A federal judge refused yesterday to stop the Selective Service System from requiring that draft registrants provide the Social Security numbers on draft registration forms.
The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the use of the Social Security numbers, saying the Privacy Act makes it illegal to use the numbers for identification purposes without a specific law authorizing such a use.
Without ruling on the merits of that argument, U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard A. Gesell said yesterday that he saw no reason for stopping the requirement at this point. Nevertheless, he said that if he ultimately ruled in the ACLU's favor, the individuals involved might be able to recover money damages for being forced to give the number.
But, Gesell added, "it's hard for me to believe eight million people (prospective registrants) are trembling about giving their Social Security numbers," when they are asked under other laws to give them for driver license identification and other purposes anyway.
The ACLU has asked that the federal government at least be forced to notify prospective registrants that they did not have to provide the numbers and would not be prosecuted if they did not. The government said that would be too costly and was not necessary at this point.
Apparently in response to the government's argument that the draft program was part of a series of steps being taken to upgrade military readiness, Gesell said it was in the public interest "to proceed with the registration program at the eleventh hour" after the government had committed so much time and resources to the plan.
The draft registration is scheduled to begin Monday.