Sat | Dec 16, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Bigger spies than even the US

Published:Sunday | November 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Last week, I tried to explain why, although a National Identification System (NIDS) is desirable, its intrusive requirements were, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

The sort of information required is reminiscent of a police state intending constant surveillance of citizens to ensure government harassment is their lifetime companion. Many Jamaicans joined political propagandists in deliberately or obtusely confusing the need for a national identity number (NIN) with the unconstitutional way in which our privacy is to be unnecessarily invaded to create that number. In a lengthy tirade delivered via the Observer, former director of elections, Danville Walker, after spending several paragraphs pointing out that NIN was essential, repeated this popular fallacy: "He also countered critics of [NIDS] opposed to individuals being fingerprinted, saying they willingly give their fingerprints when they 'want a visa or a farm work ticket, but in your own country, you feel offended if asked."

This is an illusion combined with a non-sequitur. Only persons who 'want' those foreign facilities need subject themselves to such crass invasion of privacy. Some choose to eschew visas/farm-work tickets partly because of those requirements. Apparently, we can't refuse a NIN. It's mandatory.

If Danville wanted to be real about comparisons with US processes, he'd look at requirements for US citizens to obtain a social security number (SSN), NOT for non-Americans to get visas/farm-work tickets.

Last Sunday's readers recall the US Supreme Court implied a constitutional right to privacy in its 4th and 5th amendments. As a result, in order to get an SSN, a US citizen must provide:

• An application for a Social Security Card.

• Proof (by way of original documentation) of US citizenship, age and identity.

To prove citizenship, government accepts only certain documents. These include a US birth certificate, passport, certificate of naturalisation, or certificate of citizenship.

If you're US born, you prove age by presenting your US birth certificate. If a birth certificate doesn't exist, government may be able to accept a religious record made before age five showing date of birth; or US hospital record of birth; or passport. If you're foreign-born, you need to present your foreign birth certificate (if you have one or can get a copy within 10 business days). If you cannot get it, government may be able to accept your foreign passport; I-551 Permanent Residence Card; or I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.

For proof of identity, government accepts certain documents as long as they are current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information, and, preferably, a recent photograph. Social Security will ask to see a US driver's licence, state-issued non-driver identification card or US passport as proof of identity. If you don't have any of those specific documents, government will ask to see other documents, including:

• Employee ID card;

• School ID card;

• Health insurance card (not a Medicare card);

• US military ID card;

• Adoption decree;

• Life insurance policy; or

• Marriage document (only in name-change situations).

No fingerprints, toeprints, retinal scans or other biometric/demographic data required. Why? Because the US Supreme Court has implied that the Constitution forbids this as an invasion of citizens'

privacy. Jamaica's Constitution expressly protects privacy as a fundamental constitutional right. THAT, Danville and others, is why we complain vigorously when a Jamaican government asks us to do what a US government also asks if we choose to go there but wouldn't dare ask its own citizens.

The US then issues the citizen a Social Security card with name and number on it, and it's up to the citizen to protect that information by keeping it as private as possible. In the USA, SSNs are used to accomplish EXACTLY the same objectives our government says it wants to achieve with NIDS. In USA, anytime you're hired for a new job, your employer will ask for your SSN. Employers' accounting departments will use this number to report employees' income to IRS and Social Security wages to Social Security Administration (SSA).

When opening an account with any US financial institution, one must provide an SSN. Since 1970, federal government has required banks to obtain customers' SSNs. Financial institutions use SSN, to check credit; report interest and investment income; or losses or tax-deductible mortgage interest to IRS; and manage accounts.

Other examples of SSNs' use are:

- When applying for a federal loan: Govern-ment uses SSN to make sure of eligibility for a federal loan (e.g., a student loan). This allows tracking previous loan balances/verification of default status.

- When applying for certain types of public assistance: For example, unemployment benefits or Social Security disability, income is usually managed by federal or state government agencies who use SSNs to identify applicants and ensure they're entitled to the benefits.

- When enrolling in Medicare: SSA works with Centres of Medicare/Medicaid services to enrol people in Medicare.

- When applying for a passport: Federal law requires you to provide a SSN (if you have one) when you apply for a US passport. If you don't have an SSN, expect delays.

- On your tax return: The IRS uses SSN to match the income reported on tax returns to the income employers/financial institutions report having paid to taxpayers.

- To get a driver's licence: If applicants for driver's licences have an SSN, it must be provided when applying.

So, why does the Jamaican Government need to invade our privacy to provide the same result? Elementary, my dear Watson: Sump'n inna sump'n, and we're NOT being told the whole truth. Jamaican governments have earned the lack of trust they currently enjoy, so ought to know better than to force-feed us this irrational requirement for private information unless accompanied by the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!

 

NOT MANDATORY IN US

 

In the USA, application for, and holding of, an SSN is NOT MANDATORY. US Social Security Act 1935 combined with Executive Order #9397 issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt mentions federal agency administration, federal employees and/or the federal government. US law thus doesn't require private corporations to ask workers for SSNs and doesn't mandate any citizen to have an SSN (unless he's working for Government). Parents MAY apply for a child's SSN at birth - not mandatory.

SSA admitted this in a letter dated 18 March 1998 from Associate Commissioner Charles Mullen which states, in part:

"The Social Security Act doesn't require a person to have an SSN to live and work in the United States ... . However, if someone works without an SSN, we cannot properly credit the earning for the work performed."

I'm not against the concept of a NIN. I believe it's useful for public-sector reform. I only hope Government delivers on Jacqueline Lynch-Stewart's assurance that "... NIDS will ... be a one-ID system in Jamaica that, instead of carrying around multiple IDs, each of us will have one single ID that'll allow us to do business with Government" and scraps TRN; voters' ID; and NIS numbers, etc. Otherwise, why do we need NIDS?

Why is Government insisting NIDS be mandatory? It's only a method of identification? Isn't it? Why can't Government accept alternative identification like passports and driver's licences from those who have them? Or is there more to the NIDS plot? Like the need for closer and more intrusive surveillance? By whom?

Young Andrew let slip what's really going on and who's really demanding this crass invasion of ordinary Jamaican's privacy at the Anti-Money Laundering/Counter-Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) Conference at Pegasus (October 2016). The Observer reported:

"Biometric and demographic information will be accessible through databases and computer networks, [the PM] added.

"We must leverage every technological resource at our disposal to meet [global business environment] demands. Government's use of technology in regulation/compliance must be in step with international practices."

"Holness noted further that NIDS will serve to eliminate procedural steps and make compliance with AML/CFT regulations in the financial sector easier ... ."

 

DRIVEN BY COLONISERS

 

This isn't a Jamaican initiative. It's driven by our USA colonisers - the same ones who want to make lawyers police detectives against their own clients; want to make opening bank accounts for simple Jamaicans more complex than solving a Rubik's Cube; DARE NOT ask of US citizens anything similar.

One last thing (said Lieutenant Colombo). Without invading citizens' privacy, the US uses SSNs to provide a range of Social Security benefits (including UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS), especially to senior citizens. One in seven Americans receives a Social Security benefit; more than 90 per cent of US workers are covered by Social Security. In 1940, about 222,000 people received a total of US$35 million in Social Security benefits. By 2015, that increased to more than 59 million Social Security recipients collectively receiving almost US$870 billion in benefits.

So, Government wants my private biometric and demographic information. What's in it for me?

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.