Unusual Coalition Including ACLU, Eagle Forum Urge Bush to Oppose De Facto National ID

February 11, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — An unusual left-right coalition, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Eagle Forum, today joined in opposition to a proposal that would standardize drivers’ licenses across the country, calling it a backdoor route to a national identification system, a threat to privacy and a superficial, ineffective “quick fix.”

“It’s not often that groups as ideologically varied as those in this coalition come together in common cause,” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “But, in this case, the danger is enough to leave other considerations by the wayside. This plan would be ineffective, expensive and a severe hit to basic privacy rights in America.”

The coalition’s concerns were expressed in letters today to President Bush and Secretary Mineta urging them to oppose a plan being vigorously promoted on Capitol Hill by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) that would standardize state drivers’ licenses and effectively link motor vehicle databases across the country into one integrated information bank. The release of the letters coincides with the AAMVA’s Leadership Summit and Hill lobbying campaign, held over the weekend and today.

Signatories to the letters ran the ideological gamut from conservative, centrist and liberal advocacy groups to consumer watchdogs on both sides of the aisle to conferences of both right-leaning and middle-of-the-road state legislators.

In addition to the Eagle Forum, the ACLU, the Free Congress Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, signers included the American Legislative Exchange Council, National Conference of State Legislatures, the American Conservative Union, Consumer Alert, National Consumers League, National Council of La Raza, Americans for Tax Reform and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (for a full list of signatories see the letters at: (/node/21020 and /node/21021 ).

The ACLU said that the implementation of the AAMVA’s plan would create a de facto national ID, circumventing necessary public and legislative debate and threatening to bolster a surveillance society not in line with core American privacy rights and civil liberties. Such a system should not be foisted on the American public simply through state bureaucratic maneuvering, absent all but the most basic public accountability, the ACLU said.

“Making identity documents tamper resistant is a noble goal, but it does not require the tagging and tracking of law-abiding American citizens through a National ID system,” said Lori Waters, Eagle Forum Executive Director.

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