Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Privacy Groups Join Forces to Oppose PASS ID

First the good news: the American Civil Liberties Union has joined 17 other civil liberties groups to oppose the Pass ID Act, a bill that intends but fails to fix the flawed Real ID Act of 2005 - which was designed to turn the state driver’s license into a national identity card.

The coalition letter was sent in preparation for a hearing scheduled for TODAY on the Pass ID Act and includes principles that should guide Congress in repealing, not fixing, the Real ID Act of 2005 so that effective driver’s license policy can be developed. While Pass ID eliminates many of the more costly Real ID requirements for the states, it leaves intact the same fundamental structure created by Real ID.

Click here for a recent fairly detailed post of mine comparing REAL ID with PASS ID.

As I have posted on here, I'm afraid to say that even as PASS ID represents a break from, and an improvement of REAL ID, it simply isn't an acceptable alternative to those that cherish privacy and are concerned with the ever expanding power of government in areas related to "national security". The fact is, PASS ID continues the one key component of REAL ID that privacy advocates were most opposed to: the creation of a national identification card.

And that is where my "bad news" comes into play. Not only is PASS ID unacceptable, but its also supported by President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

For the sake of today though, let's focus on this new 18 group and counting coalition opposing PASS ID, which includes, in addition to the ACLU: Campaign for Liberty, Citizens Against Government Waste, Consumer Action, Cyber Privacy Project,, Inc., Electronic Frontier Foundation, Equal Justice Alliance, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Liberty Coalition, National Immigration Law Center, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Privacyactivism, Privacy International, Privacy Journal, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Rutherford Institute and U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation.

Unfortunately, very little media attention is being given to this issue yet, or likewise, this coalitions efforts. So, let me communicate their primary concerns before I get to the rather dinky article by the Associated Press regarding this emerging privacy fight (which barely mentions them or their concerns).

These privacy advocates believe that in the most significant measures the Pass ID Act is the same as the Real ID Act. Beyond creating a National ID, both the bill and the law invade American’s privacy, endanger victims of domestic violence by failing to adequately shield their addresses, raise fees associated with identification cards, expose consumers to identity theft and fail to boost security.

Like the privacy groups, many states oppose the de facto national ID as a waste of state tax dollars that will put privacy at risk without any security benefits. Since the Real ID Act passed, 14 states have passed statutes barring participation and 24 states in total have rejected the 2005 law.

With that, here's a few clips from the Associated Press on Senate developments:

Leading senators from both parties expressed a willingness Wednesday to revamp the nation's stalled plan to secure driver's licenses in an effort to thwart terrorists. But some senators raised concerns about elements of a new plan supported by the Obama administration.


The National Governors Association estimates the current law would cost states $4 billion while the new plan could cut the costs to between $1.3 billion and $2 billion. Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, introduced the Pass ID legislation last month. Akaka and other members of the Homeland Security committee would like to get a version of the bill passed before the end of the year.


The Pass ID, by contrast, would not put the home addresses of victims of domestic violence or people in the witness protection program on licenses. Pass ID also would not require that birth certificates be confirmed with the agency that issued them...Unlike the Real ID plan, the Pass ID plan would not require that people have the new driver's licenses to board airplanes. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, expressed concerned this could undermine the purpose of having a secure driver's license.


Under the current law, states have to certify by Dec. 31 they are complying with the Real ID standard to validate immigration status in order to issue a driver's license. Residents of states that don't follow the new standard will not be allowed to board airplanes with their driver's licenses after the end of this year. Napolitano said the Bush administration program is unrealistic because it's too expensive, and the technology necessary to meet the security standards is not available.


Civil liberties groups say the Pass ID would violate privacy rights in the same way the Real ID does. Twenty-four advocacy groups for privacy and other causes — including the American Civil Liberties Union, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Network to End Domestic Violence — sent Congress a letter opposing both identification programs.

So it appears - while the worst is over (REAL ID) - the "national identification card battle" has been reignited. Stay tuned...

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