Senator preps driver license bill
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 17, 2002
In the interests of national security and identity theft prevention, Sen.
Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) expects to introduce legislation this month providing
minimum uniform standards for state-issued driver's licenses.
He offered little detail about what the legislation would contain; however,
following an April 16 hearing on the issue by the Senate Governmental Affairs
Committee's Oversight of Government Management, Restructuring and the District
of Columbia Subcommittee.
But he said the legislation could provide incentives to states to meet
minimum standards and for licenses to contain minimal biometric identification
standards, such as fingerprints. "If we move legislation on a reasonable
level, it'll create force for change and a national movement," he said.
The issue erupted after officials learned that many of the Sept. 11
terrorists fraudulently obtained driver's licenses. Durbin said the hearing
wasn't about creating a national ID system, but to create "accurate national
standards" for state-issued licenses.
Durbin, who said he was a victim of identity theft, heard from a panel
heavily in favor of strengthening the driver's license as an identification
document through establishing national minimum standards, incorporating
biometric security features, linking state and federal databases, and imposing
"What we have is a system that is broken and a product that is not very
reliable," said Betty Serian, a vice chairwoman with the American Association
of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) (www.aamva.org),
which issued recommendations for national standards earlier this year.
An example of a good information system, she said, is the 1986 federally
mandated Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS), an AAMVA-managed
clearinghouse used by motor vehicle agencies to limit commercial drivers
to only one such license. In a four-year period, CDLIS has kept 871,000
potentially dangerous drivers off the roads, she said.
Richard Varn, Iowa's chief information officer, said the issue really
isn't the ID card itself but the databases. "It isn't what you carry. It
is which databases are accurate, complete, and accessible," he said. Iowa
is currently creating an Identify-Security Clearinghouse linking birth and
death records to a Social Security number and one driver's license.
Although the National Governors Association (www.nga.org)
and National Association of State Chief Information Officers (www.nascio.org) do not have an official position on the issue, Varn said,
both are working with other organizations on the issue.
In Kansas, state Sen. Barbara Allen said she had introduced legislation
to stem identity theft. "Today, I regret to say, Kansas is one of the easiest
states in the nation in which to obtain false identification and to steal
someone's identity," she said. While privacy is an issue, she said that
only those who have something to hide would lose out by improving the security
of the driver's license as an ID.
J. Bradley Jansen, deputy director at the Free Congress Foundation,
a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said creating a national ID system
would not prevent terrorism or identity fraud, it would be expensive, and
it would depend on a "massive bureaucracy."
"Even with a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint, there is no
guarantee that individuals won't be identified, or more importantly, misidentified,
in error," he said. "The accuracy of biometric technology varies depending
on the type and implementation. And, it would be even more difficult to
remedy identity fraud when a thief has a national ID card with your name
on it, but his biometric information."
But Barry Goleman, vice president with American Management Systems Inc.'s
State and Local Solutions group, said technology can help strengthen the
security of the license, which costs states about $1 per card to produce.
Adding biometric features could cost up to $5 a card if mass-produced, he
said. "Don't let detractors say that this can't be done," he said.