New York Times

  • New York Timesfree registration required Congress Close to Establishing Rules for Driver's Licenses.

    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    been revoked in other states.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.

    The bill
    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
    point B.”

    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]

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