I attempted to attend an allegedly open meeting of the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force today at the Bilandic State Office Building in Chicago. Open meetings are supposed to be held at place open to the public. But many Illinois government buildings are not open to the public. Guards demand a current government-issued photo ID for unexplained reasons (if you think “for security” please explain in the comments how a photo ID establishes security? Do people with driver’s licenses never commit crimes?). If you do no drive, and have no driver’s license, the state of Illinois wants to charge you $20 to have a state photo ID in order to attend a public meeting.
Why didn’t I have my driver’s license? First, I did not drive there; I took the El. Second, I paid a fee for the driver’s license in order to drive a car legally in Illinois. If Illinois wants me to have a photo-identification card, it can issue me one. But I shouldn’t have to hand over my driver’s license or US passport to someone who has no legal need for it. Was I violating a traffic ordinance? Is the Bilandic building not US territory? The passport is the property of the US government. If the guard doesn’t give it back, I’m out of an expensive item; a renewal cost $110. Likewise, it takes considerable time and expense to obtain a new driver’s license. Third, I am an American patriot, and I believe in freedom of movement.
At the suggestion of the State Police officer at the Bilandic desk, I went across the street to the Secretary of State’s office in the Atrium Mall to get a state ID issued. They would give me one because I had a signed credit card, knew my address and Social Security number, and my face matched the face on their screen but wanted me to pay $20 for it.*
What about the argument that identification is necessary for security? I would love to hear the argument. Having a government-issued photo ID does not make anyone less dangerous than they would otherwise be. A US passport does not even have a person’s address on it. A convicted murder legally possess a driver’s license. A cursory inspection of the document — passport, license, other government picture ID — does not reveal whether the person is a danger to others. All producing those documents indicates is that you possess those documents.
The 9/11 Commission focused on identification that would be subject to verification. Checking a driver’s license at an airport is helpful because the name of the person on the license should match the name on the airline reservation. Booking a reservation for “John D. Smith” and showing up at the airport with a driver’s license for “Johnson E. Smyth” should raise a red flag. If Smyth tries to board with Smith’s boarding pass, there is a problem. But at state buildings, no guard is cross-referencing the name of a person with a photo-ID with a watch list. It would be impractical to do this at any facility with a large number of people entering and leaving.
I do not object to identifying myself. If the guards at the Bilandic building had access to the same database that the Secretary of State’s office across the street had, they could have called up the picture of me if I gave my name and address. The state refuses to give me a photo ID for free, so it certainly isn’t going to pay thousands to provide the desk guards at all state buildings with computer terminals linked via high-speed connections to verify documents (or pay for the additional guards). So it is not really about security; it’s about theatre.
The trip was not without irony. As I left the Bilandic building, there was a banner overhead that read “Let Freedom Ring.” Sadly, there is just a muffled bonk.