Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The so-called Coalition for a Secure Driver's License

The second blog post this morning inspired by the article "Fake Drivers Licenses Still a Threat, GAO Finds" has to do with the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.

My previous blog entry goes over the canard that the 9/11 terrorists had fictitious licenses, which was repeated by Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.

So who are these people?

My suspicion of them stems from the fact that their interest is quite narrow. Just look at their name. Coalition for a "secure driver's license." They do define exactly what that is (which I'll discuss below) but it strikes me as unbelievably narrow.

"CSDL is a 501 (c) (3), non-partisan, not for profit, crime prevention, educational charity based in Washington, D.C."

Ok, they are a non-profit, and not a lobbying group.

"Its central purpose is to raise public awareness that weak state systems for issuing driver's licenses and IDs increase the risk from foreign terrorists and domestic criminals who can fraudulently assume new identities to escape detection by law enforcement."

Again, it's the narrowness of this organization's objectives that bugs me. Let me state it this way: who exactly would contribute money to such an organization? Yeah, I know, you're on a website written buy a guy who takes a very strong interest in ID card issues. But there aren't many of me in this world, certainly not enough (on either side of ID card issues) to support a non-profit organization with a staffed office in Washington DC. (I have called them in the past and asked who their donors were, and all they could tell me was "individuals.")

The only reason that I could imagine someone caring so much about this issue that they would contribute was because they had a strong stance on immigration, and they felt that a secure driver's license was a tool to control immigration. However...

"CSDL does not take a position on federal immigration policy..."

They are staying out of the immigration debate. They do add, rather snarkily in my opinion...

"while recognizing that those who oppose immigration law enforcement often also oppose state procedures that confirm the authentic identities of applicants before issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. "

The CSDL doesn't take a position on immigration, but does see some pro-immigration types as being the enemy of the CSDL.

So what does the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License believe in?

"CSDL played a key role in public education to gain Congressional support for the REAL ID Act, now entitled Public Law 109-13."

Ok, they support and played a role in the creation of the REAL ID Act.

"After the passage of the REAL ID Act, many thought the battle was over. To the contrary, even while a 2007 ITAA poll shows 85% of American adults favor a secure driver’s license, implementation of the REAL ID regulations for licenses is being vigorously opposed by well-funded special interest and extremist groups campaigning against it at the state level."

They continue to support the REAL ID Act, and they are working to make sure all states enact it.

"However, national security is not the only benefit of states complying with Public Law 109 -13. Authenticating identity of driver's license applicants will keep drunks and reckless drivers from getting new licenses under assumed or changed names, help prevent underage drinking and smoking, reduce voter fraud, help protect against identity theft, help law enforcement find deadbeat dads, and unmask sexual predators using fraudulent identities to hide from arrest warrants and sex offender requirements."

Whatever the problem is in society, a secure driver's license is the solution. I am particularly amused that they specifically mentioned sexual predators as a problem that could be solved with REAL ID Act compliant ID cards. The reason why sexual predators can't be found? Lack of REAL ID. Too funny.

Since they do call themselves a "coalition", it does beg the question who are the members of the coalition. Strictly speaking they could just be a coalition of interested individuals. However one would normally expect a group espousing a view that could solve so many different problems to have affiliations with other groups interested in the same issues, but the only affiliations shown are with ANSI and the Document Security Alliance.

ANSI is just the American National Standards Institute, a body that collect and coordinates standards.

The Document Security Alliance mission is "is a public/private partnership dedicated to improving security documents and related security document procedures by drawing upon the knowledge and detailed technical disciplines of its members." It consists of "over 40 companies, representing card and smart card manufacturers, biometric providers, system integration houses, security laminate/document providers, encryption organizations, data processing companies, proximity card providers, card printer manufacturers and law enforcement agencies were in attendance to share their experiences and examples of fraudulent documents."

Whereas the DSA appears to be a standards making body (in that it coordinates between different parties for standards on ID card issuance) the CSDL works more on the educational side on the need for, very specifically, the national ID card standard espoused in the REAL ID Act.

I would add that the wikipedia article on the CSDL says the "CSDL was established in November, 2001, by concerned New Yorkers and 9/11 family members who were concerned because of the apparent indifference by state and federal officials to this security vulnerability." The citation footnote for that goes to a defunct about us page on the CSDL website. The current CSDL website doesn't have any information about 9/11 families. If the 9/11 families part were true, I couldn't fathom any reason why they wouldn't want to mention it, it's exactly the type of fact which would give the CSDL some type of legitimacy.

The CSDL about us page still includes the line that it was formed in November 2001 because of the "apparent indifference by state and federal officials to this security vulnerability." That's a peculiar line because as anyone who was alive and conscious in November 2001 could attest, *everybody* was deeply concerned with even the most insignificant security vulnerabilities. The idea that this organization needed to be formed in November 2001 due to indifference in ID card security is absurd.

So here's my theory: the main winners of 50 state REAL ID Act compliance are ID manufacturing companies. The standards of the REAL ID Act (supported and likely written with a lot of input from CSDL) require a document issued with very different manufacturing processes, back-end software systems, DMV training, etc. REAL ID Act implementation is a significant boon to ID manufacturing companies, which handle the soup to nuts implementation of ID systems for states, and are only now enjoying the big money from the few states which have pushed ahead with REAL ID Act implementation.

For the reasons outlined above, I believe the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License to be a non-profit front for ID manufacturing companies and their concerns. I would ask that journalists who are quoting from the CSDL to take into account its mysterious background and bizarrely narrow interests.

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