By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/3/2004 6:38:42 PM ET 2004-08-03T22:38:42

In spite of the promise of 9/11 commission Chair Tom Kean that the 9/11 report "will make the American people safer," civil liberties groups say some of those ideas could jeopardize the personal privacy of millions of Americans in the name of enhancing security.

The commission recommends that the federal government set national standards for issuing birth certificates and driver’s licenses. At many sensitive entry points, the report says, ID's are the best way to ensure that people are who they say they are.

David Sobel, of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, concedes that fraud is a problem, but he says national ID standards could quickly lead to something else — citizens having to show their papers.

"We have to be very careful that we don't move into a situation where we have an internal passport or national identification card, which is something that the American people have always been very resistant to," says Sobel.

The commission also calls for speeding up reliance on no-fly lists and flagging passengers who should always get enhanced screening. Better use of those lists, it says, can help keep potential terrorists off airplanes.

But Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union says the report gives no attention to the thousands of people with similar names who constantly get stopped.

"There's no place to go to contest their names on the list. And we're really quite concerned that the proliferation of these no-fly lists will do more harm for ordinary Americans who have done nothing wrong," says Romero.

And the report calls for a government board to make sure that civil liberties are protected. But if it doesn't have enough power, Romero says, it could be worse than nothing.

"We're afraid it will shut down dissent and it will placate the criticisms that otherwise exist," he says.

David Sobel agrees: "These are very difficult questions, very difficult conflicts, to resolve. And I don't think the commission spent a lot of time trying to resolve those conflicts.”

The 9/11 commission says it gave these concerns a serious look, but the privacy groups claim the report dodged some of the hard questions.

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