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The Beast Has Awoken — Part 1, Ellison's National ID Database
Christians (and interested non-Christians alike) have long wondered exactly how the "number of the beast" mentioned in the Book of Revelations will manifest itself. Many see it becoming a part of the human body such as the palm of the hand or perhaps the eyes, and that it will signal the end of a way of life. Well, that brings us to the good news -- bad news part. The good news is that the wondering is over. The bad news is that it could be in place by the end of this year and our lives will never be the same again.
In this first installment of this The Beast Has Awoken series, we will examine the players and what they're playing for. In the next installment we will examine the technology that could make this a reality within the coming months.
In Chaos Is Opportunity
There is an old saying, "In chaos is opportunity". September 11, 2001 brought with it a manageable level of chaos to the American psyche. It is been a time great suffering, great sacrifice and a remarkable tide of swelling patriotism. But it has also underscored that dark aspect to of our culture, an opportunistic nature to pursue the American agenda of heavy handed capitalism. First, evidence of this has come in the form of immense charitable donations from Americans to flag-waving charities that refuse to be accountable for the money.
Meanwhile, the grieving families of those who perished in the 911 attacks have yet see even a modicum of all this money and what boggles the mind is that these very same secretive and miserly charities continued to ask for more donations.
Now that Americans are terrified by the new anthrax scare, there is a new form of chaos. In this new chaos lies the possibility of an entirely new moneymaking scheme. That scheme will benefit those with power and the sense to hold out one hand to a frightened public with an offer of security, while in the other, the number of the beast is tightly grasped so as not to be noticed.
The number of the beast is now taking the form and shape of a group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, in search of a new economic recovery.
The Minions of the Beast
As with all things that go terribly awry, they begin their journey with the best of intentions and, as the old saying goes, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."
For those like Larry Ellison, Chairman and CEO of Oracle Corporation and SUN Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, the answer is to pave a new path to the future of national security using the Internet, and it could be in place within months.
Mercury News, October 16, 2001
Silicon Valley software mogul Larry Ellison's proposal to create a national ID card has gained substantial ground -- and the interest of top Bush administration officials -- in a signal that the controversial idea may be closer to reality than ever.
In an interview with the Mercury News on Tuesday night, Ellison, the chairman and CEO of Oracle, said he met with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and officials at the CIA and FBI in Washington, D.C., over the past week to discuss the idea. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has endorsed it, other tech executives have jumped on board and even some prominent civil libertarians have said the idea is worth pursuing.
Under Ellison's plan, the government would create a national identification card. The card would contain basic information about the holder, including Social Security number, and would be linked to a federal database containing detailed personal data, including digital records of the person's thumbprint, palm print, face or eyes.
Passengers would show the card at airports, Ellison said, and would have their thumbs scanned by a digital reader to verify identity before boarding a plane.
The cards also would be instantly checked against a new national database. That database would base would link existing criminal and immigration data to screen out potential terrorists.
The cards would be voluntary for all U.S. citizens, he said Tuesday. Any American without a card still could board a plane, but only after undergoing a more rigorous search.
``I think 99.99 percent of Americans will want these ID cards,'' Ellison said. ``Wouldn't you feel better if everyone who walked into an airport showed their ID card and put their thumb in the scanner and you knew they were who they said they were?''
The cards would be mandatory, however, for foreign visitors, including students on visas and non-citizens living and working in the United States who now carry ``green cards,'' he said. Ellison has not offered specifics on how the estimated 8 million illegal immigrants in the United States might be affected.
The national ID card idea has won the approval of retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Harvard law professor and civil rights expert Alan Dershowitz and Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy in the past week.
``There has to be some ID,'' Feinstein said. ``We have had a major catastrophe. This is a very serious time. The country is at war. The purpose here is to protect ourselves.''
Shalini Chowdhary, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, said the U.S. government could end up spending more than $3 billion on computer chips, hardware, software and services that go into creating so-called ``smart'' ID cards.
Ellison said that if he does donate the software, maintenance and upgrades won't be free.
``I don't think the government has any trouble paying for the labor associated with the software,'' he said. ``I made this offer not because the government can't afford to pay for the software, but because I shut up the critics who were saying, `Gee, Larry Ellison wants to build a national database because he wants to sell more databases,' which is pretty cynical and bizarre. What's in it for me is the same thing that's in it for you: a safer America.''
