Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

BTC Commentary – There are reasons why there is a bloodless, unenthusiastic delivery amid the Congress when it comes to the enactment and furtherance of Real ID related matters in 2011. DHS, consumed by the new ability to electronically X-Ray search everything in sight, held their nose as they kicked implementation down the road to 2013.  Is it possible that the smell of the “dead” law is now so repellant that even the neo-con sympathetic, Sen. Joe Lieberman, has raised concerns toward the problem of legal cadaver management?

It might be beneficial to dust off one or two of the aged arguments surrounding Real ID’s effectiveness to improve domestic national security. It is resoundingly unconvincing that “failure” to implement Real ID regulations will put Americans at risk to spontaneously combust in fiery acts of sheer domestic TERROR, as Senator Grassley has complained.

It might be a good idea to put yourself in the shoes of a government agency who doesn’t yet have a national operating budget to continue through the rest of 2011.  DHS, like every other federal agency or program, will be making hard decisions like, which shoestrings to go without.


Arianna Huffington, a naturalized citizen and immgrant to the United States, has not been shy in pointing out the great problems of America’s nosedive into 3rd world status.  She points to the excesses of financial mismanagement and underrepresentation of domestic financial interests by the US Congress’.

Our government is considering, in a matter of weeks, a temporary shut down.  It may result in a sober and humiliating moment of silence for our leaders to reconsider the indebted future they are handing off to their children and grandchildren.  They might find they will not escape a form of instant karma, where they lose temporary power and the efficacy of their jobs.  The may feel the damaging pains of purposelessness experienced by whordes of America’s underemployed.  The lights may go down for a few days. The aides/interns, whose education debt vastly outspends their hourly wage earnings, might play frisbee and chase squirrels on the Captiol Hill lawns.  Free recreational diversion is more positive than thinking about how to recover from shortages to pay their car note or college loans.  Seething fiscal conservatives may continue to flash the $40 million daily bill Americans get to intervene in the Libyan revolution.  A government shutdown might be a great way to concretely inform Congress that the American people are broke.  [If we don’t get paid, no one else gets paid either.]

Middle Eastern and North African interventions to date don’t help the majority of Americans pay bills.

An intervention simply holds up a flashy powerful veneer. Who are we fooling?  The joke should go, how many 1st world nations does it really take to unscrew a North African dictator from his regimen?  Is that really any of our business, when we should be exiting Iraq and Afghanistan? Our idle occupying forces are now killing civillians for sport. We have truly lost our way!

It further amazes that an increase of US humanitarian aid has not really been mentioned as prolifically towards the cause of Japan’s disaster stricken state.  It boggles the mind why other nations are not yet on the scene to assist in staving off the volatile nuclear reactors.  We provided war ships.  Where is our nuclear crisis management?  The world is filled with resources for war; yet a much more far reaching problem of nuclear wastewater fallout into the seafood chain is not so much a priority?  I guess the world will just have to eat it!  Our humanitarian focus is really plied more on unwilling Libyans, from a much less willing American public who were ignored in due process.

We’ve been reduced to a ghetto fabulous gunmetal facade against a failing economic structure; where JP Morgan and Citibank owns most of the debt and China owns us and employs their own.

The prospects for Real ID truly pale in competition of the list of immediate federal fiscal priorities.

EQUAL TIME: Aviation Security: Policy Responses to Address Terrorism Threats c/o

Richard Esguerra, for EFF

As 2009 draws to a close, we’re inching ever deeper into the corner that Congress painted us into by passing Real ID under the table in 2005. (Recall that Real ID is the failed, Bush-era attempt to turn state drivers licenses into national ID cards by forcing states to collect and store licensee data in databases, and refusing to accept non-compliant IDs for federal purposes, like boarding a plane or entering a federal building.

The official deadline for states to comply with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final Real ID rule is December 31, 2009, and an estimated 36 states will not be in compliance by then, leading to some ambiguity for many citizens. For example, will residents of Montana be able to board planes in January 2010 with only a driver’s license (a state-supplied, technically non-compliant document) and without a passport (an identity document issued by the federal government)?

Past history strongly suggests that DHS will issue last-minute waivers to states that have not amped up their drivers licenses to adhere to Real ID. Early in 2008, states that actively opposed Real ID received waivers from DHS, nominally marking the states as “compliant” despite strongly-stated opposition to ever implementing Real ID.

