March 7, 2002
By Mike Krause
In February, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA; www.aamva.org ) began lobbying Congress for $100 million plus federal legislation for a plan to nationalize and standardize the state-issued drivers license and link up databases across the country. In other words, to create a national ID card.
AAMVA wants to “standardize initial drivers license and ID card process” and “Standardize the definition of residency in all states.”
The last time I checked, establishing residency requirements and deciding to whom and how licenses and ID cards are to be issued was a function of the state legislatures, not Congress or some bureaucrats.
As Senator Jim Dunlap of the Oklahoma State Senate puts it, the AAMVAs proposal “is not an issue to be decided by 50 un-elected bureaucrats. Theres a democratic principle known as states rights, and this proposal blatantly ignores this practical and constitutional principle.”
Not only would the AAMVAs proposal remove such local decision making powers from elected officials accountable to Coloradans, it would drastically expand the core mission of the DMV.
According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC; www.epic.org ), which has published a detailed analysis of the plan, “Establishing citizenship and residency status shifts the role of state DMVs from licensing drivers to verifying the identity of all Americans.”
The AAMVA uses the fact that the drivers license is used for purposes other its lawful function (licensing qualified drivers) as a rationale to make it a document that justifies our very existence.
While the drivers license is the ID of choice for banking, boarding a plane or renting an apartment, EPIC makes the point, “Privacy and security interests are best protected by documents serving limited purposes and by relying on multiple and de-centralized systems of identification where there is a genuine need to establish identity.”
The plan calls for a “uniform, secure and interoperable drivers license/ID card” which will “uniquely identify an individual,” with the stated goal of “One card, one person, one record.”
Interoperability means allowing different parties to access the information linked to the license holder. “AAMVA supports and encourages the access by its members to other databases such as Social Security Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service and Vital Statistics to confirm identity, residency, citizenship and address verification.” This all sounds well and good, except that a major source of all fraudulent licenses are DMVemployees. In the last five years, according to the Orange County Register, a shocking 127 California DMV employees have been “disciplined” for facilitating ID fraud.
The AAMV plan simply makes the cookie jar larger and the cookies more valuable for motor vehicle employees to sell or steal.
EPIC makes the point that “Centralizing authority over personal identity necessarily increases both the risk of ID theft as well as the scope of harm when ID theft occurs.”
The plan would create the Driver Record Information Verification System (DRIVerS) which would allow “State and federal agencies to share already collected information” on all license holders. This despite the existence of the Problem Driver Pointer System (POPS) which is already shared between states.
This would presumably be like the National Directory of New Hires, created in 1996 with the noble intent of helping collect child support from deadbeat parents, but which also tracks the happily married and childless.
As states a letter from more than 40 liberal, conservative and libertarian groups to President Bush objecting to the plan, “Once government databases are integrated through a uniform ID, access to and uses of sensitive personal information would inevitably expand.” (www.epic.org/privacy/id_cards/presidentltr2.11.02html )
In Colorado, a fingerprint and your Social Security number are already required to obtain a license, yet this hasnt stopped license fraud. Do we need more of the same?
The EPIC study points out that the “Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification (which studied fighting terrorism by reducing ID fraud) rejected the idea of a unique identifier and instead recommended better enforcement and higher penalties.”
The AAMVA, of course, denies this is a National ID plan, but the EPIC analysis cuts to the chase: “The only distinction between the AAMVA proposal and other national ID proposals rejected in the past are that the card will not be issued by the federal government but by state motor vehicle agencies under mandatory federal regulations…”
While this plan has been in the works for years, recent terrorism is the driving force behind its new life. Like many that are pushing for a national ID, AAMVA misses the big picture. You dont beat terrorism by putting everybody under greater scrutiny, hoping to snare a few bad guys.
You beat terrorism, as Tennessee Law Professor Glen Reynolds () succinctly puts it, “by killing them, by depriving them of bases and by punishing nations that support them”.
Another $100 million to make America “safe” would be better spent on bonuses for our soldiers on the ground hunting the Al Qaeda. In the meantime, someone should remind the motor vehicle administrators that they are the servants, not the masters, of the public. One must also ask why Governor Owens is permitting Colorado government employees to participate in this back-door plan to deprive innocent citizens of their privacy, and to subvert the role of elected officials.
Copyright 2002, Independence Institute
INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.
JON CALDARA is President of the Institute.
MIKE KRAUSE is a Research Associate with the Independence Institute.
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