The web site Spychips.com reported last month that the chairman of the VeriChip Corporation is actively promoting the idea of "chipping" immigrants with RFID tags under their skin as a way of tracking them. -- "He appeared on the Fox News Channel earlier this week, the morning after President Bush called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigrants," Spychips noted in mid-May. -- Posted below is the transcript of the interview with Scott Silverman, who was "chipped" himself about three years ago so as to better advertise his product. ...
For immediate release
VERICHIP INJECTS ITSELF INTO IMMIGRATION DEBATE
** Company Pushes RFID Implants for Immigrants, Guest Workers **
May 18, 2006
Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation, has alarmed civil libertarians by promoting the company's subcutaneous human tracking device as a way to identify immigrants and guest workers. He appeared on the Fox News Channel earlier this week, the morning after President Bush called for high-tech measures to clamp down on Mexican immigrants.
Privacy advocates Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre are warning that a government-sanctioned chipping program such as that suggested by Silverman could quickly be expanded to include U.S. citizens, as well.
The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated Radio Frequency Identification tag that is injected into the flesh to uniquely number and identify people. The tag can be read silently and invisibly by radio waves from up to a foot or more away, right through clothing. The highly controversial device is also being marketed as a way to access secure areas, link to medical records, and serve as a payment device when associated with a credit card.
"Makers of VeriChip have been planning for this day. They've lost millions of dollars trying to sell their invasive product to North America, and now they see an opportunity in the desperation of the people of Latin America," Albrecht observes.
VeriChip's Silverman bandied about the idea of chipping foreigners on national television Tuesday, emboldened by the Bush Administration call to know "who is in our country and why they are here." He told "Fox & Friends" that the VeriChip could be used to register guest workers, verify their identities as they cross the border, and "be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level." He added, "We have talked to many people in Washington about using it. . . ."
Silverman is reportedly also planning to share his vision on CNBC's "Squawk Box" if a slot opens up tomorrow (Friday) morning sometime between 6 and 9 a.m. Eastern Time. He was originally scheduled to appear on the show this morning, but technical problems at the Florida studio prevented his appearance.
The numbering and chipping of people seems like a plot from a dystopian novel, but the company has gotten the buy-in from highly placed current and former government officials, including Columbian President Alvaro Uribe. He reportedly told Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that he would consider having microchips implanted into Colombian workers before they are permitted to enter the United States to work on a seasonal basis.
"The mantra 'chip the foreigners' has little appeal once people realize the company wants to stamp its 'electronic tattoo' into every one of us," cautions McIntyre. "Electronically branding and tracking visitors like cattle is VeriChip's excuse to get the government on board. But if that happens, we'll all be in their sights."
Tommy Thompson, former Secretary of Health and Human Services joined the board of VeriChip Corporation after leaving his Bush administration cabinet post. Shortly thereafter, he went on national television recommending that all Americans get chipped as a way to link to their medical records. He also suggested the VeriChip could replace military dog tags, and a spokesman boasted that the company had been in talks with the Pentagon.
Privacy advocates warn that once people are numbered with a remotely readable RFID tag like the VeriChip, they can be tracked. Once they can be tracked, they can be monitored and controlled.
Albrecht and McIntyre, the authors of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID believe the world's people will stand firm against chipping. "Our country was founded on principles of freedom and liberty. We're betting that the American people will see the end game and buck VeriChip's attempts," said Albrecht. "We also believe the people of Latin America will rise up in opposition once they read our book."
The Spanish language version of Spychips will be hitting shelves across Latin America next month.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID (Nelson Current) was released in October 2005. Already in its fifth printing, Spychips is the winner of the 2006 Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty and has received wide critical acclaim. Authored by Harvard doctoral researcher Katherine Albrecht and former bank examiner Liz McIntyre, the book is meticulously researched, drawing on patent documents, corporate source materials, conference proceedings, and firsthand interviews to paint a convincing -- and frightening -- picture of the threat posed by RFID.
Despite its hundreds of footnotes and academic-level accuracy, the book remains lively and readable according to critics, who have called it a "techno-thriller" and "a masterpiece of technocriticism."