But waiting in the wings is PASS ID, a bill that attempts to grease the wheels by offering money to the states to implement ID changes. Despite having the appearances of reform, PASS ID essentially echoes Real ID in threatening citizens’ personal privacy without actually justifying its impact on improving security. For this reason, PASS ID is not popular — privacy advocates refuse to support the bill because it still creates a national ID system. It still mandates the scanning and storage of applicants’ critical identity documents (birth certificates, visas, etc.), which will be stored in databases that will become leaky honeypots of sensitive personal data — prime targets for malicious identity thieves or otherwise accessible by individuals authorized to obtain documents from the database. And on the other side, short-sighted surveillance hawks are unhappy with the bill because they support the privacy violations architected into the provisions of the original Real ID Act.

As such, advocates of PASS ID are publicly wringing their hands over the deadline in order to encourage Congress to approve the PASS ID Act before the end of the year. But the fracas over health reform is suffocating any chance for meaningful debate about the merits of PASS ID before the Dec. 31st deadline.

A pragmatic analysis should show that Real ID is dead. To date, 24 states have enacted resolutions or binding legislation prohibiting participation in Real ID, and the varied, desperate efforts to reanimate it are misguided. Whether the states or the federal government signs the invoice, the cost ultimately falls to taxpayers, who should be troubled that neither Real ID nor PASS ID is likely to fulfill the stated goal of stopping terrorists from obtaining identity documents. (Just this week, noted security expert Bruce Schneier linked to a report about government investigators successfully using fake identity documents to obtain high-tech “e-passports,” which were then used to buy plane tickets, and board flights — the point being that a fancy, “secure” identity document doesn’t stop individuals from exploiting a weak bureaucracy.)

On the other hand, the resulting databases filled with scanned identity documents will create tantalizing targets for identity thieves and headaches for people whose digital documents are pilfered; and a national ID system will invite mission creep from the government as well as private entities like credit reporting agencies and advertisers. It’s high time for reason to replace the reflexive defense of a failed scheme. Congress should repeal Real ID for real and seek more inspired, protective solutions to identity document security.

ID program declared “DOA”, get’s budget for life support

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved a $43 billion budget for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal year 2010, which began Oct. 1. The measure included substantial increases in DHS spending in several key technology areas, but slashed Real ID funding by 40%, from $100 million to $60 million in 2010.

That reduction all but ensures that Real ID is going nowhere, said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. But continuing hesitation by Congress to kill the program entirely highlights the somewhat touchy political nature of the program, he said.

“A straightforward repeal of Real ID is too much for our Congress to handle at this point,” Harper said. “There isn’t any love for Real ID in Capitol Hill. Most in the Senate and the House don’t want it.”

At the same time, many lawmakers are reluctant to openly reject it for fear of being seen as being too soft on national security issues, he said.

The Real ID Act was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2005 as part of the government’s effort to combat terrorism. The law requires states to follow a single national standard for identifying and authenticating people who apply for a driver’s license. It spells out specific technical and process requirements, including the use of biometric identifiers, for issuing licenses.

But the law has evoked widespread criticism from privacy advocates and civil rights groups who say it would create a de facto national identity card system that would be hard to manage and even harder to secure. Several have expressed particular concern over a Real ID requirement that all state driver’s license databases be linked via a central hub for easier information sharing. Even the DHS itself, which is responsible for implementing the Act, has expressed reservations about Real ID security, privacy and logistics.

States, too, have railed against Real ID, largely because it requires them to pay for the program themselves. Many see it as an attempt by the federal government to force costly and unwanted ID standards on them. A majority of states have formally expressed their refusal to participate in the program, including Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Washington and South Carolina.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, in fact, was one of the first to reject Real ID when she was the governor of Arizona — a fact that many have said makes it especially hard for her to now try and push it on other states.

In a bid to make the idea of a national identity standard more palatable to states, several U.S. senators earlier this year introduced a bill proposing some revisions to Real ID . That “Providing for Additional Security in States’ Identification” Act of 2009,” or Pass ID Act, has the same goal as Real ID, minus some of its more controversial provisions.

The DHS has also pushed back implementation schedules on numerous occasions in what is seen by some as an attempt to push the issue down the road until someone kills it.

Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said that the proposed budget cuts make it impossible for Real ID to move forward in its present incarnation. “Congress is looking at this realistically and saying that states simply do not have the money to implement Real ID,” she said. “For all intents and purposes, real ID has been put on the back-burner. But it isn’t dead, yet.”

A Letter from The Editor

In the near future you may be hearing from more Congressional and national candidates stumping it about privacy.

There is something to T.M. I. – Too much information. Unwanted attention. That unnerving idea that you are being monitored and you don’t even have the benefits of being a public official. While it’s flattering that someone cares that you might say the word “bomb” more than once in daily conversation, you might have only been using late 90’s vernacular to describe Mos Def’s new album dropping. While everyone else in your neighborhood is trying to be better than you, the girl at the snack bar shows you how much of a nobody you are, and the guy ahead of you doesn’t care enough to flush – you still get echoes and crackling on your cell due to government intrusion.

This is the nature of government waste.

BeatTheChip is a living chronicle of news based on the U.S. government’s obsession with making American dregs their personal reality television programming. Over the summer we plan on bringing you more coverage of national agencies who are perversely fixated on the American public’s private beings and doings. It’s shameless and wierd – you can start with an Ixquick search on Artificial Telepathy and Remote Viewing. The government could be defending the defenseless and instead they are blowing whatever’s left of the public funding on DARPA and Total Information Awareness. So be on the lookout for BeatTheChip’s cost analysis of what is being spent to watch you shop, wash clothes and fart in bed if you choose to do more than write an e-letter to your State Senator: Beat The Chip’s Top 10 Domestic Surveillance Agencies in America and what it really costs you.

While the ATF really wishes we would burn something down, we are more apt to just leave a flaming bag of dog dump on the Governor’s doorstep. That’s who we are and that’s why we write; because we don’t have the YES Men’s budget or legal defense team.

Yours truly,

Sheila Dean

A BTC Exclusive

The PASS Act, filed June 15, 2009, poses as the partial repeal effort of the expiring Real ID Act. The introduction comes on the heels of a DHS exchange, allowing Real ID legislation to have a second genesis.

Privacy advocates demand Real ID should be repealed in its entirety. Some maintainWashington’s standard condition, that the law must be replaced with a related legislation. One such attempt is the PASS Act.


The Center for Democracy and Technology cited a a few of the comparisons and improvements. The more important question is, how does passing another law repeal the Real ID Act? According to the CDT, the Real ID Act is expected to “fade away” while the PASS Act takes its place. 


The National Conference of State Legislatures [NCSL] and the National Governors Association [NGA], mid-level players between the federal mandate and the masses, have commended the the PASS Act as suitable amendment for the Real ID Act.

“NCSL is encouraged by the introduction of the PASS Act, because it would repeal Real ID and replace it with a system that will ensure greater safety and security without sacrificing privacy and without incurring exorbitant costs that REAL ID imposed,” said Carl Tubbesing, NCSL’s deputy director in the Washington, D.C., office. “We applaud the sponsors for recognizing the shortcomings of REAL ID and for working with states to bring about these much-needed changes.”
While state legislative engines run in favor of the legislation, there is opposition. The ACLU disagrees with the direction of the PASS Act that it is not dissimilar enough from the Real ID Act.
“Unfortunately under Senator Akaka’s proposal, a state would have to adopt Real ID or risk having all its citizens subject to secondary screening at airports,” says ACLU counsel, Chris Calabrese. “With this bill, states may still be coerced into adopting a National ID. It is also problematic that this legislation contains no exemption for religious beliefs of those who oppose identification.”

“Any day now, we will have fully half of all states on record opposing Real ID,” said Calabrese. “We agree with Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano that the best solution to the Real ID Act is to repeal it.”The ACLU would still much rather see identical legislation introduced to last sessions Identity Security Enhancement Act (HR 1117).

Opponents of HR 1117 volleyed similar criticisms that it too was not dissimilar enough from the Real ID Act of 2005. In weeks leading up to the PASS Act’s introduction neo-conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, attacked the legislation for modifying the Real ID Act. They claim that the PASS Act pays seemingly heedless compliance to 9-11 Commission Report recommendations. 

