Dec 18 2008

Maryland Seeks to Change License Policy on Immigration In Order to Implement REAL ID System

Maryland’s governor and transportation secretary have announced that they will seek legislation to change the state’s long-standing policy on driver’s license registration and require proof of legal residence before issuing the cards to state residents. Maryland is hoping to make this change as it begins implementing the federal REAL ID national identification system. The governor had rejected a previous proposal for a two-tier system that would have allowed the issuance of a lower-tier license to individuals unwilling to show such proof.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association’s site, REAL ID implementation means that. “Effective January 1, 2010, individuals applying for a new license will be required to show documentation to prove that they are in the United States legally.” Driver’s license applicants will have to show “Documents such as Social Security Card, U.S. Birth Certificate, U.S. Naturalization of Citizenship, Valid U.S. Passport, Valid Foreign Passport with Visa, U.S. Permanent Residency Card” or other documents to prove their legal presence in the United States.

We have previously detailed the many privacy and security problems that arise from requiring such documentation for a state driver’s license, but let’s focus on the immigration issue that Maryland is attempting to address. Read More

Dec 02 2008

As DHS Secretary, Napolitano Should Halt REAL ID System

The New York Times has a story today about Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s nomination as Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. The story states that in this new position, Napolitano would have to lead the REAL ID program, a national identification scheme that DHS is attempting to foist on the states. As governor of Arizona, Napolitano signed legislation to join 10 other states in rejecting this national ID program.

The substantial civil liberty problems inherent in this scheme to create a national database of the country’s driver’s license and state ID cardholders won’t disappear if Napolitano replaces Michael Chertoff as the head of DHS. Napolitano should stick to her beliefs and reject this system. As governor, Napolitano focused on the high cost of implementing this national ID system to the states, and these costs will remain substantial if the new administration implements the system created under Chertoff.

In The Identity Project’s recommendations to the Obama transition team, we urged the repeal of REAL ID. Besides the civil liberty problems, REAL ID also has security problems. Those of us who have been following the REAL ID issue, as well as other identification-based security programs, know that there is no sure way for an individual to prove his or her identity based merely on documents that can be easily forged. Therefore, REAL ID would create a system that people would trust even though they shouldn’t — because criminals and terrorists can spend the time and money necessary to forge these “trusted” ID cards.

REAL ID is a fundamentally flawed national ID system for which there is no fix. It must be repealed, and Napolitano should halt the implementation when she takes office.

Nov 26 2008

Border Agents Begin Using “Long-Range” RFID Scanners on ID Cards

USA Today has a story on the new long-range RFID scanners reading ID cards as individuals drive toward the border.

“By the time a car stops at the Customs booth, the agent will have the photos and information of everyone in the car. If a name is on a watch list or database, the person will be taken in for questioning. The system will be “more efficient,” says Thomas Winkowski of Customs and Border Protection.”

DHS claims that the unsecured wireless transmissions will make border crossing more efficient, but why is Homeland Security choosing speed over security.

As we’ve explained before, there are numerous privacy and civil liberty problems connected with using RFID tags in identification documents. Off-the-shelf readers can easily skim the data.

Currently, the RFID-enabled ID cards only transmit a unique number to allow border agents to pull up an individual’s file. However, the Department of Homeland Security could easily add more data to the ID card, especially if the agency can convince people to use the RFID-enabled card as an “all-in-one” identification document – where you could use it when you go to the bank, grocery store, gym, school, and more. Read More

Nov 24 2008

Records Schedule for Secure Flight Program Before NARA For Comment and Review Process

NARA (National Archives) published notice in the Federal Register on October 27, 2008, of TSA’s submission to them (see Schedule Pending #3) of a proposed Records Schedule for Secure Flight Program. The actual Proposed Schedule was not published in the Register, only notice that you can request it and file comments on whether NARA should approve it. The 30 day window to request from NARA a copy of this proposed Records Schedule, along with NARA’s associated appraisal reports, closes November 26. This can be done easily via email – see my request below. After providing a requester with these documents, NARA must wait 30 days for the requester to file comments – and to take all comments into account prior to deciding whether to approve the schedule. Destruction of records requires the approval by NARA of a Records Schedule – see 44 U.S.C. Chapter 33 Disposal of Records. Presumably TSA wouldn’t start collecting domestic airline passenger records under Secure Flight, for program testing purposes or otherwise, without the ability to legally destroy them.

