Nov 19, 2015
Yesterday Rep. Bob Cleveland and Rep. Lewis Moore held a public meeting making further study on the question of whether Oklahoma should repeal its 2007 prohibition of participating in the federal REAL ID Act of 2005.
The meeting was held in the new House conference room at the capitol which is a large comfortable conference room with modern sound and video equipment which is important as many Oklahomans who are unable to travel long distances or take a day off of work, expected to be able to access this meeting online. Unfortunately, the meeting was not available online.
Anyone who turned to media outlets to find out what happened were likely disappointed as the majority of reports consisted of nothing more than briefly restating talking points about REAL ID enforcement, reinforcing fears by reminding the public that they won’t be able to fly in a year without a REAL ID. (Which isn’t true and was covered at length in yesterday’s meeting.)
The study was an interesting one that brought to the fore quite a bit of new information and issues which have not been publicly discussed before.
After the meeting yesterday while casually communicating on social media, I asked Howard, who was there and testified, what he thought was the most important information that came out of the meeting.
Here was his take on it (I did change the formatting of his reply for easier readability):
There were more than one.
The admittance, finally, by DPS that it CURRENTLY possesses a Facial Recognition Database.
The confirmation by US Congressman Steve Russel’s rep that REAL ID requirements for air travel will NOT BE enforced till 2020.
That admittance into Federal Bldgs for virtually all the reasons almost all of us would have to visit one will NOT BE restricted if someone does not have a REAL ID compliant ID.
That NO ONE could answer the question how REAL ID can/should/will make us safer.
No one could seem to even guess at how much this will cost.
I admit that am hardly an unbiased observer of the proceedings but I do have the audio recording of the event and am entirely capable of transcribing the audio. I will do my best to give you an accurate summary of what happened at the REAL ID Study yesterday.
Testifying in opposition to REAL ID was Howard Houchen, who earned his Masters Degree in National Security Studies, myself, Kaye Beach, and former Oklahoma state Rep. Charles Key, who authored the 2007 House legislation to prohibit REAL ID.
Also present and on the agenda to speak was the Commissioner of Public Safety, Michael Thompson, Captain Randy Rogers OHP, Director of Driver License Services Jeff Hankins.
In this post, I am going to cover the testimony of the first speaker, Howard Houchen.
Howard Houchen began by explaining that his degree includes a focus on Homeland Security and back in 2001 while he was working on his degree, the big question was how our country would balance security and civil liberties. He says that within a few years it became apparent to him that our government had chosen to throw civil liberties by the wayside citing the REAL ID Act of 2005 as a major indicator.
Quoting well know security researcher, Bruce Schneier, Houchen tells listeners “If you think technology can solve your security problems you don’t understand the problems and you don’t understand the technology.”
While he agrees that the original intentions behind REAL ID were noble, Houchen says it has morphed into something else entirely citing, for example, that the mobile biometric technology is a 32.8 billion dollar industry and that the biometric technology industry across the board is worth an untold amount of money.
Houchen says biometric ID is “a data grab” and explains that the UK sought to implement a national biometric identity system in 2006 and scrapped in 2011. He says that according to many members of Parliament the effort was nothing more than a costly folly, noting that in addition to the system providing no increase in security that could justify the cost, it was also rejected as an unwelcome intrusion into people’s personal liberty. According to Houchen, other countries are having issues with their biometric identification programs as well including Israel, whose program is voluntary.
Then speaking loudly and clearly, Houchen states, “There is something that is being missed with REAL ID…and that is the fact that the biometrics that are collected as a part of the REAL ID Act ARE going to be shared. . . that is a part of the federal REAL ID Act.” Further explaining Houchen says, “They are going to be shared so that they can be compared, without yours and my consent, by the way.”
Houchen takes issue with this on the grounds of the Fourth Amendment which guarantees us the right to be free of unwarranted searches and seizures.
“What happens when the biometrics are breached?” asks Houchen. Who then tells the panel about his experience as one of the 21 million Americans who had their most personal information hacked in the recent federal OPM breach, revealing that additionally that he was among the 5.1 million subset of victims of this hack that had their fingerprints stolen as well.
The OPM is offering victims three years of identity theft protection, which according to Houchen, is of little use. “Biometrics once stolen is not like a social security number, it’s not like a password, it’s gone forever, warning that, Oklahoma might have, right now, a good secure system to keep those biometrics but it’s going to get out of your control Oklahoma, because you have to share those biometrics.”
Houchen explains that he has lived and traveled abroad extensively including countries where, at the time, it was very dangerous for Americans all of which and more was in his OPM file. We don’t know for sure who hacked the OPM but the federal government suspects the Chinese. Houchen expressed concern about future travel, especially to Russia, since his personal information was hacked.
Houchen ends by saying, “I believe the Oklahoma legislature can and should end this employment of poor civic hygiene by forcing yet another, no-choice, federal solution on Oklahomans. We demand and deserve a choice.”
The reference to civic hygiene comes from another oft cited quote made by security guru, Bruce Schneier who said, “It is poor civic hygiene to install technologies that could someday facilitate a police state.”