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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Driver’s License: America’s ID Card
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 1/4/05
of other active, reserve and retired members of the armed forces
their spouses, I carry a military identification
card. My wife and I have carried one for over half a century.
We’ve never found it a problem or a threat to our privacy.
Personally, I’m proud to show it when asked for identification.
The federally issued military ID card has always been the identity
document of choice as far as I’m concerned. It’s
accepted everywhere. I wouldn’t leave home without it.
I may be
somehow lacking in the appropriate degree of sensitivity, but
I’m having big trouble understanding why so many people
are opposed to a national ID card, especially given the widely
assumed terrorism threat and the fact that we don’t really
know how many people are in this country illegally, or where
they are and how many of them are bad guys. A tamper proof, smart
identity card could quickly and conveniently resolve most questions
regarding the identity of the legal owner and his or her right
to be in the country. Of course, I fully understand the reservations
that illegal aliens and their advocates might have regarding
such an idea.
to a national ID card usually argue that the national database
would access would provide “Big Brother” with
too much information on people, notwithstanding the reality that
such information is already available from various sources. Many
who raise such objections seem to have no problem with providing
even more sensitive personal information to credit card issuers.
In this country,
the driver’s license has become the de
facto national ID card. It is used to establish identity when
boarding commercial aircraft, making credit card purchases and
many other transactions in our daily lives in addition to establishing
the owner’s authority to operate motor vehicles in accordance
with the laws of the issuing state. Trouble is, the driver’s
license has many shortcomings as a national ID card because licenses
are issued, not by the federal government, but by the individual
fifty states, not to mention Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin
Islands, whose standards, laws and requirements differ widely.
This in itself I find remarkable since the contiguous states
are closely linked by an interstate highway system and a license
issued by any of them allows one to drive in all of them.
driver’s license could become a far more effective
national ID card by having certain features standardized and
through the establishment of mandatory federal guidelines for
states to follow in issuing licenses. The recently enacted intelligence
reform bill, in fact, directs the Department of Homeland Security
and the Department of Transportation to develop common standards
for driver’s licenses in recognition of the fact that that
they are used to establish identity. The intent, of course, is
to help prevent them from being obtained fraudulently by individuals
who are not in the country legally and who might just be up to
no good. What a sensible idea! A number of the suicide terrorists
who hijacked four commercial airliners on 9/11 used fraudulently
obtained driver’s licenses to board the aircraft. Lax state
requirements for issuing these licenses thus facilitated the
worst terrorist attack on America in its history.
its widespread acceptance as a so-called gateway document,
the driver’s license is probably the most important
document that American citizens carry on their persons. No wonder
it is coveted by non-citizens as well, including terrorists and
others who intend to commit illegal acts or who have already
committed an illegal act just by sneaking into the country. Given
its critical importance, then, as an identification document,
it is incredible to me that some legislators in California and
the illegal immigration advocacy groups they are pandering to
are pushing for a bill to grant driver’s licenses to illegal
immigrants. An argument used to support this wacky idea is that
the illegal migrants are going to drive anyway. With licenses,
they will be able to purchase insurance and we’ll all be
safer. Yeah, right. Terrorists are going to drive anyway, also,
so let them have licenses, too. Perhaps they’ll buy insurance.
incredible is the possibility that Gov. Schwarzenegger might
a bill if it contained security provisions that
were satisfactory to him. Presumably, these would involve some
marking on the license that would identify the holder as an illegal
migrant. This requirement, of course, is not favored in the illegal
alien community and so the legislation isn’t given much
hope for passage at this point. It is, nevertheless, insulting
to voters who propelled him to the governorship largely as a
reaction to former Gov. Davis’s support of such a bill,
that he would consider even a revised version of it.
an urgent need to establish federal guidelines for state driver’s
licenses that include the requirement for establishing proof
of citizenship and that will permit access
to a reliable database for purposes of establishing identity.
The need for this is driven by security concerns identified in
the intelligence reform legislation and it transcends privacy
concerns that should trouble no law-abiding citizen. States that
resist prompt implementation of the federal standards should
be denied federal transportation funds until they do. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.