Local Company trying to get under soldiers’ skin|
David Francis and Bill Myers, The Examiner
A microchip company with powerful political connections is lobbying the
Pentagon for the right to implant chips under the skins of the nearly 1.4
million U.S. military personnel.
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(Courtesy photo/VeriChip Corp.)
Shown is the
microchip by VeriChip Corp.
VeriChip Corp., which is based in Florida and planning to offer its
stock to the public soon, has been one of the most aggressive marketers of
radio frequency identification chips. Company officials have touted the
chips as versatile, able to be used in a variety of situations such as
helping track illegal immigrants or giving doctors immediate access to
patient’s medical records.
Now the company is “in discussions” with the Pentagon, spokeswoman
Nicole Philbin said. She added that VeriChip wants to insert the chips
under the skin of the right arms of U.S. servicemen and servicewomen. The
idea is to be able to scan an arm and obtain that person’s identity and
“The potential for this technology doesn’t just stop at the civilian
level,” Philbin said.
VeriChip hopes that the chips will replace the metal dog tags that have
been worn by U.S. military personnel since 1906.
The company has political muscle in the form of Tommy Thompson. A
former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Thompson
is a partner at the lobbying law firm of Akin Gump and is a director of
Thompson said he’s sure that the chip is safe and that no one — not
even military personnel, who are required by law to follow orders — will
be forced to accept an implant against his or her will. He has also
promised to have a chip implanted in himself.
But reached for comment Friday, he wouldn’t say when he was going to
have the implant.
“I’m extremely busy and I’m waiting until my hospitals and doctors are
able to run some screens,” he said.
The technology is not foreign to the Pentagon. The Department of
Defense spent $100 million on similar chips that track supplies and has
also attached microchips to dog tags.
But the idea of implanting the chips in live bodies has some veterans’
groups and privacy advocates worried.
“It needs further study,” said Joe Davis, a retired Air Force major and
a spokesman for the D.C. office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Liz McIntyre, author of a book critical of the chips, said that
VeriChip is “a huge threat” to public privacy.
“They’re circling like vultures for any opportunity to get into our
flesh,” McIntyre said. “They’ll start with people who can’t say no, like
the elderly, sex offenders, immigrants and the military. Then they’ll come
knocking on our doors.”
The chip also is drawing attention from Congress.
“If that is what the Defense Department has in mind for our troops in
Iraq, there are many questions that need answers,” Sen. Patrick Leahy,
D-Vt., said in an e-mail to The Examiner.
“What checks and balances, safeguards and congressional oversight would
there be?” Leahy wrote. “What less-invasive alternatives are there? What
information would be entered on the chips, and could it endanger our
soldiers or be intercepted by the enemy?”
The company is not so sure about the technology, either. According to
company documents, radio frequencies in ambulances and helicopters could
disrupt the chips’ transmissions.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, VeriChip also
said it was unsure whether the chip would dislodge and move through a
person’s body. It could also cause infections and “adverse tissue
reactions,” the SEC filing states.
But Philbin downplayed the danger of the chips.
“It’s the size of a grain of rice,” she said. “It’s like getting a shot