TOMMY THOMPSON: THE "CHIPPER" PRESIDENT?
By Liz McIntyre & Katherine Albrecht
Election Bid Raises Specter of RFID Implant Threat
Former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson is considering a run for president in 2008, a move that should spark alarm among those familiar with Thompson's calls for widespread RFID chipping of Americans. The authors of "Spychips," Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre, who closely monitor the RFID industry, caution that his position on the Board of the VeriChip Corporation and his stock options in the company make Thompson one of the most dangerous figures in American politics today.
As head of Health of Health and Human Services, Thompson oversaw the scandal-ridden FDA when it approved the VeriChip as a medical device. Shortly after leaving his cabinet post, he joined the board of the VeriChip Corporation and wasted no time in using his clout to promote the company's glass encapsulated RFID tags. These tags are injected into human flesh to uniquely number and identify people.
In public appearances, Thompson has suggested implanting the microchips into Americans to link to their electronic medical records. "It's very beneficial and it's going to be extremely helpful and it's a giant step forward to getting what we call an electronic medical record for all Americans," he told CBS MarketWatch in July 2005. He also suggested implanting military personnel with the chips to replace dog tags.
Thompson's desire to run for president is not mere speculation. Media outlets in his home state of Wisconsin, where he served four terms as governor, have confirmed Thompson is laying the foundation for a presidential bid. His wife Sue Ann has told reporters that the family has discussed his candidacy and that "He should give it a try. He's got a lot of good ideas." Thompson himself has stated, "There's no question I'm interested."
Thompson is considered a long-shot for the Republican nomination, but his influence shouldn't be discounted, says McIntyre. "Despite his folksy manner, he's a savvy politician whose Washington connections run deep, and he's got a vested interest in chipping America." She points out that Thompson has an option on more than 150,000 shares of VeriChip stock.
Right now those options aren't worth much. Security flaws and public squeamishness have hurt the company's sales, resulting in losses of millions of dollars.
"It will take a considerable shift in public perception to chip enough Americans to turn all that red ink to black," Albrecht observes. "It concerns us that Thompson would have a financial interest in having people roll up their sleeves while aiming for such an influential office."
Ironically, Thompson himself has not yet received a microchip implant despite what must be extraordinary pressure from the VeriChip Corporation. He made a promise to do so on national television over a year ago.
"Given the unpopularity of the VeriChip and people's concern it could be abused, Thompson has been wise to avoid getting chipped himself," says Albrecht. "Getting chipped would would be political suicide for any politician. Even if he remains chip-free as we hope, the American people should still be wary of him."
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Liz McIntyre is a consumer privacy expert and author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID. In this explosive book, McIntyre and co-author Katherine Albrecht reveal how organizations like Procter & Gamble, Gillette, Wal-Mart, and even the U.S. Postal Service plan to use tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track everyday objects-and even people-keeping tabs on everything you own and everywhere you go.
Katherine Albrecht is a privacy advocate and co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID. Albrecht has testified on RFID technology before the Federal Trade Commission, the California state legislature, the European Commission, and the Federal Reserve Bank, and she has given over a thousand television, radio and print interviews to news outlets all over the world. Her efforts have been featured on CNN, NPR, the CBS Evening News, Business Week, and the London Times, to name just a few.
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