DHS issues REAL ID draft regulations

The Department of Homeland Security has issued proposed regulations which will dictate what states must put on their driver licenses and identification cards to comply with the REAL ID Act of 2005 and implement the national ID scheme which Americans have said time and again that they do not want.

The silver lining on this dark cloud is that most of the worst possible rules, such as RFID or fingerprinting requirements, didn’t make it into the proposed regulations.

Of course, those rules could easily come back later. And states would still be free to collect your iris scans or DNA if they wanted to.

DHS will also give states some extra time to get new procedures put in place; states could apply for extensions through December 31, 2009, for compliance with the new regulations. But DHS will still require everyone to have a REAL ID for “official purposes” — which it defines — by May 2013. Currently that means people will have to show a REAL ID compliant card when entering a federal building, airport, or nuclear power plant. But Homeland Security can add “official purposes” to the list whenever it feels like it.

States would be required to accept only a restricted set of documents for issuing drivers licenses or identification cards, to electronically verify certain pieces of information in federal databases, and to share data on driver license and ID holders with other states.

Notably, states would also be required to collect a Social Security number from anyone wanting an identification card.

“Followers of REAL ID know that delaying implementation helps a national ID go forward by giving the companies and organizations that sustain themselves on these kinds of projects time to shake the federal money tree and get this $11 billion surveillance mandate funded,” writes Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

The justification for tightening the noose around everyone is, of course, to protect against the “threat” of terrorism.

“Raising the security standards on driver’s licenses establishes another layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack. These standards correct glaring vulnerabilities exploited by some of the 9/11 hijackers who used fraudulently obtained drivers licenses to board the airplanes in their attack against America,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a news release. “We will work closely with states to implement these standards and protect Americans’ privacy against identity theft and the use of fraudulent documents. We are also pleased to have been able to work with Senator Susan Collins, and I believe that the proposed regulations reflect her approach.”

Susan Collins? She’s the Maine senator who introduced a bill to delay REAL ID by two years. This isn’t so much to give states much-needed time to comply with the regulations, as to give them time to “shake the federal money tree,” Harper said. Under the proposed regulations, states will be able to use some of their homeland security grant money to fund REAL ID compliance efforts.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the program, known as Real ID, was an unfunded federal mandate that would force governors and legislatures into unpopular choices such as raising taxes or tuition, or diverting money from education or health initiatives.

“We are for the first time in history creating a national ID card, with all the ramifications of that,” Alexander said. “Let’s make sure we know what we’re doing.” — Washington Post

The federal government, of course, insists that this won’t be a national ID, because the states and a private contractor will maintain the data, and besides, the federal government has it already. Hey, they said it:

Is this a National ID card?

No. The proposed regulations establish common standards for States to issue licenses. The Federal Government is not issuing the licenses, is not collecting information about license holders, and is not requiring States to transmit license holder information to the Federal Government that the Government does not already have (such as a Social Security Number). Most States already routinely collect the information required by the Act and the proposed regulations. — Department of Homeland Security

I say instead that we have already had a de facto national ID for many decades now, and the REAL ID Act simply makes it a little tighter around all our necks.

“Real ID is a real nightmare,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU’s Program on Technology and Liberty. “No one should be fooled that just because the data resides in 50 different states it’s not all functionally one big database, because all the data is linked together.” — Washington Post

REAL ID was one of the topics of discussion at last weekend’s New Hampshire Liberty Forum, which I was privileged to attend, and where diverse individuals such as Harper, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Jim Babka of Downsize DC spoke out against REAL ID. Harper’s REAL ID panel, unfortunately, was one I missed due to being up until 3 a.m. the previous night.

I also met CNET’s Declan McCullagh, who turned in this story on REAL ID at the New Hampshire Liberty Forum:

A forthcoming national identification card will do little to thwart future terrorist attacks and instead will endanger Americans’ privacy, speakers at a conference here warned. . . .

Under the Real ID Act, Harper said, privacy could be endangered by having a centralized database linked to the ID cards. “If we’re operating with a single government-issued key, the penalty for wrongdoing–is that we lose our identification card, we lose our identity, we lose our ability to access the services and infrastructure that society offers.” — CNET News.com

All this because the federal government doesn’t know how to conduct itself in a civilized manner when dealing with other countries. If they were so concerned about terrorists, why are they going after all of us instead?

One thought on “DHS issues REAL ID draft regulations

  • October 13, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    People — treated just like cattle.

    So VERY sad.

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