I feel a little bit bad about kicking a caterwauling buffalo when he’s down, but I was never going to vote for Howard Dean in the first place. His remaining fans and supporters are the ones who really need to hear this very important reporting by CNET’s 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.”
….It’s unclear how such a system would work in practice. Must Internet cafes include uniform ID card readers on public computers? Would existing computers have to be retrofitted? Would tourists be prohibited from bringing laptops unless they sported uniform ID readers? What about Unix shell accounts? How did a politician who is said to be Internet-savvy concoct this scheme?
Perhaps most importantly, does Dean still want to forcibly implant all of our computers with uniform ID readers?
Unfortunately, Dean’s presidential campaign won’t answer any of those questions. I’ve tried six times since Jan. 16 to get a response, and all the press office will say is they’ve “forwarded it on to our policy folks.” And the policy shop isn’t talking.
….It’s true that most American adults already carry around driver’s licenses. But the AAMVA proposal would have mandated biometric identifiers such as digitized fingerprints or retinal scans. Depending on how the system was implemented, your license could be equipped with a smart card (which Dean suggested) that could store information about your movements whenever it was swiped in a reader. It could also be tied to a back-end database so all verifications would be logged with the time, date and location.
….It’s possible that Dean has a good explanation for his uniform ID card views, and can account for how his principles apparently changed so radically over the course of just two years. Perhaps he can’t. But a refusal to answer difficult questions is not an attractive quality in a man who would be president.
One more nail in the Dean political coffin.