2006/01/15

National ID Through the Back Door

Sherman, set the wayback machine to 1993. The Clinton administration is talking about a national health ID card, and the public reception runs the gamut from decidedly chilly to downright hostility. Even after 9/11 national ID schemes were unpopular. For example, the enabling legislation for the new Department of Homeland Security precluded the creation of a national ID system.

But like so many federal initiatives in the era of Bu$hCo, what cannot be achieved overtly is achieved covertly--enacted through executive fiat or attached to legislation that purports to be for a different purpose. The Real ID Act of 2005 is one such initiative. Like the Patriot Act, that contained many provisions that were deemed "unpassable" prior to 9/11, the Real ID Act achieves for law enforcement what couldn't be achieved with earlier ID initiatives, all under the guise of helping to control fraud and attached to a bill (last year's funds appropriation for the Iraq war) that had no possibility of failure.

This act requires that state motor vehicle agencies cooperate with the Feds on revamping their licenses to conform to a national standard and to link their databases for the purpose of oversight--in short, an enormous unfunded mandate that will cost the states millions upon millions of dollars.

"Link their databases"? Can you imagine this? 50 states, running on everything from interconnected PC's to ancient legacy mainframes, all trying to talk to the Feds? The possibilities for fraud and abuse (through direct attacks on what will no doubt be a hastily designed system) are mind-boggling. In fact, Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Security notes that the mandate for common "reader" technology will increase the possibilities for identity theft.

Many states are pushing back, highlighting the logistical impossibility of dealing with all of their licensees in a short 3 year time frame. California won't even estimate the cost to deal with all 24 million of its drivers, but suffice to say that it will probably eclipse the $169 million estimated by Virginia, a state with less than 1/4 the number of drivers.

In the end, the sheer impossibility of achieving the goals mandated by Feds by 2008 may be what dooms this enormous waste of taxpayers money, but it is still almost criminal that many millions will be spent anyway on a system that in the end may actually make us less safe, not to mention less private.

4 Comments:

When will these treasonous states learn that fiscal responsibility, like civil rights, must give way to national security?

Besides, I have it on good authority that the good folks at Diebold have already come up with a fail-safe method of collecting the data.
Another 50 billion dollar fuckup? Gosh! That's unbelievable!
The frightening thing is that people are now willing to take it.

Once there's a national ID, how long until it's required by employers as a stop against immigration?

And what do you think happens to your "qualifications" as a citizen once you get on one of the terror lists and they put a flag on you in this database? No travel, no job, no healthcare.

You are a non-person.

Mike
And what do you think happens to your "qualifications" as a citizen once you get on one of the terror lists and they put a flag on you in this database? No travel, no job, no healthcare.

Though I think that governmental abuse of the system is definitely a concern--I mean who trusts Bu$hCo not to abuse a national database--I'm not sure that it's as big an immediate problem as the possibilities for criminal fraud and identity theft. Ya got 50 states. That means 50 different ways of doing things. The logistical and technical issues are unreal, and that just means that it'll be done badly.

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