agreed.

The U.S. border patrol then held her in their custody and interrogated her for hours. Apparently they had found some suspicious items in her carry-on. No, not a gun…or scissors…or even a lighter. What they found was – gasp! – three hotel keys in the pockets of her bag.

To make a long story short, the geniuses working the border patrol decided, based on their “evidence”, (the hotel keys, various names of hotels that she could stay at in Baltimore, and names and phone numbers of male contacts in her day planner) they could only come to one conclusion: she was obviously a prostitute.

They eventually googled her and found that Jane had been telling the truth – that she’s a film producer that travels a lot and doesn’t always remember to return hotel keys. Two hours later, Jane was free, armed with a tale of American bureaucracy at its finest.

While it’s a sadly amusing story, it is one that touches on a bigger problem that we are facing in America right now: we are slowly losing our civil liberties to things like the Patriot Act and more recently, the “Real ID Act of 2005.”

This past Thursday, the House approved this set of rules that will force states to issue every adult American citizen an electronic ID card. The bill was approved by a 261-161 vote.

“Passed without congressional debate as a rider tucked into the 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror and Tsunami Relief,” reports Detroit’s Metro Times, “the act seeks to have states drastically overhaul procedures for issuing drivers’ licenses by increasing the amount of documentation required to prove citizenship or legal residency and boosting the personal information contained on each card, including the addition of biometric identifiers such as fingerprints or retinal scans.”

As if that wasn’t creepy enough, University of Washington School of Law professor Anita Ramasastry reported in a column for, such tags emit radio frequency signals that would “allow the government to track the movement of our cards and us.”

“Private businesses,” Ramasastry adds, “may be able to use remote scanners to read RFID tags too, and add to the digital dossiers they may already be compiling. If different merchants combine their data – you can imagine the sorts of profiles that will develop. And unlike with a grocery store checkout, we may have no idea the scan is even occurring; no telltale beep will alert us.”

What’s next? Microchips implanted in our brains so that Big Brother read our minds along with the ability to listen to our phone calls, read our e-mails, and know where we are at all times.

Short Fuse