The Spanish-language version of Spychips, titled Chips Espias, will be available in bookstores in the Americas and Spain starting June 6, 2006
[Transcript of "Fox & Friends" interview with Scott Silverman, Chairman of the Board of VeriChip Corporation.The interview took place Tuesday May 16, 2006, between 6 and 7 AM on the Fox News Channel.]
TIKI BARBER, co-anchor: All right now, could implanting a microchip into guest workers coming into the U.S. solve our illegal immigration problem?
BRIAN KILMEADE, co-anchor: Here to tell us right now why this is a viable solution that might be used very shortly, Scott Silverman, CEO and Chairman of Applied Digital. Scott, where is this being used right now?
Mr. SCOTT SILVERMAN (Chairman & CEO, Applied Digital): Well, this chip today is being used for medical applications, to identify high-risk medical patients and their medical records in an emergency and clinical situation. The chip itself was approved by the FDA several years ago as a class-two medical device, specifically for that application. But obviously, it can be applicable for the immigration issues we face today as well.
KIRAN CHETRY, co-anchor: And we're going to take a look at it right now. You have the little chip, and it's next to a penny, so we can see just how small that chip would be. And you have one in you, so let's go ahead and just sort of explain how it would happen.
Mr. SILVERMAN: That's correct. My chip is in the upper right arm; it's been there for about three years. It's a simple injection process just like getting a shot of penicillin.
BARBER: OK. Now how exactly does it work? What does the chip actually contain on it?
CHETRY: OK, so it -- I guess you can just run this over his arm, and it comes up.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Well, the chip itself has a unique, 16-digit identification number, and then through a serial port -- if I can. Kiran, on the bottom of the scanner. Through a serial port, it attaches to a computer, where a database would pull up and the medical application -- your medical records. But in the immigration application, the registration of a guest worker legitimately here in the United States, that could be used at the border. But it could also be used for enforcement purposes at the employer level.
KILMEADE: What if you don't want it in your body? Do you have a choice?
Mr. SILVERMAN: Absolutely. It's an election on the part of the immigrant or an election on the part of the government, when we ultimately define what that technology is that no one has defined yet.
KILMEADE: Has the government bought this from you and said this is going to be the new immigration policy?
Mr. SILVERMAN: No, they have not. We have talked to many people in Washington about using it as an application for a guest worker program. But we cannot say today that they have actually bought it for immigration purposes.
BARBER: Now, a lot of people would say that's it's dangerous, that it's invasive, it could be used to infringe on our civil liberties by tracking us. But this is not what this is all about.
KILMEADE: Sort of like "Wild Kingdom," right?
Mr. SILVERMAN: No, that's correct, Tiki. This is not a locating device; this has no GPS capabilities in it whatsoever. It is purely an identification device that reads a unique 16-digit identifier with a proprietary scanner within a very short range. It's a passive device with no power source under the skin that ties to a database where the relevant information is stored.
KILMEADE: Tiki knows the Secretary of State. Maybe Tiki can get this contract for Scott. Tiki, maybe you can get a cut back. You know, you're not going to be playing forever.
CHETRY: That's how people get arrested in Florida, Brian.
CHETRY: But it is an interesting phenomenon. I don't know how comfortable even if you asked me or Tiki or Brian if we would be willing to do it. It just seems, like -- it seems scary.
KILMEADE: If I wanted to come to the United States, chip me to death!
BARBER: But it really is no different than having a passport and having a way to identify yourself. This just is a way that you won't lose it.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Yeah. It's a benefit to the person that's in the guest worker program, because if you leave your card at home or you leave it at your work, you're not going to be able to go back and forth across the border.
KILMEADE: It's like permanently putting a string on your finger to remind you of something.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Correct. That's correct.
CHETRY: It's quite interesting, so, keep us posted if there's more interest in it. Thanks, Scott.
Mr. SILVERMAN: Thank you very much. Pleasure meeting you this morning.
KILMEADE: Especially if you get really rich.
Mr. SILVERMAN: OK. Thanks.
BARBER: Thanks for joining us.