Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sensenbrenner Makes an End Run to Get His Way

The F. James Sensenbrenner version of immigration reform, known as the Real ID bill, may slip into law on the back of appropriations to fund our military operations in Iraq and tsunami relief. Here's the history behind this maneuver, courtesy of Raw Story:

Late last year, the Republican House leadership snubbed the White House by not allowing the Intelligence Reform Bill to go to a floor vote. The House version of REAL ID (HR 418), championed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), was to be attached to the Intel bill.

As RAW STORY reported in February, some members of the Republican caucus were split on many of 418’s controversial provisions. In an effort to soothe Republican dissent, Sensenbrenner held a series of secretive closed door meetings, along with a leading conservative Republican member with ties to Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, in order to convince the members of his delegation to support the bill by suggesting that the far Christian right would “rain down fire and brimstone.”

Sensenbrenner is said to have cut a deal; the bill would be attached as a rider to another bill in 2005. He then pulled it from the Intel bill, which then passed late last year.

REAL ID was then attached to the Iraq and Afghan military appropriations bill, which also includes money for tsunami aid. The Senate version of the appropriations bill did not include REAL ID, but Republicans are re-adding it in conference.

There are a lot of things wrong with the Real ID bill, including

>unprecendented power for the secretary of homeland security to suspend federal, state, and local laws concerning the environment, labor, and eminent domain

>a cruel requirement that immigrant refugees present documented proof of persecution and the motivation behind the persecution

>federal government intrusion into the driver licensing process

>the fact that none of the 9/11 hijackers would have been deterred by any of its provisions.

Democrats (not to mention some moderate Republicans) are not happy with the bill, but this is another example of how the radical Republican majority in Congress increasingly tries to impose its own will. Raw Storyquotes Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on being shut out of the negotiations: “This is not the way the United States Senate should be doing business, and this is certainly not the way the American people expect that the laws that govern their daily lives will be produced," he added. "This is yet another example of the Republican leadership's abuse of power."

And Sensenbrenner leads the way.


ben said...

While there's been no announced decision yet as to what data fields will be on the Drivers licenses, the State Department's Frank Moss discussed the new Passports at the recent Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference in Seattle. (no linked text, but this photo proves I was a part of the discussion in the hall after his prepared remarks.)

  The RFID chip in the Passport holds 64 k of data. Roughly half will be a digitized version of the passport photo. Name, date of birth, etc. Then, initially, there'll be a string of digits representing scanned measurements of proportions of the face. Not so precise as to prove identity, but enough to exclude most imposters. This would make borrowing or stealing an ID off someone who superficially resembles you insufficient. You'd have to learn exactly which facial measurements they're using (sure to leak out eventually) and then get an ID off someone who matches up on those measurements.

 The chips will still have some room to add an additional biometric field when a decision is reached as to which is most socially acceptable.

Range: Moss claimed a range of no more than 4 inches. ACLU's Barry Steinhart pulled out a scanner and showed he could read Moss's Passport at 10 inches. (Prototypes have already been issued to all State Dept employees) It was pointed out that "bad guys" would not have a problem with using power levels which might endanger those within the field, increasing range. There was also mention of using more directional antennas. The top end speculation I heard was John Gilmore's 10 feet.

Hot investment opportunity: Faraday cage Passport and DL wallets, or, for the fashion concious, tinfoil hats with an internal ID pocket.

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