Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Scott Hards’ case for the advantages of fingerprinting (“Should Japanfingerprint foreigners?” June 6, 2006) is familiar because it is what we hear so often in the post 9/11 world. Yes, fingerprints are just one form of biometric identification, and biometric identification is becoming more widespread, with few complaints. Yes, sovereign nations do have the right to enact any laws of their choice to protect their borders. And, yes, we don’t hear people complaining of other forms of intrusive identification, such as photographing. (Well, I complain about it, but to deaf ears.)
The argument that a widespread pre-9/11 fingerprinting policy “may have stopped them”(terrorists) from legally entering the U.S. is unconvincing, because that is a very big “may.”
Hards’ dismissal of the complaint that fingerprinting will not perfectly prevent all terror because such an achievement is impossible and that it should be pursued nevertheless as insurance is wrongheaded because the point is not that a fingerprinting policy will fail to provide a perfect screen. The point is that it will not provide any security at all. Especially in Japan, where the majority of criminals and all terrorists to date are Japanese, the argument that the logic of the fingerprinting policy leads to the proposition that all residents and visitors - foreign and domestic - must be fingerprinted is sounder than arguments in favor of fingerprinting only visitors and foreigners.
Fingerprinting is not an answer. The suggestion that it will help facilitate greater domestic security is a transparent joke whose utility goes no further than letting politicians sound like they are doing something, and it is just one more example of Japanese catering to cosmetic appearance - the appearance of doing something while in fact doing nothing. Criminalizing foreignness is the habitual sleight-of-hand that is used to confuse the Japanese public. The Japanese public falls for the trick every time.