Homeland Stupidity

What does a REAL ID look like?

The REAL ID Act, passed in 2005, will require state governments to issue drivers’ licenses which conform to federal standards starting in 2008. But the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t yet figured out what those standards will be.

Conforming ID cards will be required for federal and other services, such as opening bank accounts, boarding airplanes, entering courthouses or receiving welfare.

DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen said that proposed rules would be released followed by a public comment period. “The odds are pretty good that it will be the later half of this year,” he told CongressDaily.

DHS is developing the standards with input from the Document Security Alliance, a consortium of government agencies and private companies in the security industry. Reed Stager, the chief of the government affairs committee for the alliance, said, “It will be a challenge for everyone. I believe there will be a lot of work required to become compliant, and it depends on what the final rulemaking is.”

The Document Security Alliance recommended (PDF) that REAL ID use two-dimensional barcodes to store data, that it use photographs instead of fingerprints or other biometric data, that it use digital watermarks and other anti-forgery features, and that states be required to verify applicants’ information against the Social Security On-line Verification System and the Systematic Alien Verification of Entitlements databases.

Some states have called the act “a nightmare for all states,” saying that it would cost millions of dollars for each state to implement and that it infringes on states’ rights. And New Hampshire is considering refusing to implement REAL ID at all.

State Rep. Neal Kurk said that REAL ID has almost no benefit to anyone, but it has its down sides as well. “There’s little doubt that [refusing REAL ID] will cause burdens to our citizens,” he told the Concord Monitor. “But I ask you: What price liberty?”