Presidential hopeful Howard Dean has styled himself as a champion of liberty and privacy, but six months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he called for standardized, computer-chip identification cards with “universal” readers to replace drivers’ licenses.
The “smart cards” he envisioned to protect against terrorist attacks and cyberterrorism would be used at security checkpoints, to confirm voter identification, to purchase alcohol and would contain health information.
They also would be required for individuals to access their personal computers and state government workers to log onto their computers.
“Privacy is the new urban myth,” Mr. Dean said in a “call to action” address at the Carnegie Mellon University security workshop series in March 2002.
“Issuing such a card would have little effect on the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Dean said. “We have already ceded our private information to faceless credit card companies and direct marketers who then sell it for a profit.”
The digital technology Mr. Dean called for was developed by Wave Systems, which listed itself as a sponsor of the workshop. Mr. Dean’s former campaign manager, Joe Trippi, who helped design the candidate’s widely successful online campaign fund raising, was a consultant for Wave from 1999 to 2003. Mr. Trippi resigned from the campaign Wednesday.
Mr. Dean’s campaign press staff did not return several calls for comment on whether Mr. Dean still endorses smart card driver’s licenses. His campaign Web site does say the Bush administration “has unnecessarily compromised our freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism.”
Bob Barr, former Georgia congressman and a leading civil liberties activist, said Mr. Dean’s statements supporting privacy “sound great.”
“However, as with so many politicians, their past remarks belie their commitment to or understanding of the issues on which they speak during a campaign.
“Governor Dean either does not understand the problems with a national ID, or he is just pandering for votes and hoping no one will question his earlier comments. His call for an ID chip in personal computers reflects the exact opposite of the commitment to privacy that he now so loudly proclaims,” Mr. Barr said.
Mr. Dean, in his “call to action” address, said card technology should be standardized nationwide and “easily commercialized by the private sector and included in all PCs over time.”
“I believe that our nation has the technological capacity to protect both our privacy and our way of life. And I am convinced that these complex solutions rest in a successful partnership between private enterprise and government — led by state governments,” Mr. Dean said.
“September 11 was a wake-up call to increase the level of security at critical points in our public infrastructure, such as airports. Now we must focus on the perimeter — the desktop, the laptop and the PC. It is time to take a serious look at hardware and smart-card based solutions,” Mr. Dean said.