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"Real" Disturbing News

Expecting heavy resistance in the Senate, the Real ID bill was instead attached to an appropriations bill which will fund our troops in Iraq and send aid to tsunami victims. Needless to say, it passed the House on Thursday and is expected to pass the Senate next week. Does it need mentioning that Bush has signed every bill to cross his desk?

The Dept of Homeland Security (DHS) has been pushing for the Real ID bill since the beginning of 2005. The House approved a version of the bill in mid-February, however there was not enough support in the Senate to get the bill through Congress. So, what else can be done when a bill doesn't have enough support? Tack it to the end of a bill which is loaded with public stigma, perhaps one which funds troops and victims of natural disasters.

I've written about the Real ID bill previously, but I think it bears repeating.

1) The Real ID bill (attached to H.R.1268 and its counterpart in the Senate) gives the DHS sole power to approve and regulate standards regarding state-issued ID cards.

2) For states to receive federal funding, they must link their information databases into a national one. Thereby giving away records containing your vehicle information, driving records, police records, etc.

3) Federally accepted ID cards must be 'machine readable', and the DHS will get to determine what this means exactly. It may be magnetic stripes or bar codes, or it may be something more intrusive like RFID tags, which can be used without physical access to the card. (With a barcode or magnetic stripe, you must allow someone to scan your card physically, but with RFID, if you have your ID in your pocket, and you walk past an RFID scanner, you've been identified.)

If you think that the DHS isn't just itching to use this technology, think again. They're planning to test a system of RFID-containing IDs on foreign visitors starting July 31, 2005. The DHS will keep biometric data along with information such as date of entry and country of origin linked to their RFID-numbers. How long before this isn't just a test anymore, and it's being rolled out to all law-abiding native US citizens?

4) Your card will store information about you with this 'machine readable' technology. It will, at the very least, contain your name, address, gender, ID number and a digital photograph. (thus, when walking past an RFID scanner, it can retreive your ID number and a photograph, making it easy for authorities to pick you out of the crowd if your ID triggers an alarm.)

5) The DHS is allowed to change its regulations whenever they see fit. This allows for them to pass the bill now, and later on, require that your ID contain digital record of your fingerprints (to be retrieved by an RFID scanner) or retinal scan, maybe your political/religious affiliation, personal income information, you name it.

However, that extra information wouldn't even necessarily have to be stored on the card, once they have your SSN from your ID card through an RFID scanner, the linking of information databases could easily bring up your voter registration, tax information, criminal record, etc.

Finally, I want to commend Howard Coble of North Carolina, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Ron Paul of Texas, the only three republicans in the House to vote against this bill. The complete voting record is here.

Call your Senators TODAY, and urge them to vote against H.R.1268, "EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT FOR DEFENSE, THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, AND TSUNAMI RELIEF, 2005".

Posted by Andrew Parker at May 6, 2005 11:01 AM