Friday, May 6, 2005

Real ID ... another step to "Big Brother"

Since the "secret government" has been meeting since September 11, 2001 we have to examine some of the acts of government in the light of "is this bringing on 'Big Brother'"? The "secret government" in question was triggered on September 11, 2001 when Richard Clarke declared a certain governmnet response (whose name I've forgotten), the effect of which was to disperse government leaders and beaurocrats to secret bunkers so that they can operate the reins of government in relative safety from attack.

Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on TerrorThe triggering of that secret government was described by Richard Clarke in his book Against All Enemies.

Another cause for concern is the Total Information Awareness system, later renamed to Terrorist Information Awareness system, before being canned when public uproar became too great. This gem was lead by Admiral Poindexter, who had previously been convicted of lying to Congress. Its purpose was establishing a widespread and highly invasive system of violating our individual rights to privacy.

FAQ: How Real ID will affect you (Published: May 6, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT, By Declan McCullagh, Staff Writer, CNET News.com) The Real ID system is a proposal that's been attached to a bill providing more funding for this stupid illegal war we're fighting in Iraq. I suppose the idea is that, by attaching it to a sure-bet bill, nobody is going to vote against it, the President surely isn't going to veto it, and therefore it's certain to sail through Congress and become law. Regardless of whether we, the people, whom those people are supposed to be working for, want this or not.
What does that mean for me?
Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.
Actually this isn't different from today, because we need to show identification to do all the above named things. The difference here is the type of ID card it is.
What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."
Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.
The physical implementation will likely be a "smart card". What's a smart card? Well, if you have visited a Kinko's copy center recently you will have had an opportunity to use a smart card to operate the copy machines. Or if you have an American Express "Blue" card, that's a smart card. My employer, Sun Microsystems, makes a smart card we call the "Java Card", and we use them for employee badges. The U.S. Military uses Java cards as the identification card as well.

The smart card is the same shape and size as a regular credit card. Embedded in it is a computer, with some contacts on the outside of the card. It also includes an RFID chip, just to add to the spooky big brother aspects no doubt. When you insert a smart card into a reader, the contacts take in power, start the CPU running, and the smart card reader interacts with the smart card exchanging data and instructions.
What's the justification for this legislation anyway?
Its supporters say that the Real ID Act is necessary to hinder terrorists, and to follow the ID card recommendations that the 9/11 Commission made last year.

It will "hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant," Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said during the debate Thursday.
Uh, huh... It could also end up hampering our ability to move freely within our own society, and enjoy the freedoms we have fought hard to maintain over the two and a half centuries this country has existed.

Visit the Total Information Awareness system page, written originally in February 2002. The DoD pages referenced have since went away, because DARPA canceled the project as an official entity. However some of the sub-projects have continued to exist and move forward. It's instructive to study the picture those projects create.

Specifically, the intent clearly was to establish a surveillance system to track our every economic activity, our every travel, etc, all in the name of looking for patterns that indicate an impending attack or illegal activity.

Having an ID card of this sort, and requiring it for pretty much any activity, would be a required step towards establishing such a surveillance system. Namely ... Such an ID card, to be useful, would require sending some data to computers operated by the Department of Homeland Defense. The ID card won't be able to establish validity on its own. Instead it will have to be verified with DHD computers. Hence, the DHD computers will, as a side effect, know everywhere you take your card.
The credit card companies already know this, in that they already know every place you use your credit cards to buy anything. But the Real ID card would be used in more places than your credit card.

Hmmm.....