Making a request to NARA for TSA’s Secure Flight Records Schedule, and participating in the comment process, sends a message to NARA that the public is interested and concerned about TSA building files on the travel history of ordinary Americans. To make this request, cut and paste this into an email to:

Subject: records schedule request

Greetings NARA,

I request a copy of the proposed / pending records schedule and all associated appraisal reports for the following:

Control Number:N1-560-08-3

Notice of the requested pending records schedule was published in the Federal Register: October 27, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 208) and reads in pertinent part as follows:

Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security
Administration (N1-560-08-3, 8 items, 7 temporary items). Master files
for Secure Flight, an electronic information system used to conduct
pre-flight checks of passengers and non-traveling individuals involved
in passenger aviation for the purpose of detecting individuals who may
pose a terrorist threat. Proposed for permanent retention are planning
and implementation files documenting the creation of the Secure Flight
program and its major policy decisions.

Please confirm via return email that you have received this request. You may either respond to this request by scanning and emailing the requested documents to me at (insert your email address) or by mailing the documents to:

(insert your mailing address)

Should you have any questions, please call me at (insert your phone number).

Thank you,

(insert your name)

Oct 27 2008

Charges against an Olympia lawyer who refused to show identification during an anti-war protest at the Port of Tacoma have been dismissed.

The lawyer for Legrand Jones had argued that it’s not a crime to refuse to identify yourself to police. Attorney William Ferrell said police were stopping people without cause during the July protest to gather information and discourage demonstrators. Under state law, it’s not a crime to refuse to identify oneself to police. “The Washington Supreme Court struck down Washington’s former ‘stop and identify’ statute,” Ferrell wrote in court filings. “In doing so, they made the following observation, a detainee’s refusal to disclose his name, address, and other information cannot be the basis of an arrest.”

Ferrell also said the case was important in the context of citizens’ freedom of speech. “Police were stopping people for real or imaginary criminal activities and asking for identification,” he said. “It was a tactic to gather intelligence. “It goes without saying that is has a chilling effect on people’s First Amendment rights and might keep people from going to protests.”

It is unclear whether the city will appeal the ruling.

Oct 21 2008

TSA Expands Electronic Boarding Pass Scanning Program

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its electronic boarding pass pilot program. This system will make it easier for TSA to be able to gather and track individual travel data. The program began in Houston in December 2007 and added more airports in April. Here’s how the program works, according to TSA:

The electronic boarding pass contains a two-dimensional (2-D) barcode encrypted with specific passenger information, such as the traveler’s name and flight information.

At the checkpoint, passengers present their cell phones or PDA to a TSA travel document checking officer. The officer will scan the encrypted barcode using a handheld device to verify its authenticity. Passengers will still be required to show photo identification so officers can validate that the name on the boarding pass matches the name on the ID.

In fact, why doesn’t TSA take this to the next step? If the agency already knows who has a boarding pass from data sent by the airlines (to verify the pass’s authenticity), then why doesn’t TSA just tell travelers to use our ID cards as our boarding passes? “Save a tree — show your ID.”

TSA is already planning on using the boarding pass scanners nationwide to collect data. “Once the hand-held scanners are deployed nationwide, TSA will also use this technology to track wait times using standardized automated data collected at checkpoints. This development is expected to happen within about a year,” says TSA. Read More

Oct 09 2008

Purged State Voter Rolls Resulted From Illegal Widespread Primary Use of Social Security Database to Verify Voter Registrations

According to a New York Times article, tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law. States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires election officials to use the Social Security database to check a registration application only as a last resort, if no record of the applicant is found on state databases, like those for driver’s licenses or identification cards. The requirement exists because using the federal database is less reliable than the state lists, and is more likely to incorrectly flag applications as invalid. Many state officials seem to be using the Social Security lists first.

