Letters to the editor

Standardize Driver's Licenses

I read with interest the article titled "Congress mulls ID cards" [FCW, Dec. 3] because national identification cards are such a controversial topic.

Most people in America are either for or against national ID cards — few are "sitting on the fence." I was not disappointed in the article, because it clearly outlined the two sides with no apparent middle ground. But why is there no middle ground? Why do we always feel the need to invent something new? Why not just fix what we have? The article stated, "Something very much like a national ID card could be created using state-issued driver's licenses."

Unfortunately, each state has a completely independent system for issuing driver's licenses. The basic information is the same, but the designs vary widely. For example, if I show up at the airport in Oregon and show the person behind the counter a driver's license from Arkansas, what are the odds this person would know what a valid driver's license from Arkansas looks like? Not very good!

So why not take the simple step of standardizing driver's licenses from state to state? States already bear the cost of authentication and issuance, and driver's licenses are re.issued periodically anyway, so it's an easy and inexpensive way of increasing the value of an ID card most people already have. And even people who do not drive can get state-issued ID cards.

Why do we always think that we have to reinvent the wheel? Why can't we improve on what we have already? If it's deemed necessary, all the attributes discussed for national ID cards could be added to driver's licenses (e.g., biometrics, magnetic strips, embedded chips, holograms, embedded fibers, etc.).

Will either an improved driver's license or a national ID card prevent terrorists from boarding a plane? Probably not. But an improved driver's license will at least take some of the burden off the behind-the-counter personnel at the airports, rental car agencies, train stations, etc.

Let's look at the low-tech approach of improving what we already have before creating something new.

Charles Scruggs

President and founder

InfoMediary Associates

Identity Theft and the National ID

For all the talk of a national ID card, there are some problems that should be solved first.

Did you know that in many states, including Alabama, you can obtain any person's official birth certificate as long as you can provide certain family information?

I needed a new copy of mine. I went to the Jefferson County Health Department in Birmingham, Ala., and obtained one. I observed others getting birth certificates, and the county employee had no idea who they were talking to and made no effort to find out if the people obtaining the certificates were who they claimed to be. Since then, a number of my friends have had the same experience.

The birth certificate is the first step in identity theft. In most cases, if you have your birth certificate and a Sam's Club card, you can get another copy of your driver's license. Then you can get a passport, open a bank account, and on and on.

The national ID sounds good to politicians and un.informed voters, but it will do nothing to stop any criminal or terrorist activity as long as the above described loophole exists. If you doubt me, go to your health department or other state agency and get a copy of your birth certificate.

The national ID is good for the politician seeking re-election, because they know that most voters have no idea what is going on around them and will believe any politician.

Donald Dunlap

Irondale, Ala.

Overlooking Inside Talent

I agree that we are missing opportunities to recruit top security personnel. Federal pay scales and bureaucratic decision-making are our primary cause of failure. I concur with the statement, "If federal agencies are having difficulty hiring information security experts, they have only themselves to blame" ["Filling the ranks," FCW, Dec. 3].

I hold a bachelor's degree in computer information science, have 18 years of computer experience and am Defense Department-trained and -certified in computer security (more than 300 hours).

My past assignment was abolished at the end of 2000, and I was reassigned to a job that requires no secret clearance or information security. Because of this, I've been denied security workshop training and secret clearance renewal.

Why are we overlooking inside talents? What kind of bureaucratic system has been created that takes three to six months to fill internal and external announcements?

James Cook

Computer technical support

Martin Army Community Hospital

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