National ID cards on the way?
— reported by CNET.COM
A recent vote in Congress endorsing standardized, electronically readable driver’s licenses has raised fears about whether the proposal would usher in what amounts to a national ID card.
In a vote that largely divided along party lines, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a Republican-backed measure that would compel states to design their driver’s licenses by 2008 to comply with federal antiterrorist standards. Federal employees would reject licenses or identity cards that don’t comply, which could curb Americans’ access to everything from airplanes to national parks and some courthouses.
The congressional maneuvering takes place as governments are growing more interested in implanting technology in ID cards to make them smarter and more secure. The U.S. State Department soon will begin issuing passports with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips embedded in them, and Virginia may become the first state to glue RFID tags into all its driver’s licenses.
Paul warned that the legislation, called the Real ID Act, gives unfettered authority to the Department of Homeland Security to design state ID cards and driver’s licenses. Among the possibilities: biometric information such as retinal scans, fingerprints, DNA data and RFID tracking technology.
Now the Real ID Act heads to the Senate, where its future is less certain. Senate rules make it easier for politicians to derail legislation, and an aide said Friday that Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, was concerned about portions of the bill.