Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Senators, states beat up on Real ID plans + ACLU Testimony

Well, it was another Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Hearing, and that means another REAL ID bashing contest. You'd think we must be getting closer to scrapping this "National ID Card" idea - sprung from the dark recesses of George Orwell's brain - when nearly every Senator seems to oppose it, as does the majority of the states, and the majority of the people, no?

CNet News does its usual good job covering the hearings:

Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who presided over a Tuesday subcommittee hearing revisiting the topic, said they remain particularly troubled by Real ID's multibillion-dollar price tag for state governments. Akaka and others also voiced worries about the mandate's privacy and civil liberties implications.


Akaka, for his part, said he will continue to push for passage of the Identification Security Enhancement Act, which he introduced last Feburary. That bill would yank Real ID and replace it with a "negotiated" rulemaking process that was proposed before Real ID was glued onto an emergency Iraq war spending bill that passed unanimously in 2005. Republicans John Sununu and Lamar Alexander and Democrats Patrick Leahy, Jon Tester, and Max Baucus also support the bill, as do influential state officials and civil liberties groups, but it's unclear whether it has the momentum to go anywhere this year.


Perhaps the most blistering critique of Real ID on Tuesday came from Tester, who called the program "the worst kind of Washington, D.C., boondoggle." He suggested it was curious that his home state had been granted a deadline extension, even though its attorney general had told Homeland Security that state law did not authorize Montana to implement Real ID, and the state legislature won't even meet again until next January.


Tester inquired about why the administration isn't requiring the information encoded on the Real ID cards' bar codes to be encrypted. Baker said Homeland Security decided on that approach because police were concerned about an inability to read the information off cards rapidly during traffic stops.

But there's probably no better or able critic of REAL ID than the ACLU...who also got their turn to testify before the Senate. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office testified today about the privacy and security concerns with creating a federal identity document every American will need in order to fly on commercial airlines, enter government buildings, or open a bank account.

Fredrickson stated:

"Congress is currently on the path of creating a national ID system that fails to make America more secure while sacrificing individual privacy. Congress still has the opportunity to reconsider this route and put our nation on a better path that adds security and protects the privacy of all Americans. Chairman Akaka’s bill, the Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007, accomplishes both of these goals. It is now up to Congress to either allow our nation to continue towards an ineffective ID system that leads to a national ID, or repeal the Real ID Act of 2005 and institute ID security that protects our nation and our privacy."

"The Real ID Act of 2005 was hastily passed by Congress, without the proper assessment about cost and implementation. With Real ID, tens of thousands of people will have access to our information in a massive government database. The national database could well become a one-stop shop for identity thieves."

So if I were keeping score, and I am, I'd say REAL ID has badly lost another round. Unless that is, the Homeland Security Department still carries any weight and credibility with you. Or whether their continuous claims that these cards will "protect us from terrorists" make any sense to anyone anymore. I suspect most would answer both of the above questions with a resounding "no".

No comments: