Michael Hampton
Homeland Stupidity
June 24, 2008

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators received a no-bid contract worth millions of dollars to implement a “verification hub” connecting state and federal databases under the REAL ID program.

AAMVA, which already maintains a database of commercial drivers in every state, was believed to be the company that would get the contract for the verification hub which, when completed, will allow states to electronically verify documents such as birth certificates and Social Security cards with other states and with the federal government.

The database begins with a $17 million REAL ID Demonstration Grant awarded to the state of Missouri, which will then pass on that cash to AAMVA to do the actual work of developing the system. Four other states, Florida, Indiana, Nevada, and Wisconsin, received $1.2 million grants to be the first states to connect to the new database.

The grants were a portion of nearly $80 million in grants awarded to 48 states and territories to implement various parts of REAL ID in those states. Every state and territory which applied for funding received at least $300,000, according to DHS. Only Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington state did not apply for funding. Many of those states are not participating in REAL ID.

That $80 million is a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $11 billion price tag for REAL ID. It’s like getting two cents when you need $30.

AAMVA calculates the final costs of building out the database would reach as high as $130 million. AAMVA maintains its driver’s license database through a contract with EDS Corp. of Plano, Texas.

Meanwhile, EDS currently charges AMMVA a maintenance fee for maintaining its commercial driver records. That charge, according to sources, is $0.08334 per month for each record. Under REAL ID, then, EDS could become responsible for maintaining up to 240 million driver records across the United States, potentially netting EDS as much as $240 million per year merely for maintaining commercial driver records. — Homeland Security Today

Homeland Stupidity was the first to note that AAMVA would likely get the contract for the central database which linked the states together under REAL ID.

DHS has said the central verification hub will not diminish privacy or put people at risk. And I have a million bushels of Iowa corn to sell you.

“Personally identifiable information, beyond the minimum information necessary to appropriately route verification queries, will not be stored,” reads a statement on the DHS web site regarding the verification hub. Sounds good, right? Take a second look. It’s a carefully worded statement. That “minimum information necessary” just happens to include, well, all your most important identity information: your name, birthdate, Social Security number, driver license number, address, and perhaps a few other things I can’t think of offhand. That’s more than enough to keep a corrupt employee or a hacker in stolen identities forever.

“Americans overwhelmingly want secure identification, and this funding will help those states working to provide it,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “We’ve made it more affordable for states to implement REAL ID by dramatically cutting costs and providing various and considerable funding options, and we’re requesting additional funding next year.”

If Americans overwhelmingly wanted REAL ID, why didn’t Congress just bring it up for a vote on its own merits, instead of sneaking it in the back door attached to an Iraq war funding bill?

It seems to me that Americans overwhelmingly want to be safe. But what threats do Americans really face? Terrorism doesn’t even belong on the radar; it’s too rare an occurrence. Accidents and crime certainly do belong on the radar. But the biggest threat to any given American’s security is his own government. These are the people who can harm or kill you and get away with it.

When you consider privacy (and by the way, privacy is a form of security; by giving it up you make yourself more vulnerable) you must consider that the government, the only institution which can get away with unjustly hurting or killing you — and which routinely does so — has all your information, and they can change the “rules” at any time.

This is just one more way in which the government is putting you in danger.

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