ACLU Says Standardized Driver's License Proposals Walk and Talk Like National ID Schemes

May 3, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — Concerned with the increasing interest by the Bush Administration and some in Congress in a series of proposals to standardize driver’s licenses across the country, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today decried the schemes, calling them de facto national IDs and a serious threat to privacy, liberty and safety.

“As the old adage goes, if a driver’s license standardization proposal walks like national ID and talks like national ID, it must be a national ID, regardless of any spin its supporters provide,” said Katie Corrigan, an ACLU legislative counsel. “We’re increasingly facing the likelihood of the government trying to dupe the American public by bringing forth a national ID scheme through a legislative back door.”

Corrigan’s remarks were prompted by an announcement today by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge that the White House is studying ways to standardize state driver’s licenses across the country. The ACLU urged President Bush to stick with his current public opposition to a national ID card and see the uniform licensing proposals for what they are: de facto national ID cards.

A recent report by the apolitical National Research Council stated explicitly that standardized driver’s licenses would be a “nationwide identity system,” Corrigan said.

The ACLU also pointed to the introduction on Wednesday of a measure by Virginia Reps. Tom Moran, a Democrat, and Tom Davis, a Republican, which would force states to comply with nationwide standards for driver’s licenses and require the linking of licensing databases across the country into one giant integrated information bank.

Critics of the standardized drivers license measures from across the political spectrum — including the Eagle Forum, immigration groups and state legislators — have noted that they meet the criteria for a national ID, contrary to the assertions of the bills’ sponsors and supporters.

“The positioning of this bill as a pro-privacy, non-national ID measure is almost comical,” Corrigan said. “The ‘privacy protections’ in this bill are less material than a ghost — it’s clearly a national ID.”

The Moran-Davis bill is also similar to a measure that is expected to be introduced soon by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). The proposal would also implement nationwide standards for driver’s licenses and allow for the linking of databases. The ACLU is strongly opposed to the Durbin plan, saying it has the potential to lull Americans into a dangerously false sense of security given the frequency with which the card will be forged or its linked databases compromised.

An ACLU letter to President Bush opposing the driver’s license proposal can be found at:

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