Last week, after the inquiry by the Times, Michael J. Astrue, the commissioner of the Social Security Administration, alerted the Justice Department to the problem and sent letters to election officials in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. The letters ask the officials to ensure that they are complying with federal law. By using the Social Security database so extensively, states are flagging extra registrations and creating extra work for local officials who are already struggling to process all the voter registration applications by Election Day. Read More

Oct 09 2008

Transportation Security Administration Likely to Relax Restrictions on Liquids Next Year

The head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, says that the agency will likely relax its restrictions on liquids on commercial flights next year, the Wall Street Journal reports. The rules were put in place after an alleged plot to bring “a liquid bomb” onto planes heading to the US from the UK.

In a post on TSA’s blog, Hawley said that TSA believes, “widespread deployment of new multi-view x-ray systems with an enhanced algorithm that detects specific liquids remains about a year away. But the multi-view x-ray itself is a significant improvement over the standard x-ray that’s been at the checkpoint since its inception in the 1970s.” Once the technology is ready, Hawley says that the agency will be more flexible toward liquids brought on by air travelers.

Security expert Bruce Schneier, among others, has questioned the efficacy of these restrictions on liquid and TSA security procedures generally. In a recent column, Schneier explained the security holes in TSA’s restrictions. Read More

Oct 03 2008

California Governor Rejects Bill That Would Implement REAL ID System

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed SB 60. The legislation would have created a two-tier driver’s license system that would have allowed for the issuance of licenses to undocumented immigrants while at the same time formally adopt the REAL ID Act’s national identification system in California.

Specifically, SB 60 said:

SEC. 2. The Legislature intends by the enactment of this act to accomplish the following:
(a) Meet or exceed the document and issuance standards set forth in the federal Real ID Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-13), to ensure that California has a federally recognized and acceptable driver’s license and identification card.
(b) Provide driver’s licenses that permit driving, but cannot be used for federal identification purposes, consistent with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, to California drivers that cannot meet the minimum identity confirmation requirements necessary to obtain a federally recognized driver’s license or identification card.

In a statement (PDF) accompanying the veto, Gov. Schwarzenegger focused on the immigration implications of the REAL ID Act. He explained, “This bill does not specify how DMV would validate the identity of individuals who do not have documented proof that their presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. I have previously stated that the ability to verify documents used to establish an identity must include a way to determine whether an individual is who he or she purports to be.” Read More

Oct 02 2008

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Includes $100M for REAL ID

Over the weekend, Congress passed H.R. 2638, a Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Resolution that includes funding for federal agencies though March. President Bush signed the bill into law earlier this week. H.R. 2638 includes a provision granting $100 million for state implementation of REAL ID. (These funds are in addition to the $79 million in grants DHS gave to states for REAL ID implementation earlier this year.)

H.R. 2638 reads:

SEC. 547. For grants to States pursuant to section 204(a) of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (division B of Public Law 109-13), $50,000,000, to remain available until expended. In addition, for developing an information sharing and verification capability with States to support implementation of the REAL ID Act, $50,000,000, to remain available until expended: Provided, That none of the funds provided in this section for development of the information sharing and verification system shall be available to create any new system of records from the data accessible by such information technology system, or to create any means of access by Federal agencies to such information technology system other than to fulfill responsibilities pursuant to the REAL ID Act of 2005.

“Verification hub” is just the latest euphemism for the national identification system DHS seeks to create by linking the motor vehicle databases of all 56 states and territories. This massive national database could contain data on all 240 million driver’s license and cardholders nationwide, if all the states and territories agree to implement the national ID system. Read More