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Thread: CNET: US's civil war over ID cards

  1. #1

    Exclamation CNET: US's civil war over ID cards

    The Real ID rebellion
    April 17, 2006, 4:00 AM PT
    By Declan McCullagh

    In 1775, New Hampshire was the first colony to declare its independence from oppressive laws and taxes levied by the British crown.
    Now it may become the first state to declare its independence from an oppressive digital ID law concocted in Washington, D.C.

    New Hampshire's House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a remarkable bill, HB 1582, that would prohibit the state from participating in the national ID card system that will be created in 2008. A state Senate vote is expected as early as next week.

    The federal law in question is the Real ID Act (here's our FAQ on the topic) that was glued on to a military spending and tsunami relief bill last year. Because few politicians are courageous enough to be seen as opposing tsunami aid, the measure sailed through the U.S. Senate by a 100-0 vote and navigated its way through the House 368 votes to 58.

    Unless states issue new, electronically readable ID cards that adhere to federal standards, the law says, Americans will need a passport to do everyday things like travel on an airplane, open a bank account, sign up for Social Security or enter a federal building.

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently devising regulations for these federalized ID cards. One possibility is that the "electronically readable" requirement will be satisfied by embedding a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. (They'll already be appearing in U.S. passports starting in October.)

    That prospect alarmed New Hampshire state Rep. Neal Kurk so much that he gave an impassioned floor speech during the March 8 debate saying the Granite State must not participate in the Real ID system.

    "There are times, Mr. Speaker, when we must look beyond the mundane and the pragmatic and take a stand based on our values," Kurk said. "I believe this is one of those times...I don't believe the people of New Hampshire elected us to help the federal government create a national ID card."

    Kurk invoked the memory of Patrick Henry's revolutionary speech, "Give me liberty or give me death," and New Hampshire's motto, "Live Free or Die."

    "The war on our civil liberties is actually begun," Kurk said. "There's a price to be paid for independence. But I ask you, what price-- liberty?"

    Kurk's impassioned plea prevailed. Even though a legislative committee had opposed the measure, the House overruled the committee's recommendations by a margin of 217 to 84.

    A Real ID rebellion?
    While New Hampshire may be the first, it's not alone. Other state politicians are seething over how the federales are strong-arming them on national IDs.

    The National Governors Association, hardly a bunch of libertarians, has called the Real ID Act "unworkable and counterproductive." The National Conference of State Legislatures wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in October, asking him to defer to states' expertise.

    No doubt much of the political outcry is over money and would evaporate if the Feds wrote checks to cover the cost of upgrading state computer systems. (The governors' press release baldly admits they're "asking Congress to fund the changes required" by the Real ID Act. One taxpayer watchdog group puts the cost at $90 per Real ID card.)

    That would be a shame. Privacy and autonomy are even better reasons to be skeptical of this scheme.

    There are no rules governing what data that private companies (hotels, retailers, employers) will be able to extract from the Real ID when it's swiped or placed next to an RFID reader. Will information like a home address and Social Security number be disclosed? Will a federal database be alerted whenever the card is swiped or read? And can an RFID'ed license be read from 20 or 30 feet away?

    Unanswered questions like those are why it's important that state legislators stand up to bullying by Washington. "If New Hampshire passes this bill, we'll be the first domino," Kurk, the state legislator, told me Friday. "We're told there will be other states that follow on."

    A New Hampshire Senate committee is mulling over the bill (and being lobbied by the motor vehicle agency, because the Real ID Act included a $3 million grant) with a floor vote expected after April 23. A rally is planned for noon on April 22 at the Concord state capitol by an anti-RFID group, and a Web site has sprung up to lobby senators.

    "Having a national ID would promote a surveillance society that we should all dread," Jim Harper, the director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, told the state Senate committee last week.

    The sad thing is that the U.S. Constitution was written to prohibit the federal government from taking such drastic steps. The long-forgotten Tenth Amendment says that powers not explicitly delegated to the Feds "are reserved to the states" or to the people.

    For now, though, the Real ID rebellion will continue. Patrick Henry's famous resolution in the Virginia legislature condemned "burdensome taxation" in the form of the hated Stamp Act. When more people learn about the Real ID Act, it might just spark a similar revolt today.

    Declan McCullagh is CNET's chief political correspondent. He spent more than a decade in Washington, D.C., chronicling the busy intersection between technology and politics. Previously, he was the Washington bureau chief for Wired News, and a reporter for, Time magazine and HotWired. McCullagh has taught journalism at American University and been an adjunct professor at Case Western University.

  2. #2
    Village Idiot
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    NYC's armpit
    A national identification system is clearly within the powers of the federal government, via the commerce clause of the US Constitution.

    Although I am a federalist at heart, the worry over "big brother" is much ado about nothing. It makes perfect sense to ask that states issuing their own forms of identification adhere to a standard which guarantees the legitimacy of ID issued is any one district to any other.

    It's a whole lot better then requiring everyone to have a passport and carry it with them all the time.

