Calls for a national system of identification cards sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have gained little traction, failing to win endorsements from the Bush administration or congressional leaders. Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison attracted national attention by calling for such a system in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks and offering to donate the database software that would be needed.
After a series of interviews touting the plan, Ellison continued to push his idea in meetings with Sen Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Attorney General John Ashcroft and others, including the database giant's first customer, the CIA. Ellison said last week that future White House meetings were planned.
But Bush spokesman Jimmy Orr said the administration wasn't considering a mandatory ID program, and Feinstein is backing away from reports of her support.
The Justice Department said Tuesday it has no position on even a voluntary card and isn't planning anything of the sort.
"That high-level administration officials are somehow directing this, I think, is a far cry," a department official said on condition of anonymity.
Feinstein said Tuesday that she is only preparing legislation that would call for mandatory IDs with fingerprints and other biometric data for noncitizens entering the United States, along with a new database that would allow immigration authorities to check information from the CIA as well as state criminal files and other records.
"It's just for people coming into the country," Feinstein said. "I think this is where we should start."
Some other improvements in the nation's patchwork identity system are likely, such as the expanded use of "smart cards" for military and law enforcement personnel. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Paul Takemoto said the agency is considering adopting smart cards with extra digital information for special airline passengers, such as police officers.
This week, the U.S. organization for driver's license officials is meeting in hopes of hammering out recommendations to standardize the 50 state systems and toughen requirements.
"Your driver's license has become your de facto ID card, like it or not," said Jason King, spokesman for the nonprofit American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
King said that group's top priority is a system that will allow each state to connect with every other state. Building such a system will take new federal and state laws and tens of millions of dollars, he said.
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