Sunday, May 6, 2007

Another reason for commenting....

I am angry, and have been angry since the Town Hall meeting on Real ID on May 1st. And why? Well, why the three DHS speakers at the meeting certainly reacted genuinely and in response to the posed questions most of the time, far too often they’d return to their obviously pre-designed talking points. And this, to me, is where the meeting turned from interesting to infuriating… because those talking points weren’t about furthering debate. Instead, they were about manipulation.

On more than one occasion, a DHS official made the statement that Real ID was designed so that you’d know that the person sitting next to you on an airplane was actually the person they claimed to be. To illustrate this concept, they had a picture of a 9/11 terrorist and his IDs… yet this terrorist traveled AND got his IDs, flawed though they might have been, under his own name. If the goal of Real ID is truly what was stated, then Real ID would not have made one iota of difference. Somehow the irony of this was not apparent to the DHS speakers.

As I noted in the comment I submitted during the meeting, Dr. Richard Barth of DHS took the above concept further and stated that all a person cares about when they put their spouse or child on a plane is that the person their loved one ends up sitting next to is the person they claim to be. Personally, I care if the person seated next to a loved one is going to harm them. I don’t care what their name is or whether they are traveling under a made up name. Everyone I’ve asked agrees with me, in fact, but again, an emotional button is being pressed – a spouse or child in jeopardy!!!! – and it’s being pressed to distract attention from a legitimate conversation about the issues of Real ID’s implementation.

Finally along these lines, what added to the frustration is not simply that the DHS speakers at the Town Hall referenced 9/11. Of course they did, as it was the 9/11 Commission report that gave rise to what turned into Real ID. What bothered me, instead, was the language they used. “Crashed the planes into…” “Slammed into…” The imagery was designed to create a visceral reaction and take the conversation away from the specifics at hand. As horrific as 9/11 was (and still is), the fact that planes were “slammed” and “crashed” is NOT an answer to how to implement any specific part of the Real ID Act, and that’s what conversation was supposed to be about. Yet those words and images were used over and over in conversations stemming from questions about barcodes, databases, and cost. Clearly, the comments were off point and designed to persuade by fear.

So now, filing comments on the Real ID Act is also a way of saying “I will not be cowed by attempts to instill fear.” That, too, is an important message to send… now, I suspect, more than ever.

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