Friday, January 18, 2008

?National ID card? dispute needs more debate

Any promise from the Department of Homeland Security that standards for the REAL ID card will be foolproof protection from tampering and hackers should be regarded with considerable doubt.

E-thieves during 2007, for example, hacked into 79 million U.S. records, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center—a four-fold jump over 20 million records in 2006. These do not include tens of thousands of other government records invaded by hackers, including virtually hacker-proof electronic systems protected by the most sophisticated firewalls.

That is but one worry of REAL ID—that personal data on the new card required by Homeland Security could be lifted by hackers, whose ingenuity for tampering may defy the best security measures.

But with May as the deadline for seeking a delay in implementing REAL ID, the state of Idaho, which has indicated it won't comply with the new law, should seek a waiver before and then argue its case along with 16 other states that oppose the new ID and refuse to comply.

Without a waiver from DHS, Idahoans will be denied boarding aircraft and access to federal buildings, among other restrictions.

REAL ID has not been properly debated. The legislation was rushed through the U.S. House and Senate with the same blinding speed and inattention as other legislation that dripped with anti-terrorism calls to arms.

Moreover, applying the DHS standards to driver's licenses will cost states billions of dollars—an aggravating and costly example of another unfunded federal mandate out of Washington.

REAL ID will be the new driver's license for the states. Although states individually will have the right to decide what data is stored on the new card, DHS requires some basic information as well as sophisticated graphics to authenticate the card.

Civil libertarians worry that once the card is issued, Americans will be required to produce it in other venues. Images of citizens being delayed at checkpoints in authoritarian countries and told, "Papers, please!" come to mind.

Doubts about REAL ID have stirred new efforts in Congress to repeal the law. The same second thoughts about the Patriot Act led to revisions to protect civil liberties.

No law, no ID card will ever absolutely guarantee security from terrorists.

In the end, Americans are better served by preserving their freedoms than submitting themselves to suffocating measures that threaten to transform their way of life into a police-state environment.

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