Other more conservative civil liberties advocates, like the CATO Institute insist that the PASS Act still instates a National ID card program. Opposing a national ID card program historically has been part of both the Republican and Libertarian national party platforms.
With the move in the Senate to revive our moribund national ID law, the REAL ID Act, under the name “PASS ID,” it’s important to look at whether we’re still dealing with a national ID law. My assessment is that we are,” says Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the CATO Institute.
“First, PASS ID is modeled directly on REAL ID. The structure and major provisions of the two bills are the same. Just like REAL ID, PASS ID sets national standards for identity cards and drivers’ licenses, withholding federal recognition if they are not met.”
The 9-11 Commission Report is still given justified consideration in the PASS Act despite the abused and incomplete credibility of its contents. [pp. 384, 390]


Depending on who you ask, the 9-11 Commission Report’s cred is not so much an issue as what is being traded in exchange for the security recommendations. 

In the Real ID Act, DHS was given jurisdiction over identity. Essentially DHS would have the power to determine who you are without much accountability or limits to qualify their demand to determine use of identity.

The distinction between the PASS Act & Real ID should be based on how much power is granted to federal powers to determine identity and its use and how this will affect the private daily lives of millions of Americans. The PASS Act only repeals Title II of the Real ID Act, having much to do with identity cards and national license regulations for States.

Regardless of the PASS Act’s introduction, Real ID remains on the books and has not yet been repealed to finality. The deadlines and the pains of compliance continue into the daily lives of license holders nationally.


State legislatures still contend with license and immigration standards consistent with the Real ID Act. Local activists and Real ID opponents fear the PASS Act becoming an Enhanced Drivers License mandate.

Two of the original anti-Real ID stronghold states, Maine and South Carolina, are embattled with the grind of new challenging local concessions in favor of federal regulations. Governor Baldacci of Maine recently added his endorsement to the PASS Act. Maine Senator Susan Collins co-authored the federal legislation. South Carolina Governor, Mark Sanford, found many problems with the PASS Act including to “continue modifying what is now widely regarded as an impractical, intrusive federal mandate.”
The more unsavory regulations include RFID tags and biometric identifiers as license requirements, more specifically to Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative compliant border crossing cards or Enhanced Drivers Licenses. Biometrics vendors cite the Real ID Act as a good sale point for embedding DNA laminates in licenses. DHS continues to push states on federal compliance benchmarks. In Texas, vendors levied threats of legal suit, with or without merit, against licensing agencies over security fulfillments. Conversely, states like Pennsylvania now are contending with lawsuits against the use of an insecure facial recognition software called, Face Explorer. The use of biometrics have been found to create violations of the state’s strict constitutional privacy provisions.
One Pennsylvania plaintiff, Renee Bumgartner, said the software has been licensed by Viisage to most states in the U.S. Bumgartner is gaining daily support from others seeking representation in Pennsylvania for what may be a class action lawsuit against the Real ID Act’s requirements for biometric identifiers. She affirms that Real ID is alive and well. States who passed local laws barring Real ID compliance based on privacy and identity security are moving towards regulations in licenses without qualified consent and State constitutional laws.
“My research is trying to prove [PennDOT] is converting legacy photographs and new digital captured photos into biometric face prints templates,” says Bumgartner.
RFID tags have the potential to send stores of private transactional information into State maintained fusion centers. With plausible legal slight of hand, personal information may be sold to 3rd parties. States like Arizona and Texas, have transportation code moving towards Enahnced Drivers licenses, but never were granted the federal funding to move programs forward. Literal compliance fell to the wayside while state law has been in place.
The battle for privacy, and identity security clamor for recognition amid the white noise of immigration interests in border territories. The manifest destinies of state level Real ID touch diversity and immigration in America. California Senator Gil Cedillo recently suspended the 2009 SB 60 due to the reevaluation of the Real ID Act. It was Cedillo’s third attempt to pass the California Real ID Act, persisting to give undocumented immigrants license to drive and identity in the U.S. Texas, which shares the largest border with Mexico, recently passed State-to-federal law requesting emergency funding to expedite jamming traffic at the border. In the Spring of 2009, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano recognized RFID technology as a key tool to speed port of entry regardless of it’s documented failures in DHS pilot U.S. VISIT program in Brownsville, TX.
So far there has been no mention of border affairs in the PASS Act. That could be due to Congressman Raul Grijalva’s work to repeal border fence provisions in the Real ID Act, providing exchange legislation in the Border Security and Responsibility Act.