- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2006

The National Institutes of Standards and Technology has issued the final specifications for standardized Personal Identity Verification cards required for all federal employees and civilian contractors by Oct. 27.

The cards — which use biometric data such as fingerprints, retinal scans, facial recognition and other smart technology — are under development in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, an order issued in 2004 by President Bush for mandatory, standard governmentwide IDs.

“The standards are in place. Several vendors have developed cards which are now being tested for compliance with those guidelines,” said Curt Baker, manager of the PIV program at the standards agency, adding that the production timetable is in the hands of the General Services Administration.

The cards themselves are intended as a marvel of security and practicality, granting personnel access to any federal building or information system nationwide. PIV technology incorporates holograms, bar codes, microprinting and encrypted computer chips, which include signatures and personal demographic information, according to Identity Alliance, a private Indiana-based security firm.

“These standards will usher in a new generation of smart PIV cards that will work the same across all federally secured facilities,” said company spokesman David Corcoran, who calls PIV cards a “personal information vault” and thinks they will have plenty of effect in the private sector as well.

Several agencies — the Department of Defense and NASA, for instance — already have pilot PIV programs in place. The Defense Department has issued almost 4 million encrypted Common Access Cards to active duty military.

New forms of standardized national identification — beginning with Social Security cards in 1936 — have vexed civil libertarians, immigration-rights activists and other privacy advocates. The concept generated renewed interest on Capitol Hill after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Most recently, some governors and state officials cringed at Real ID Act, a new federal law that mandates national security standards be imposed on state driver’s licenses by 2008 to prevent fraud. The officials predict that it will create undue expense and confusion.

Real ID is embedded with “hundreds of problems,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s Barry Steinhardt told the Associated Press last month.

Meanwhile, one source familiar with the new federal ID cards said they are not an indicator that the United States is on the “slippery slope” to a national ID. Their technology and design prevents it, the source said, adding “without going into too much detail, it would be very hard to set these cards up as a practical form of national identification.”

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