Standardizing a wilderness of IDs

The federal government is producing a variety of identification
documents for its own employees, critical infrastructure workers
and international travelers. But some lawmakers are concerned about
the cost of the overlapping programs and the threat to privacy
posed by the technology they use.

During a hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, Rep. Edolphus Towns
(D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight
subcommittee on Government Management, Organization and
Procurement, questioned the need for multiple formats and
technologies for IDs.

He noted that the Homeland Security Department alone has three
different programs issuing cards to frequent border crossers. In
addition to the Trusted Worker Identification Credential for
workers in secure areas of sea and airports, there also is the
Personal Identity Verification card mandated in Homeland Security
Presidential Directive 12 for federal workers and new smart
driver's licenses mandated by the Real ID Act.

Towns also walked a fine line on the controversial issue of a
national ID card. 'There are a lot of reasons not to have a
national ID card, but what I think we do need are some common
standards, so that an airport screener or police officer can easily
tell whether an ID is legitimate,' he said.

One step in this direction is an enhanced driver's license
being developed by Washington state and Vermont in cooperation with
DHS. The licenses would be used by citizens re-entering the United
States from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The enhanced cards
would require extra screening and would contain a radio frequency
identification chip that could be read at a distance at border
crossings to provide a unique identifier tied to database
containing detailed information and biometric data.

But the new card could conflict with federal requirements of the
Real ID Act. Bonnie Rutledge, Vermont motor vehicle commissioner,
said she hoped the enhanced card would meet new driver's
license requirements but that under currently proposed rules for
the licenses, it does not.

Agency officials testifying before the subcommittee said the
multiple programs actually are helping make sense of an even more
confusing credential environment that exists today, in which more
than 8,000 types of documents can be used by travelers entering the
country, and U.S. agencies have multiple badging programs.

David Temoshok, director at the General Service
Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy, said the
single PIV standard would reduce the cost of agencies'
multiple badging programs and GSA was helping ease the cost of
transition by providing managed issuance services for 67 agencies
responsible for badging about half of the civilian federal
workforce. He said GSA was deploying PIV enrollment stations
nationwide and aimed to have cards issued to 800,000 workers by
October 2008.

Most of the new documents being issued or under development are
smart cards that use integrated circuit chips to store, process and
transmit information. Kathleen Kraninger, director of the newly
established DHS Office of Screening Coordination, said the
technology decisions for ID documents are driven by business cases
and dismissed concerns that RFID technology used in many cards and
in new e-passports could be used to track individuals. People
already can be tracked by sight and by observing licenses numbers
on cars, she said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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