The discussion over a National ID card continues to be debated as concerns over national security; immigration problems and identity theft remain thorny issues. The idea of a national ID card in the USA is presented as a more efficient, more secure means of verifying the identities of plane passengers and those entering into federal facilities in an effort to prevent another 9/11, verifying employment eligibility and a multitude of other purposes.
REAL ID, not the real thing
While Congress enacted the Real ID Act in 2005, it is not a national ID card program, rather it is federal standards for states to implement to meet the recommendations given by the 9/11 Commission in order to reduce the risks of terrorists being able to board planes undetected, access sensitive areas such as military or other federal facilities and reduce fraudulently obtained identification.
Some of the provisions include facial image capture, document authenticity and verification, data sharing, card security features, issuer integrity requiring background checks of employees involved in issuing ID cards and lastly verification of immigration status. There have been objections to the facial image capture provisions from civil liberties advocacy groups over concerns of government tracking of individuals and the linking of increasing amounts of information to databases within government control. Additional concerns have been raised over the difficulties in meeting the documentation requirements for domestic abuse victims, immigrants and natural disaster victims who may be unable to access the required documents.
Issues Arising Over Implementation
Some states have complained about the costs associated with implementing the REAL ID Act and several have passed legislation exempting their state from its provisions. Additionally, New Mexico, Washington and Illinois have passed laws to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, further complicating identification issues. New Mexico has found that this law has been a magnet for identity fraud and theft rings to obtain a driver’s license, then turn around and obtain one from a REAL ID compliant state, negating the efforts to improve security.
Further complicating matters are breaches in government and private databases from both hostile government sponsored and individual hackers. The increasing levels of identity theft and fraud are outpacing efforts to combat it. Additionally, more than one government employee has been involved in identity theft and fraudulent ID rings. As technology advances and improves to provide more security, more ways are found to work around or defeat it. As more data is gathered and stored on each individual, those breaches or misuse of data become more challenging, if not impossible for the individual to monitor and defend against.
As a law enforcement officer, one of the most common issues in any security measure taken is how seriously those involved in implementing security procedures take them. No matter how sophisticated, well planned and forward thinking those policies are, if the person responsible for implementing them fails to do so, it will fail. In this case, the first weak link is the policy and security involved in obtaining birth certificates.
Some states are very careful in monitoring who is making the request and how the record is issued; others have poor policies in place to ensure that birth certificates are not being requested for fraudulent purposes. Until each state reviews and updates policies on vital statistics to reflect the immense changes in technology, ability to ensure timely updates of information and methods of dealing with fraudulently obtained records, as well as prompt correction of errors that occur, effective implementation of secure ID’s is unrealistic.
The next issue with a national ID is the failure of the federal government to secure the border or sufficiently verify information provided for issuance of visas and other permits to enter the U.S. Until there is control over who enters the country, as well as a coherent immigration policy, efforts to improve national security through ID cards will be a futile effort. Improvements in oversight of visa issuance and compliance are an integral part of this endeavor.
Perhaps the most important issue is that of civil liberties. Policies and legal frameworks with regards to the 4th and 5th amendments are behind the technological capabilities that are evolving every day. Questions arise on how these technological capabilities should be used and limited in a multitude of areas from health care, law enforcement technologies, data mining, monitoring capabilities and so much more.
There is also the issue of the 10th amendment, meaning that the federal government was to be primarily focused upon external issues, while states are responsible for most domestic issues and their citizens. The purpose for this was to allow citizens to better oversee those implementing policies that affect their daily lives, as opposed to having to deal with an entity often far from where they lived.
Given the problems that have arisen with the State Department visa program oversight, the chaos in the immigration policy and challenges of interagency coordination in data management and securing the data, adding a national ID program on top of those issues would seem to add to the chaos rather than provide the improvements in national security sought after.
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Does a national ID card USA program actually improve security? Do you think National ID cards infringe on civil liberties? What do you think would be an effective solution to the problem? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.