Dean should come clean on privacy
January 26, 2004, 4:00 AM PT
By Declan McCullagh
After Howard Dean's unexpected defeat last week in Iowa, public attention has focused on his temper, his character, and that guttural Tyrannosaurus bellow of his not-quite-a-concession speech. But Dean's views on Americans' privacy rights may be a superior test of his fitness to be president.
Dean's current stand on privacy appears to leave little wiggle room: His campaign platform pledges unwavering support for "the constitutional principles of equality, liberty and privacy."
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. "One state's smart-card driver's license must be identifiable by another state's card reader," Dean said. "It must also be easily commercialized by the private sector and included in all PCs over time--making the Internet safer and more secure."
The presidential hopeful offered few details about his radical proposal. "On the Internet, this card will confirm all the information required to gain access to a state (government) network--"