Rethinking the REAL ID Act and national identification cards as a counterterrorism tool
Clarke, William M.
Dahl, Erik J.
Denning, Dorothy E.
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The 9/11 Commission report described how driver's licenses, identification cards and travel documents are as important as weapons to terrorists. Vulnerabilities in existing identification systems provide the opportunity for illegal immigrants and terrorists to obtain driver's licenses and identification cards and once obtained these individuals can easily operate within the borders of United States. In response to the 9/11 Commission report, the federal government passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 (RIA), which established national standards for driver's licenses and identification card standards. But moving forward with implementing the RIA using the current defined standards may not be effective in addressing terrorism concerns. The RIA's guidelines require states to use a digital photograph on driver's licenses and identification cards as the primary biometric for identification. Photographs can be misleading because a person's physical appearance can change drastically due to hair loss, weight gain or change in hair color, making it difficult for law enforcement, Customs and Border Patrol officers and Transportation Security Administration personnel to positively identify individuals. Improvements in biometric technology allow for the incorporation of fingerprint, iris scan, hand geometry or detailed facial feature information in driver's license and identification card systems, and this thesis argues that incorporation of additional biometrics in driver's licenses and identification cards would improve national security. This thesis adds to the national identification card debate through an analysis of the RIA, an examination of the biometric identification technologies best suited for national security and border security purposes and an assessment of alternative biometric driver's license and identification cards.
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