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January 26, 2004
Dean: National ID-Card Requirement For Internet Access, Gov't Programs

The Drudge Report found a commentary from CNET News by Declan McCullagh asserting that Howard Dean actively supported a national ID card as recently as 2002. Not only that, but Dean wanted the ID card to be a requirement for Internet access so that identification information could be tracked on line:

Fifteen months before Dean said he would seek the presidency, however, the former Vermont governor spoke at a conference in Pittsburgh co-sponsored by smart-card firm Wave Systems where he called for state drivers' licenses to be transformed into a kind of standardized national ID card for Americans. Embedding smart cards into uniform IDs was necessary to thwart "cyberterrorism" and identity theft, Dean claimed. "We must move to smarter license cards that carry secure digital information that can be universally read at vital checkpoints," Dean said in March 2002, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "Issuing such a card would have little effect on the privacy of Americans."

Dean also suggested that computer makers such as Apple Computer, Dell, Gateway and Sony should be required to include an ID card reader in PCs--and Americans would have to insert their uniform IDs into the reader before they could log on.

After 9/11, plenty of people talked about creating a national ID card in order to identify Americans and help tackle terrorism, but I don't recall anyone proposing an ID-card requirement in order to access the Internet. Such a requirement would be a nightmare to engineer into a mature personal-computer market, let alone corporations that regularly access the Internet for business purposes. As McCullagh asks, what do you do about visitors with laptops? What do you do with Internet cafes and WiFi-equipped coffee shops?

More importantly, why does this proposal come from the same candidate whose made a key part of his campaign his anger at Bush's supposed encroachments on personal freedoms? How can Dean reconcile his statement from March 2002 -- "Privacy is the new urban myth" -- with this part of his platform?

I am also deeply troubled by some provisions in the USA Patriot Act, which was enacted in the wake of 9/11 without meaningful debate. The Act gives overly broad investigative and surveillance powers to the government and strips federal courts of their traditional authority to curb abuses of power by the executive branch. Many of the Act’s provisions have little or nothing to do with combating terrorism; in fact some had been previously rejected by Congress. But the Ashcroft Justice Department took advantage of the climate of fear following the attacks to make fundamental changes in law enforcement procedures. I am concerned that this Act:

* allows law enforcement agents to obtain information about an individual from a library, bookstore, bank, telephone company, credit card company, hotel, hospital or university without individualized suspicion and without meaningful judicial review;

* expands the use of “sneak and peak” searches, even in non-terror cases;

* allows the police to collect information about an individual’s internet use without a showing of probable cause;

* allows the government to conduct wiretaps in criminal cases using the looser rules intended for intelligence investigations;

* authorizes the Attorney General to detain immigrants based on a mere certification that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" the immigrant endangers national security.

Dean proposed, in his speech for Wave Systems at Carnegie Mellon University, that this national ID card would be required to receive any government services, presumably including Social Security and veteran's benefits. He also wanted this card to be equipped with "smart card" technology, allowing it to retain information as to when and where it was used so that a profile could be built from each card about the person's travel and purchasing habits. Requiring the ID card to be verified prior to each Internet session would guarantee that everyone's web-surfing habits and e-mail traffic could be stored in databases without a court order or any probable cause. And he's complaining about Bush curtailing civil rights?

The national ID card died a natural death after the panic of 9/11 wore off and cooler heads prevailed. However, Howard Dean has never explained his support for the most radical of the ID-card proposals. McCullagh has tried to get an answer to this from the Dean campaign for the past ten days, to no avail. This is yet another indication that Dean is far from being the straight-talking Everyman he purports to be; instead, he is a loose cannon, grabbing onto the idea of the moment to ride its popularity. Such a man would be a disaster in the Presidency, even if he were temperamentally suited for the job.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 26, 2004 7:53 PM

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» dean wants to be big brother from Sophoristically Speaking
Captain Ed unearths Howard Dean's support for a national system to track citizens. Dean proposed, in his speech for Wave Systems at Carnegie Mellon University, that this national ID card would be required to receive any government services, presumably ... [Read More]

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