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C H A P T E R 5 o YOUR PAPERS PLEASE The Case for a Homeland ID If the American public wants to win the war against terrorism, I suggest that eventually we are going to have to confront the issue of identification. Although few have been willing to admit it, the most glaring gap in the U.S. strategy against terrorists is the country’s insecure system of identification. For violent radicals who depend on deception and secrecy to hide their every move, a fake ID is a necessary accoutrement , providing a free, all-inclusive pass to a world without accountability . Having counterfeit identification counteracts virtually every measure that U.S. intelligence can take in the antiterror campaign. The Coast Guard, Customs, and Border Control can have the most advanced surveillance equipment, the most highly trained agents, and the most detailed international terrorist watch list, but with a false identity, a terrorist can stroll across the border without a care in the world. In fact, this possibility was confirmed by agents from the GAO, who created bogus driver’s licenses and birth certificates using off-the-shelf software and applied for credit cards using fake names.1 Armed with the phony IDs, they posed as U.S. citizens and tried to enter the United States at several different points of entry. Not once did they encounter the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or Customs officials who questioned the authenticity of the documents. In the analysis of U.S. intelligence failures prior to 9/11, there has been a lot of talk about the need for improved information sharing but PAGE 55 55 .......................... 10897$ $CH5 08-31-04 10:09:12 PS 56 Chapter 5 • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • very little consideration of the role fake identities play in the battle against terrorists. What good is it if the CIA shares information on a terrorist in the United States if the FBI has that person listed under a different name? It is true that the USA PATRIOT Act provided some symbolic attention to identification, for example, by requiring financial institutions to use driver’s licenses and passports to identify their customers . Yet, without addressing the systemic failures in identification that allow a teenager, let alone a terrorist, to download and use a fake driver’s license off the Internet, efforts against terrorism will continue to be undermined. In light of the vulnerabilities posed by flaws in America’s paperbased , twentieth-century system of identification, it is surprising that so little progress has been made toward implementing improvements. There have been a few efforts in Congress to crack down on identity crime, but because these don’t address the underlying problems with identification, they appear doomed to fail. Regrettably, movement on the issue is stalled because it has become taboo to speak of a national standard for identification. In fact, what has been commonly referred to as a national ID has been so derogated by opponents that the word itself has become a politically incorrect pejorative. Some privacy advocates have ‘‘demagogued’’ the issue to such a point that in many people’s minds, the idea of a national ID suggests the authoritarian regimes of Hitler or Stalin. Katie Corrigan, legislative counsel on privacy for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), represents the general approach critics take when discussing the idea of a national ID: ‘‘Unlike workers in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia , Apartheid South Africa and Castro’s Cuba, no American faces the demand, ‘Papers, please.’’’2 This chapter puts the hyperbole aside for a moment to propose the creation of a single, secure, standardized ID to replace the patchwork of paper documents currently in existence in America. Call it what you will—a national ID, a secure ID, or a smart card. I’ll refer to it as a Homeland ID in the spirit of homeland security and in an attempt to eliminate the visceral response that comes from the use of the term national ID. Regardless of how one refers to it, the ID must accomplish one main function if we are ever to shine the light of scrutiny at terrorists : It must securely link individuals to their identities. However, before we get into a discussion of how improved identification might work, it’s important to get up to speed on the technology that promises to revolutionize IDs in this country: biometrics. PAGE 56 .......................... 10897$ $CH5 08-31-04 10:09:12 PS Your Papers Please: The Case for a Homeland ID 57...


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