  3. #3
    Village Idiot
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    NYC's armpit
    Quote Originally Posted by General Gonad
    One possibility is that the "electronically readable" requirement will be satisfied by embedding a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip. (They'll already be appearing in U.S. passports starting in October.)
    My emphasis added. It is extremely more likely that smart card technology would be used instead of RFID, mostly in order to maintain security and prevent identity theft. The idea is to make ID cards more difficult to counterfeit, not to make people easier to track. There are drivers licenses issued in some states that I could easily duplicate with a scanner, ten minutes worth of adobe photoshop and $5 worth of laminate.

    To put it in other terms: There is clearly a "legitimate privacy interest" in allowing a high degree of freedom of movement. There is NO such legitimate privacy interest in allowing any individual to falsely identify themselves as someone else.

  4. #4
    Working rage-aholic
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    a rocky planet with one moon
    The national ID system will happen. It's pointless bureaucracy. It's typical of this administration's and this nation's big brother tendencies. It's inevitable. Congrats to my state for taking a stand, anyway.

    General, forget the tenth amendment. Forget any of the first ten amendments, for that matter. Employee drug tests are legal, and have been for some time. I can't see how they don't violate both the fourth and fifth amendments.
    The fourth amendment guarantees freedom from unwaranted search and seizure. Random drug tests are akin to saying, we have no evidence you've committed a crime, and no reason to think you have or ever would, but we want to seize your bodily fluids in case you did.

    The fifth amendment guarantees the right to not incriminate oneself. If a person's urine or blood is going to convict them, how is that not incriminating oneself?
    The first ten amendments are dead.
    Why are homely people discriminated against...we're the majority

  5. #5
    Village Idiot
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    NYC's armpit

    The government has repeatedly ruled that there is "no legitimate privacy interest" in the use of drugs. Furthermore, there is (supposedly) a "valid public safety concern" when it comes to drug use.

    That is, so long as minimally-invasive searches are performed in such a way that only those things for which there is no legitimate privacy interest are revealed, then, there is no 4thA violation. They can't use that blood sample, test it for drugs, and then test to see if you're a genetic carrier for XYZ disease.

    That's why they can't, for example, use infrared scopes to see if you're conducting an indoor grow operation. The evidence gathered would also include other personally revealing information.

  6. #6
    Hey Guys,

    I'm an American and I'm not against a national ID card in general. Some of that RFID stuff is a little scary, but a basic ID card is no big deal. Most people in the US already have a drivers license or equivalent State issued ID card. The problem is they are all different and they use varied security techniques. That is why they have those books for liqour stores and bars that show all the ID's and the features a genuine one should have. That is a big pain in the ass. For a LE officer, the stakes are usually way higher than an underage kid buy some beers.

    Many countries have similar universal ID's already. And besides one company, Digimarc, already has the contract for ID's with 35 of the US states. It wouldn't be to hard for the government to just ask them to whip up a standard template and force all states to use it.

  7. #7
    I am waiting for the day where they can insert a computer chips in our brains at birth so that they can track our each and every thought. Only then will be free from the tyranny of Al Qaqa!

  8. #8
    Village Idiot
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    NYC's armpit
    I'm shocked, really.

    I can't believe any of you people REALLY think this is a conspiracy for "big brother" to "track your movements".

    You people are generally pretty intelligent. You'll accept that we landed on the moon. You'll accept that diseases are not artificially manufactured by white people in order to cull blacks from the population.

    But for some reason you are willing to accept that there is a giant political conspiracy involved in watching to see whether you're at freaking' WalMart or Target. Personally, I think it's because there's politics involved.

    Guess what? Here's some cold, hard facts:

    Worksite arrests of illegal immigrants:
    1994: 17,554
    2004: 159

    No, that's no typo.


    I generally dislike Bush. I generally support McCain. I hate my Democratic mayor. I love my Democratic congressman (although I hate my two senators).

    Think for yourselves for a change, instead of what is popular to think (ie "hate Bush and all republicans because they are affiliated with Bush"). And if you ARE, and you STILL think Big Brother is out to count how many times you wipe your ass, then you've got delusions that I can't help you with.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Nugie
    Think for yourselves for a change, instead of what is popular to think (ie "hate Bush and all republicans because they are affiliated with Bush"). And if you ARE, and you STILL think Big Brother is out to count how many times you wipe your ass, then you've got delusions that I can't help you with.

    I do not hate Bush, I just do not find him particularly intelligent and I certainly do not feel comfortable with him at the helm. I hate child moslesters, wife beaters and conmen that prey on the old and weak. But Bush, I wouldn't waste my breath on him.

    Now, as far as you calling some of us delusional for believing the conspiracy theories, I will admit that we may be exaggerating but look at the recent spying scandals in the US. Do you really think the NSA isn't already monitoring a good deal of what is going on around the world, within the US and even on Merb.

    It is well known that London England is the city with the most cameras per block...pretty soon every American city will be like London. More monitoring, more fear mongering, more business for security companies, more infringements on civil rights...get the picture?

    Last edited by General Gonad; 04-20-2006 at 10:33 PM.

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