While it is not unusual in the vast federal bureaucracy for one hand to be unaware of or contradictory to the other's activity, you'd think they'd be together on something as serious as identity theft.

Instead, the Associated Press reports, the government wants 52 million Americans who are either on Medicare or connected to the Defense Department to carry their Social Security numbers in their wallets, something the Federal Trade Commission says invites ID theft.

An Identity Theft Task Force set up by President George W. Bush recommended last year reduced use of Social Security numbers, describing them as "the most valuable commodity for an identity thief," especially so when combined with other information, such as a name, address and date of birth.

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