October 18, 2004 3:15 PM PDT

Clarke: Using technology to secure IDs is vital

SAN FRANCISCO--More-effective identity cards are necessary to defend the United States against terrorists, former U.S. presidential adviser Richard Clarke said Monday, during a speech at a conference focused on smart-card technology.

At a gathering sponsored by the Smart Card Alliance, a multi-industry booster group for smart card adoption, Clarke said that at the very least, driver's licenses must be made less susceptible to counterfeiting and that incentives for adopting technology such as smart cards should be proposed. But he stopped short of advocating a national ID card.

"We need to convince people that they should use smart cards because they are more convenient," he said. "We are not going to have national ID cards, because there is a large group of American people--a minority, but a large minority--that oppose the idea."

Clark, who has worked in counterterrorism and security roles in the U.S. government for the past 30 years and whose book, "Against All Enemies," criticized President Bush's handling of terrorism, said better securing U.S. citizens' data should be a major initiative for the administration.

The Bush administration has already taken some steps toward adopting secure ID cards. At the end of August it issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, which mandates that a secure identification card standard be created and that all federal employees use cards created under the standard.

Clarke said more-effective identification cards, in conjunction with better procedures for confirming identity, could have helped stop the terrorists involved in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, many of whom had valid state driver's licenses.

"Driver's licenses give a false sense of security," he said, adding that "of all the implementation costs of smart cards, the largest portion should be spent on proving that you are you."

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