Human Events Online has been leading the coverage of the so-called “Security and Prosperity Partnership,” a unilateral program implemented by the Bush Administration designed to set the course for a North American Union that would subsume our national sovereignty. A de facto treaty signed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the U.S., the agreement was never submitted to the Senate for ratification. Now it can be revealed that plans for the North American Union include a tri-national “North American Union” ID card.
Recent testimony to Congress by a Homeland Security official reinforces the point. At a June 8 hearing before an immigration subcommittee, DHS counselor and acting assistant secretary Paul Rosenzweig touted something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). In doing so, he cited the SPP and bragged that under the SPP, “Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers convened trilateral working groups to develop concrete work plans and specific timetables for securing North America and ensuring legitimate travelers and cargo efficiently cross our shared borders.”
The WHTI was established to implement legislation passed as part of the 2004 intelligence reform bill, which was in turn spurred on by the findings of the federal government’s ad hoc 9/11 Commission. A provision in that legislation required that everyone entering the United States, including Americans, present identity documents — but all of the details were left to the Department of Homeland Security. The result was the WHTI, which aims to require that people entering the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda present either a new document called a “Passport Card” or other documents to be named which will meet certain standards to be determined. This requirement would also apply to Americans, who currently do not need a passport to travel to those countries but would need a document compliant with WHTI to return home.
By folding the WHTI into the SPP’s agenda for a North American Union, the Bush Administration is brazenly laying the foundation to turn WHTI into a backdoor tri-national ID system. And Americans may have little choice but to be integrated into it.
What forms of identification will be acceptable for the WHTI have yet to be finalized by DHS and the State Department. But as the Government Accountability Office reported to Congress, “A number of stakeholders are advocating a driver’s license with enhanced security features as a substitute for a passport. They maintain that when states adopt driver’s licenses with enhanced security features in accordance with the REAL ID Act, the document should be sufficient for land border crossings under the Travel Initiative.”
The REAL ID Act will force Homeland-Security-written standards onto state drivers’ licenses and link the state databases into a national ID system. Each draft of the legislation before the final version (passed as an amendment to “emergency” Iraq spending) said that national standards for state drivers’ licenses should be based on those recommended in a document called the “Driver License Agreement.” The DLA was a separate 23-page document drafted by American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, a kind of “trade association” of states’ DMV offices. Buried in the glossary of that document is a note that “states” eligible to join the standardized database system included provinces of Canada and states of Mexico. The provision referring to the DLA was pulled from the bill after Liberty Coalition and other groups brought attention to the matter. So this scheme for a North American Union ID is nothing new.
Chief among those “stakeholders” mentioned in the GAO report are many Chambers of Commerce (interestingly, the SPP is being run through the Department of Commerce) and other businesses along both sides of the border, working together under the name “Business for Economic Security, Tourism, and Trade” (BESTT). Rather than searching for a way to preserve both free markets and national sovereignty, BESTT dispatched 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton to testify to Congress on how machine-readable REAL ID drivers’ licenses “can be combined with other requirements, like the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, for purposes like border crossing.” Another BESTT representative, Luke Ford, has been telling Congressional staffers that Canadian drivers’ licenses could easily be tweaked enough to integrate into a REAL ID border-crossing system.
But will this ultimately happen? The GAO report points out that Congress would have to pass legislation authorizing Homeland Security to require that an indicator of U.S. citizenship be explicitly included in the machine-readable data on nationalized REAL ID drivers’ licenses. Assuming DHS doesn’t go ahead and do so anyway when it releases REAL ID standards later this year, there is already legislation introduced in the House to include that information. The PACT Act, introduced by Reps. Louise Slaughter and John McHugh would also require the U.S. and Canada to develop identical documents for use under WHTI.
What all this means is that we are facing a situation where U.S. and Canadian drivers’ licenses, which Americans need to drive to work, go to a tavern, and generally navigate day-to-day life, will contain sensitive personal biometric information, interlinked and readable by the governments of Canada and Mexico. And depending on the standards decided upon by Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff, our drivers’ licenses could contain more information than the documents Mexicans use to cross into the U.S. legally; nevermind those who cross our insecure southern border without permission.