The Department of Homeland Security has granted an extension to New Hampshire for compliance with the provisions of the federal REAL ID program.
New Hampshire law prohibits the state Department of Safety from participating in the REAL ID program, and on Wednesday assistant commissioner Earl Sweeney sent a letter (PDF) to DHS requesting that DHS not “take steps that would penalize the ability of New Hampshire residents to use their valid and very secure New Hampshire driver licenses and non-driver’s ID cards for federal identification purposes and commercial air travel.”
In the letter, Sweeney outlined several steps New Hampshire has taken to make its licenses more secure, including a unique New Hampshire laminate, the birth month and year hidden in the Old Man of the Mountain logo, microprinting and ultraviolet printing, and other features, as well as process changes. “We will also have a central print farm for the production of driver licenses and non-driver’s ID cards,” Sweeney wrote in the letter.
In addition, Sweeney noted that the state legislature could not revisit the issue of REAL ID until 2009.
The request was apparently good enough for DHS, which responded by granting the state an extension until December 31, 2009, “to meet the requirements of REAL ID,” according to DHS assistant secretary for policy Stewart Baker, who wrote his response (PDF) the next day.
Baker wrote that New Hampshire’s security measures “will provide the principal security features required at this time by Real ID.”
The extension means that New Hampshire residents will be allowed to use their IDs for federal purposes, such as entering federal buildings and boarding aircraft without undergoing special security screening, until 2010.
DHS also granted an extension to Montana, whose governor recently told DHS to “go to hell,” leaving Maine and South Carolina the only states which have not been pronounced compliant or granted extensions.
“And,” as Wired reporter Ryan Singel writes, “the states get to claim victory over the federal bullies.
“And it leaves time for Congress to step in, if it wishes, to actually hold hearings on identification policy and figure out if a de facto national ID, complete with a national biometric database, is really the right solution to preventing someone from blowing up a mall full of shoppers.”