FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2005
IMPLANTS: FINE FOR THEE, BUT NOT FOR ME
Ex-Bush cabinet member Tommy Thompson still hasn't received an RFID implant despite a televised promise he made in July 2005 to do so. Shortly after joining the board of VeriChip Corporation last spring, the former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and four-term governor of Wisconsin told CNBC that he would "get chipped" with a VeriChip implant, but he has no plans to undergo the procedure anytime soon, according to recent revelations.
The VeriChip is a glass-encapsulated RFID device designed to be injected into human flesh for identification purposes and for use as a payment device.
In public appearances, Thompson has suggested injecting 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.
When confronted by a CNBC correspondent in another July interview about whether he would take a chip himself, Thompson replied, "Absolutely, without a doubt."
However, when authors Liz McIntyre and Katherine Albrecht, who researched human chipping for their book "Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID," contacted the VeriChip Corporation on December 5, they were told that the chipping never took place.
VeriChip spokesman John Procter said Thompson has been "too busy" to undergo the chipping procedure, adding that he had no clear plans to do so in the future. "I wouldn't put any type of time line on it," Procter said.
The VeriChip spokesman also attributed the protracted delay in the chipping to Thompson's desire to investigate the procedure. "He wants to see it [the VeriChip] in a real-world environment first," said Procter, who said he's trying to arrange a tour for Thompson at Hackensack University Medical Center, the first hospital to implement the technology in its emergency room.
But the authors question this explanation. "We would expect Mr. Thompson to investigate the device *before* advocating it to others," said Liz McIntyre. "It sounds like he has wisely decided to put off the implantation, perhaps due to the serious privacy and civil liberties implications of such devices, or perhaps due to the serious medical downsides, like electrical risks and MRI incompatibility."
Albrecht added, "Perhaps the implants conflict with Thompson's religious beliefs. Whatever his reasons, he should share them with the American people, many of whom have loved and trusted him for years. He will be responsible if they take an implant because of his influence."
Thompson may find himself under increasing pressure to get chipped in light of VeriChip Corporation's recent IPO announcement. The company is relying on Thompson's cooperation to give the much maligned human tracking chip an image boost. "He said it on live television," said Procter of Thompson's chipping intentions. "We look forward to setting a firm date in accordance to his schedule and other commitments....We want to maximize the impact of [Thompson's chipping] event...We'd certainly like to...really knock it out of the park."
McIntyre is hoping that Thompson will resist the pressure. "Our concern is that the VeriChip Company would like to chip every person on the planet, and they're counting on Thompson to be their ticket to mass acceptance," said McIntyre. "We're hoping he will work for the best interests of humanity and refuse to be goaded into an ill advised action."
According to Procter, only about 60 living persons in the U.S. have agreed to be chipped. In addition to the voluntary recipients, the company's implants were injected into the deceased victims of hurricane Katrina, and there are plans to chip mentally disabled patients at a residential center in Chattanooga. VeriChip has also had talks with the Pentagon about chipping military personnel, though Procter said that "no formal agreements have been reached."
A transcript of Thompson's entire CBS MarketWatch
interview is available at
A writeup of Thompson's chipping statements
is available at
"Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID" is the winner of the Lysander Spooner Award for Advancing the Literature of Liberty. 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.
"This is the first, and maybe the loudest, popular book on a crucial technology of our times...all of it is fascinating, some is gross and revolting, and most of it is hilarious...this is a masterpiece of technocriticism."
The Spychips website is a project of CASPIAN, Consumers
Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.
© 2003-2007 Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. All Rights Reserved.