- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Bush administration will delay implementation of a new law to federalize driver’s licenses, bowing to pressure from federal and state lawmakers who say next year’s deadline can’t be met.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday announced the delay and released 162 pages of proposed regulations to guide the national identification system.

“These standards correct glaring vulnerabilities exploited by some of the September 11 hijackers who used fraudulently obtained driver’s licenses to board the airplanes in their attack against America,” Mr. Chertoff said.

“Raising the security standards on driver’s licenses establishes another layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack,” Mr. Chertoff said.

The deadline will be extended from May 2008 until December 2009, and up to 20 percent of state homeland security grants can be used to implement the program.

Congress mandated the identification cards in the 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief Act.

New identification cards and driver’s licenses will be required to pass airline screening or enter federal buildings and nuclear plants.

The cards will include the holder’s name, date of birth, sex, an identification number other than a Social Security number, a facial digital photograph, an address and a signature. The cards must contain physical security features that can be read by a computer.

The proposed regulations reflect legislation pushed by Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Mr. Chertoff said.

Miss Collins said she is “grateful that Secretary Chertoff has listened to the concerns of so many state leaders and my colleagues on this important issue.”

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the delay reasonable but said the new ID standards remain an urgent national security priority.

“Weaknesses in driver’s licenses are still being exploited every day by illegal immigrants, identity thieves and terrorists,” Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Chertoff said the standards will protect against identity theft and the use of fraudulent documents, and that background checks will be required of all division of motor vehicle employees.

The regulations say the federal government will not be given greater access to personal information and that no national database is created “because it leaves the decision of how to conduct the exchanges in the hands of the states.”

Some privacy advocates are concerned that the database of personal information will be used without limits or standards.

“The Real ID system may be decentralized, but if it is widely accessible, for purposes other that administering the driver’s license system, it could turn into a massive tracking system,” said Sophia Cope, a fellow with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

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