A sample text widget

Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.

Opposition to Real ID Act of 2005 grows

The battle to repeal the federal “Real ID Act of 2005” is heating up in Senate hearings. Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at Cato Institute, testifying Mar. 26 called the act a “dead letter” that would ultimately “cost more to implement than it would add to our country’s protections.”

Born out of recommendations by the 9/11 Commission and originally introduced Jan. 26, 2005 by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. of Wisconsin, the bill (H.R.418) passed in the House but did not move forward until Congressman Sensenbrenner attached it as a rider to H.R.1268, which among other things, provided military funding for the Global War on Terror. The popular bill—officially titled “An act making Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and for other purposes”—received final approval by the Senate May 10, 2005 and was signed into law May 11. The law also repealed the “Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Act of 2004,” (Public Law 108-458).

The Real ID Act of 2005, as described in legislative reports, essentially “prohibits Federal agencies from accepting State issued driver’s licenses or identification cards unless such documents are determined by the Secretary to meet minimum security requirements, including the incorporation of specified data, a common machine-readable technology, and certain anti-fraud security features.” The deadline for state compliance was set for May 2008, but lawmakers recently pushed back this deadline 20 months until the end of 2009.

The Act is intended to protect U.S. citizens by making it harder for non-citizens to fake identification documents and by preventing non-citizens from having access to sensitive security areas, nuclear facilities and airplanes. Sounds like a good idea.

Proponents of Real ID—namely, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff—argue the requirements are a necessary step for national security, but opposition to the law is strong. Two states (ironically, Maine and Idaho) have passed anti-Real ID legislation while 28 other states are expected voice their disapproval with similar action.

Opponents of Real ID, including Sen. Daniel Akaka (HI) and Sen. John Sununu (NH), cite privacy issues inherent in collecting personal data as part of the problem. The current plan does not require encryption, and some argue requiring states to store personal information on “machine-readable technology” is a dangerous idea. The plan’s burdensome costs–(Homeland Security estimates put costs at $23 billion)—and the administrative burdens being placed on the states also make the law unpopular with representatives in both political camps.

Privacy rights abuses and terrorist attacks are both very real fears, but I’m not convinced stricter ID laws will make the U.S. safer in the long-run. I think the proposed ID system would expose us to more harm than good by conveniently aggregating personal information for thieves, not to mention terrorists. I also agree with Jim Harper that the law is unconstitutional. In his recent testimony, Mr. Harper stated:

The Constitution established a federal government with limited, enumerated powers, leaving the powers not delegated to the federal government to the states and people. Because direct regulation of the states would be unconstitutional, the REAL ID Act conditions federal acceptance of state-issued identification cards and drivers’ licenses on their meeting certain federal standards.”

I’d also argue, albeit idealistically, that in addition to the Tenth Amendment, the law violates the Fourth Amendment and the ill-fated Ninth Amendment. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this law has been touted for potential domestic uses other than national security, such as monitoring drug and alcohol offenses.

Privacy rights issues have been negatively painted as the province of the paranoid and the socially liberal. Many claim it’s too late to worry about privacy. We are, afterall, living in the “Information Age.”

I still resent being coerced to provide personal information even to today’s standards. The lines between who can have access to the sensitive information and who can collect it continue to blur. Digital information by its nature is easy to transfer and is, therefore, potentially easy to steal. Will states take the necessary precautions to encrypt the data? Will businesses be restricted in their use of the information?

I also fail to see how getting used to more coercion can lead to more freedom in the future. This law is not a temporary fix in a time war. It calls for long-lasting changes to the states’ systems, which will impact all citizens in unforseen ways indefinitely. Criminals will simply look for ways around the red tape. And, as always, taxpayers will foot the bill.

I think it’s a good sign that the opposition is gaining more and more support from lawmakers and that at least a partial repeal of the current Real ID provisions is likely.

Comments are closed.