Statewatch News online: USA: EPIC request for Homeland Security Documents

USA: EPIC FOIA Request Seeks Homeland Security Documents

EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last week with the Office of Homeland Security asking for detailed information on Director Tom Ridge's proposal to create a new biometric identity card for air travelers. Director Ridge said in his February 24th speech to the National Governor's Association, "I do think that this might be a great opportunity for us to do some work with biometrics, and get a trusted flier program," and that he would be working closely with the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) in developing this program.

In a related matter, EPIC has filed a lawsuit to obtain information from the TSA on its biometric identity card proposal (see EPIC Alert 9.05). EPIC is also seeking further information about draft legislation that would link the driver's license expiration date to visa status, which the Office of Homeland Security is reported to be
preparing for various states to adopt.

Both proposals from the Office of Homeland Security implicate serious privacy and security risks. One proposal contemplates creating a new federally-issued identity card using biometric identification that has significant privacy implications; the other aims at expanding the purpose of a driver's license into a realm that has nothing to do with
road safety. There is a strong public interest in understanding how these proposals are being formulated, and assessing the potential privacy implications of such proposals requires full and informed public debate on the design and purpose of the new systems. EPIC believes that substantive proposals from the Office of Homeland
Security involving important constitutional values and rights should be subject to public oversight.

Statewatch comments further: The US government plans to introduce biometric identity codes ties in with its declared plans - revealed in negotiations with EU officials over future EU-US cooperation - that all visitors to the US will be required to hold biometric documentation. Such a move would add to the suggestions that a similar requirement be established in the EU.

Office of Homeland Security:
"Ridge: Link Driver's License, Visa," Federal Computer Week, 15 March 2002:
EPIC's DOT/TSA lawsuit:

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