Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff [speaking with DMV Commish Bonnie Rutledge and Gov. Jim Douglas in a pre-planned photo-op], made an unheralded visit to Burlington Wednesday. Chertoff toured the Department of Motor Vehicle facility on North Ave and signed a memorandum of understanding with Gov. Scissorhands aimed at enhancing border crossing security. Said our Guv:
So, it’s a real honor and privilege to be one of the first three statesin the country - Washington and Arizona being the other - that will bepilot projects for the Department of Homeland Security and weappreciate, Mr. Secretary, you’re not only entering into thismemorandum of agreement with the state of Vermont, but for coming heretoday to share in this announcement.
Under the voluntary program, Vermonters will shortly be able to apply for enhanced drivers licenses. They’ll cost $15-20 more and contain a computer ID chip. Eventually the Bush administration hopes to require all American citizens to carry passports when returning to the US from Canada.
An overreaction to 9/11?
Implementation of the passport requirement, however, is currently on hold.
And Vermont Transportation Sec, Neale Lunderville [above with the two big guys], and DMV Commissioner Rutledge acknowledged afterward there is at present no guarantee that it will be implemented anytime soon given the upcoming presidential election in November 2008.
In the brief Q & A with reporters, yours truly asked Sec. Chertoff for his reaction to Vermonters' concern that the proposed new computer-chip enhanced drivers licence represents a dangerous step toward Big Brother-style surveillance. Replied Sec. Chertoff:
We are not going to take over or own the database or the information. This is a state drivers license. I mean I guess there may be people who think that having a driver’s license is Big Brother, and that’s between them and the state troopers, but, ah, I think from our standpoint we are keeping this in the state. What we are doing is giving the state the capability to issue an enhanced driver’s license that we will accept when people want to cross the border into Canada or coming back from Canada.
I think everybody recognizes when you cross an international boundary, you are required to show some kind of identification. So I don’t think this order in any way, shape or form looks like a Big-Brother type of operation.
Everybody feel better?