The massive aggregation of Iraqis' personal information creates an unprecedented human rights risk that could easily be exploited by a future government. Yet the idea of the U.S. military turning over the database system to the Iraqi government is already under discussion. In May 2007, a prominent think tank floated the possibility of a national identification program for Iraq similar to the U.S. REAL ID system. The proposal, also carried in the New York Times, would introduce biometric ID cards to Iraqis that could be read with portable machines linked to a centralized database. The proposal also envisaged Iraqi government census workers going door-to-door to catalogue residents. The program’s purported purpose would be to distinguish insurgents from lawful citizens, but the proposal admitted that the central database could also be misused for ethnic cleansing.
Such misuse is not without precedent. In Rwanda, despite protests from non-governmental organizations several years prior to the genocide, official identification cards contained ethnic information. The classification system was a remnant from the Belgian colonial government, and was extensively used to identify victims to be killed. To have the word "Tutsi" on an identification card was a death sentence. During the Holocaust, Nazi Germany placed a "J-stamp" on the identification cards of all Jews. These stamps were followed by yellow badges that made the identification and extermination of Jews more efficient.