WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 – Following a recommendation of the Sept. 11 commission, the House and Senate
are moving toward setting rules for the states that would standardize
the documentation required to obtain a driver's license, and the data
the license would have to contain.
Critics say the plan would
create a national identification card. But advocates say it would make
it harder for terrorists to operate, as well as reduce the highway
death toll by helping states identify applicants whose licenses had
been revoked in other states.
The Senate version of the
intelligence bill includes an amendment, passed by unanimous consent on
Oct. 1, that would let the secretary of homeland security decide what
documents a state would have to require before issuing a driver's
license, and would also specify the data that the license would have to
include for it to meet federal standards. The secretary could require
the license to include fingerprints or eye prints. The provision would
allow the Homeland Security Department
to require use of the license, or an equivalent card issued by motor
vehicle bureaus to nondrivers for identification purposes, for access
to planes, trains and other modes of transportation.
does not give the department the authority to force the states to meet
the federal standards, but it would create enormous pressure on them to
do so. After a transition period, the department could decide to accept
only licenses issued under the rules as identification at airports.
House's version of the intelligence bill, passed Friday, would require
the states to keep all driver's license information in a linked
database, for quick access. It also calls for “an integrated network of
screening points that includes the nation's border security system,
transportation system and critical infrastructure facilities that the
secretary determines need to be protected against terrorist attack.”
The two versions will go to a House-Senate conference committee.
Some civil liberties advocates say they are horrified by the proposal.
think it means we're going to end up with a police state, essentially,
by allowing the secretary of homeland security to designate the
sensitive areas and allowing this integrating screening system,” said
Marv Johnson, the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
If the requirement to show the identification card can be applied to
any mode of transportation, he said, that could eventually include
subways or highways, and the result would be “to require you to have
some national ID card, essentially, in order to go from point A to
James C. Plummer Jr., a policy analyst at Consumer
Alert, a nonprofit organization based here, said, “You're looking at a
system of internal passports, basically.”
But a Senate aide who
was involved in drafting the bipartisan language of the amendment said
that in choosing where to establish a checkpoint, the provision “does
not give the secretary of homeland security any new authority.”
aide, who asked not to be identified because of his involvement in
drafting the measure, said it would not create a national
identification card but would standardize a form of identification
routinely issued by states.
Representative Candice S. Miller,
the Michigan Republican who drafted the license section of the House
measure, said, “I don't think this is anything that should cause anyone
concern.” [Privacy Digest]