The voluntary part of the system is free to the American taxpayer, however the paid upgrades will become the slippery slope downward into the abyss of an Orwellian homeland security apparatus. The process is called "boiling the frog."
Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and he'll jump right out. However, if you immerse him into a pot of cool comfortable water, he will remain there. After that, you slowly raise the temperature of the water a degree at a time allowing the frog to acclimate at a comfortable pace. Over time, the frog will continue to thin the water is fine even though it has been slowly raised to the boiling point.
When applied to the national ID system, the Orwellian homeland security apparatus is that initial pot of cool comfortable "voluntary" water. However, as new "upgrades" are added the temperature of the water will increase unnoticed. That is, until you try to get a drivers license, open a bank account, obtain a social security number, get a job, mortgage a home and all the other aspects of everyday life we take for granted. The Orwellian homeland security apparatus will never demand that you carry a national ID card, but every institution and government agency that reports to that apparatus will give you a simple choice: No national ID card — no deal.
This brings us back to the Orwellian homeland security apparatus, and cool comfortable water from which it begins. How can we afford such a thing? Simple, there is nothing to buy. Our government has already filled the pot will buckets of Oracle software. America not only owns the software, we've been wading in it up to our collective necks for some time.
Reuters, October 10, 2001
Ellison is no stranger to the U.S. intelligence community -- he and Oracle co-founder Bob Miner named their company after a Central Intelligence Agency consulting project they worked on in the late 1970s. Once Oracle got off the ground, the CIA became one of its first customers.
The outspoken Silicon Valley CEO also is no stranger to controversy -- and his recent comments to employees are certain to add more heat to the simmering privacy debate.
``We have this long tradition in this United States of ours of being suspicious of government. ... We've been so busy protecting ourselves against our government that we've made it impossible for our government to protect us,'' Ellison said in a Web cast now available on Oracle's Web site, www.oracle.com.
In the Web cast, he railed against legal restrictions on the information-gathering activities of the CIA, FBI and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
``We have to give them the tools -- databases and cards -- and the latitude to protect us. If we do, our liberties and our lives will be saved together,'' Ellison said.
Oracle and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM - news) already sell products that would allow airlines or law enforcement to quickly search and locate vital security information.
The economic reasons behind Ellison's national ID System is blatantly obvious, the Silicon Valley area is financially on its knees and it's main corridor, Highway 101 is littered with shiny new "green" buildings. The term "green" which has been adopted from the aviation industry means a fully complete structure without the interior trimmings.
These "green" office buildings were funded during the dot.com craze, and are now completed and vacant. The owners are so strapped for finances that they cannot even afford to build out the interiors of the buildings and you can look straight through the glass windows and see nothing but concrete floors and elevator shafts.
How will these buildings be refilled now that the dot.com hysteria has fallen on its face? The answer is simple; we need a new economic impetus, a new machine that will drive prosperity and jobs back into the Silicon Valley area. Hence, Ellison's vision which is driven at its heart by a far-reaching governmental invasion of our lives with a national ID program.
This "solution" will eventually prove to be the greatest threat to our Constitutional liberties ever imagined, but it's a threat that pales in significance when compared to the amount of money to be made by satiating our new and urgent concern for security. Further, when we see who openly favors Ellison's scheme, the reason for us to be terrified of this new internal threat is beyond question.
Nothing Happens Until Someone Makes a Sale
The odd thing is that while Larry Ellison has failed at three marriages, his relationship with America's intelligence agencies has always been intimate, warm and fuzzy from day one. Perhaps this is part of the reason why these same agencies (who use Ellison's incredible software intensively) were completely blindsided on September 11, 2001. To paraphrase a popular colloquialism: To make a mistake is human, but to really foul things up you need a mega-huge super-secret government computer complex running the Oracle database.
But let's not be so quick as to minimize human error when it comes to the development of a national ID card program.
Before we examine the highly lucrative technology issues, let's briefly take a look at the main proponents of this scheme.
We've already discussed Larry Ellison of Oracle and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, and we know their motive is open and simple. It is the vested interest is tattooed on their foreheads for all their shareholders to see.
That leaves us Feinstein, Schwarzkopf, and Dershowitz. Without someone like these people to push for the funding, Ellison and McNealy have no hopes of finding willing lawmakers for their Constitutional Ponzi scheme.