WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a recommendation of the 9/11
Commission, the House and Senate are moving toward setting
rules for states that would standardize documentation
required to get a driver's license and the data the license
would have to contain.
Critics say the plan would create a national identification
card. But advocates say it would make it harder for
terrorists to operate and would reduce the highway death
toll by helping identify applicants whose licenses had been
revoked in other states.
The Senate version of the intelligence bill includes an
amendment passed by unanimous consent Oct. 1, that would
let the secretary of Homeland Security decide what
documents a state would need to require issuing a driver's
license. It also would specify the data needed to meet
The secretary could require licenses to include
fingerprints or eye prints.
The provision would allow the Department of Homeland
Security to require use of the license or an equivalent
card issued by a motor vehicle bureau to non-drivers for
identification purposes and to access planes, trains and
The bill does not give the department the authority to
force states to meet federal standards, but would create
pressure for them to do so. After a transition period, the
department could require airports to accept as
identification only those licenses issued under federal
The House's version of the intelligence bill, already
passed, would require the states to keep all driver's
license information in a linked database for quick access.
It also calls for "an integrated network of screening
points that includes the nation's border security system,
transportation system and critical infrastructure
facilities that the secretary determines need to be
protected against terrorist attack."
The two versions will go to a House-Senate conference
Some civil liberties advocates are horrified by the
"I think it means we're going to end up with a police
state, essentially, by allowing the secretary of Homeland
Security to designate the sensitive areas and allowing this
integrated screening system," said Marv Johnson,
legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
If the requirement to show the identification card can be
applied to any mode of transportation, he said, that could
eventually include subways or highways, and would "require
you to have some national ID card, essentially, in order to
go from point A to point B."
A Senate aide who was involved in drafting the bipartisan
language of the amendment said that in choosing where to
establish a checkpoint, the provision "does not give the
secretary of Homeland Security any new authority."
The aide said it would not create a national identification