[osint] UPI: Ridge backs nat'l standards for drivers' ID
rah at shipwright.com
Sun Jan 30 15:35:55 PST 2005
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Thread-Topic: UPI: Ridge backs nat'l standards for drivers' ID
To: "Shaun Waterman" <swaterman at upi.com>
From: "Shaun Waterman" <swaterman at upi.com>
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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2005 18:07:27 -0500
Subject: [osint] UPI: Ridge backs nat'l standards for drivers' ID
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Please find below an example of UPI's continuing coverage of Homeland
Security and related issues. A shorter version appeared on A2 of the
Washington Times Sunday edition. I hope you find it interesting. You may
link to it on the web here:
If you have any comments or questions about this piece, need any more
information about UPI products and services, or want to stop receiving
these alerts, please get in touch.
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
E-mail: swaterman at upi.com
Tel: 202 898 8081
Ridge backs nat'l standards for drivers' ID
By Shaun Waterman
UPI Homeland and National Security Editor
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom
Ridge has come out in support of national standards for driver's
licenses, as proposed in several bills being pushed by Republicans in
He also promised to put in place some structural changes to his
department that would leave it in better shape for his successor after
he departs next week, but rejected other suggested reforms.
Ridge said he supported proposals for "some internal changes that will
make us more effective," including the establishment of an office
charged with developing the department's strategic planning and policy.
The driver's license is "the most standard form of ID" across the
country, Ridge said, so it made sense to "ask the states to buy into a
baseline set of national standards."
"As a governor, I would not have felt put upon by that," Ridge, who was
governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001, said in a conference call
Two bills introduced in the House, and one planned for the Senate,
address the issue, which was highlighted by the Sept. 11 commission in
its report last year.
At present, states, through legislation or policy, can authorize motor
vehicle administrators to issue licenses to whomever they wish,
verifying the applicant's identity with whatever documents they decide
The proposals before Congress wouldn't change that, but they would
establish minimum standards that states would have to meet if their
licenses were to be acceptable as identity documents to the federal
government -- for instance to board airplanes or get access to court
And the standards would include the controversial legal presence
requirement -- those applying for a license would have to prove either
they were citizens or that they were lawfully in the United States. For
non-citizen holders of temporary visas, the license issued would expire
on the same date the visa did.
Legal presence requirements have been slowly spreading since Sept. 11,
2001. All 19 of the suicide hijackers who struck that day had been able
to acquire some form of license or state identification, including those
who had overstayed or otherwise violated the terms of their visas.
All but 10 states have some form of the requirement, according to the
Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, a New York-based advocacy
But the bills promote uniform national standards, and the free exchange
of information among state vehicle licensing databases and between them
and the federal government. Opponents say that is the introduction of a
national ID card.
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee said his bill -- called the Real ID Act -- "does comport with
the principles of federalism" and does not impinge on states' rights.
Under his law, "The states are free to issue driver's licenses and ID
cards to whomever they wish to issue them, but if they wish to use the
ID for federal purposes, then it does have to meet certain standards,
including the standard of legal presence in the United States," he told
reporters on Capitol Hill last week.
He said companion legislation would be introduced in the Senate by Sen.
Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Sensenbrenner's proposals proved controversial when they were introduced
as part of the Sept. 11 intelligence reform bill last year. They aroused
fierce opposition from a broad coalition stretching from immigrants'
rights advocates to libertarian conservatives.
Even those who issue licenses have said they are uneasy about a new role
as gatekeepers to a national ID system for citizens and legal aliens
only, especially given the complexities of immigration law.
"Our initials are D-M-V, not I-N-S," American Association of Motor
Vehicle Administrators' spokesman Jason King told United Press
International last year -- referring to the acronyms of the Department
of Motor Vehicles and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which
was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
"We are the experts in driver licensing, not immigration," King said.
Moreover, immigrants' rights advocates argue that by excluding
undocumented migrants from the vehicle and driver-licensing system,
legal presence requirements make the roads less safe even as they make
the identity system more secure.
Tennessee has introduced legislation it believes squares that circle.
Since last July 1 last, the state has issued so-called driver
certificates to anyone unable to prove legal presence, provided they can
show they live in the state and can pass the driving test. The documents
resemble drivers' licenses but are stamped "Not for identification" at
"It says we know you can drive, but we can't guarantee we know exactly
who you are," said Maj. Gen. Jerry Humble, homeland security adviser to
Gov. Phil Bredesen.
But the Sensenbrenner bill also contains a series of provisions aimed at
tightening asylum laws and making it easier to deport people suspected
of links to terrorism. These two sets of provisions proved also
controversial when they were introduced last year.
Eventually, all three sets of proposals were stripped out of the Sept.
11 bill before it was passed.
Aware that controversy over the immigration and asylum elements of the
Real ID bill might complicate its passage, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.,
chairman of the House Government Reform Committee has introduced
stand-alone legislation on drivers' licenses.
"I think it's ... important for members to have the chance to cast
separate votes on separate issues," said Davis introducing his bill last
"It's a politically smart move," said a senior GOP congressional aide.
"By separating out the issues you make it impossible for the Dems to
hide behind the immigration stuff."
Ridge said his successor would inherit a department that had made the
United States "a lot stronger and better country," though he
acknowledged that "there was much more work that needs to be done."
He said that when the department was set up, "We tried to keep the
staffing levels low at headquarters."
As a result, there was no department-wide policy office under a senior
official and a staff of about a half dozen in the secretary's office.
"We dealt with (policy issues) on an ad hoc basis," said Ridge.
But observers say that as a result of this Ridge became too taken up
with the daily crises and threats -- "wrestling the alligators," as one
state official put it -- and didn't spend enough time "looking down the
river, to see what's coming next and get ready."
In effect, say department officials, this has left much of the heavy
lifting to the small policy office in the Border and Transportation
With fewer than 30 staff members, that office has taken the lead in some
of the most challenging issues the department has tackled, like the
negotiations with the European Union over the availability of passenger
data; and in some of the trickiest inter-agency tussles, such as the
development of the biometric border system called US-VISIT.
Despite these successes, the absence of a department-wide operation
under a senior official was criticized by a series of experts at a
Senate hearing last week. Department officials privately concede that
there were areas of the department's activities -- particularly its
relationship and work with U.S. intelligence agencies -- where almost no
policy work has been done.
They also note that in some areas, different points of view from with
the department itself were hard to reconcile.
"On a lot of immigration issues, for instance, you have different
equities from the enforcement side and the (Citizenship and Immigration
Services office) side," said one official. "There wasn't really a good
process to resolve those kinds of disputes, except to take them to the
secretary every time and obviously you can't do that."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the newly empowered oversight
Committee for Homeland Security said the current set up had had left the
department without an effective mechanism for developing either short or
long term strategic policy.
"I agree," Ridge said Friday.
Department officials told UPI that the new office would be announced
within a week or so, and would be headed by a senior official, possibly
One other person familiar with the administration's thinking on the
issue said that Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, who runs the Border
and Transportation Security directorate's policy office, would likely be
promoted to run the new operation.
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