Startling Incompetence at ANSI Standards Group

by on October 28, 2009 · 7 comments

I have always regarded standard-setting organizations as serious players who take care to keep slightly boring the work of establishing uniformity in products and protocols. But a press release from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) may cause me to reassess.

IDSP Issues Report Calling for National Identity Verification Standard” is the release, and it’s bristling with error and malformed policy assertions. IDSP is the “Identity Theft Prevention and Identity Management Standards Panel,” an ANSI subgroup.

Take this doozy:

[T]he Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) and the REAL ID Act of 2005 require verification of identity prior to the issuance of birth certificates and driver’s licenses / ID cards, respectively. However, the IRTPA regulations have not yet been released even in draft form and the REAL ID regulations do not provide practical guidance on how to corroborate a claim of identity under different circumstances.

Folks, REAL ID repealed the identity security provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. (It’s a good bet that regulations for a repealed law aren’t going to move out of draft form for a very long time, eh?) And REAL ID does not require verification of identity prior to issuance of birth certificates. What could that even mean?! “Hey you—little baby—let me see some ID before I issue you your birth certificate.”

The release repeats the tired mantra that 9/11 terrorists got U.S. identity documents—”some by fraud.” The 9/11 Commission dedicated three-quarters of a page to its identity recommendations—out of 400 substantive pages—and neither the commission nor anyone since has shown how denying people U.S. identity documents would prevent terrorism.

Are there needs for identity standards? Of course. And there are a lot of projects in a lot of places working on that. If an organization doesn’t know the law, and doesn’t know how the subject matter it’s dealing with functions in society, I don’t know how it could possibly be relied on to set appropriate standards.

ANSI should take a look at this subgroup and see if its work is actually competent. Judging by this press release, it’s not.

  • http://www.wbklaw.com Mike Sullivan

    Jim said: “And REAL ID does not require verification of identity prior to issuance of birth certificates. What could that even mean?! 'Hey you—little baby—let me see some ID before I issue you your birth certificate.'”

    Obviously, a newborn doesn't need its own ID for issuance of a birth certificate, but it probably does need the ID of at least one parent, or a public official attesting that the parents are unknown.

    More importantly, I shouldn't be able to just waltz up to theVital Records Bureau (or its online portal) in Jim's place of birth saying I'm Jim Harper and be able to get Jim's birth certificate, all certified and sealed. With that and a bit more I could get a driver's license and passport in his name.

  • http://www.ansi.org/idsp Jim McCabe

    Jim Harper makes some sweeping statements about the IDSP report released yesterday which seem to hinge on a misreading of one particular sentence in the press release. Perhaps the sentence could have been clearer but the intent was to communicate that the IRTPA requires identity verification for birth certificates and REAL ID does the same for driver’s licenses. As constructed, the key word is “respectively.” If you read the report, you will find ample evidence that the group well understands that REAL ID repealed the driver’s license provisions of the IRTPA. The report includes separate sections dealing with birth certificates / IRTPA and driver’s licenses / REAL ID. The report elaborates on the group’s concern that the IRTPA regulations for birth certificates have not been issued and that they are needed to “put some teeth into the process” of identity verification.

    On the issue raised about the tie between secure identity documents and terrorism, the report notes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from March 2009 which showed that investigators were able to obtain U.S. passports using counterfeit birth certificates, driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers of deceased or fictitious individuals.

    ANSI takes very seriously the output of its standards panels and welcomes legitimate commentary. The group that assembled the report included representatives of key agencies and organizations directly involved in the subject area.

    Jim McCabe
    Senior Director, Consumer Relations and IDSP
    American National Standards Institute

  • http://www.ansi.org/idsp Jim McCabe

    Jim Harper makes some sweeping statements about the IDSP report released yesterday which seem to hinge on a misreading of one particular sentence in the press release. Perhaps the sentence could have been clearer but the intent was to communicate that the IRTPA requires identity verification for birth certificates and REAL ID does the same for driver’s licenses. As constructed, the key word is “respectively.” If you read the report, you will find ample evidence that the group well understands that REAL ID repealed the driver’s license provisions of the IRTPA. The report includes separate sections dealing with birth certificates / IRTPA and driver’s licenses / REAL ID. The report elaborates on the group’s concern that the IRTPA regulations for birth certificates have not been issued and that they are needed to “put some teeth into the process” of identity verification.

    On the issue raised about the tie between secure identity documents and terrorism, the report notes a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from March 2009 which showed that investigators were able to obtain U.S. passports using counterfeit birth certificates, driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers of deceased or fictitious individuals.

    ANSI takes very seriously the output of its standards panels and welcomes legitimate commentary. The group that assembled the report included representatives of key agencies and organizations directly involved in the subject area.

    Jim McCabe
    Senior Director, Consumer Relations and IDSP
    American National Standards Institute

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