Today the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that anybody can be compelled at any time to identify themselves, if a police officer asks. People who refuse to identify themselves, even if they are not suspected of a crime, will be arrested. Sound Orwellian?

US citizens do not enjoy a constitutional right to refuse to reveal their identity when requested by police.



In what may become a major boost to US law enforcement and antiterrorism efforts, the US Supreme Court Monday upheld a Nevada law that makes it a criminal offense for anyone suspected of wrongdoing to refuse to identify himself to police.



Civil libertarians see the decision as a significant setback. And it remains unclear to what extent it may open the door to the issuing of national identification cards or widespread identity operations keyed to 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, executive director 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.”



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