Criticism Growing to Nation-Wide Standardized Driver's License Plan

April 16, 2002 12:00 am

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ACLU, Eagle Forum, National Research Council
Say Standardization Plan is Nothing More Than a National ID System FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON – Saying it would result in a de facto national ID system, the American Civil Liberties Union today called on Congress and the Administration to reject any proposal that would standardize driver’s licenses nation-wide and link state licensing databases into one integrated information bank.

“The broad and diverse opposition to a standardized driver’s license plan reflects the reality that this scheme is nothing less than a national ID,” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The proposal would be ineffective, expensive and would represent a serious threat to core American liberties.”

The driver’s license plan was the subject of hearing today before the Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District of Columbia Subcommittee of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. The subcommittee’s Chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), is considering standardization of driver’s licenses nation-wide, a plan initially proposed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

Assertions that the system would not create a national ID were repudiated last week in a report by the National Research Council titled “IDs – Not That Easy: Questions About Nationwide Identity Systems.” The report identifies both the AAMVA proposal as well as airline traveler IDs (e.g. “Trusted Passenger” programs) as national ID systems and outlines the many policy and technological issues that need to be explored before deciding to build any type of identification system.

Opposition to the AAMVA plan has been particularly diverse, bringing together groups from all points on the ideological spectrum. The ACLU in recent months has joined with a large number of these groups, including the Eagle Forum and the Free Congress Foundation, in arguing that the plan would, if implemented, have dire and long-term effects on core civil liberties and privacy in America without making the country any safer.

ACLU Associate Director, Barry Steinhardt, personally voiced these concerns to the AAMVA in February and argued that a national ID would be of little use in domestic anti-terrorism efforts because terrorists would be able to easily obtain false documentation on which to base their application for an ID card. Steinhardt also told the motor vehicle administrators that their plan could have unseen negative social consequences as it becomes “the ideal tool for organizing all the new data that is being gathered on individuals because of the tremendous explosion in computer technology of recent years.”

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