Carolyn Harris
January 14, 2009

When legislators return to session this January 14, they will consider two bills that will refuse to implement the Real ID Act, a scheme to issue a national driver’s license and identification card. Similar bills had been introduced before but failed to pass in Richmond.


The Real ID Act requires states to re-issue driver’s licenses that conform to federal standards and have biometric data, such as iris scan or fingerprints, encoded on it. The federal law appropriated only $40 billion for states to comply, but “U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in March said states could use 20 percent of their federal homeland security grants to help meet costs. But those amounts are just a fraction of the total $14.6 billion that the department estimates the law will cost states. In addition, the law will impose $7.9 billion in costs on individuals and $617 million on the federal government, according to homeland security figures.”

There is a growing list of states that have passed laws requiring the state to not comply with the program. New Hampshire, Hawaii, Maine, Idaho, Washington, Montana, Arizona and twelve other states have rejected the Orwellian national ID scheme.

DHS had set a deadline of March 31, 2008 to comply with the provisions of the Real ID Act, but due to the outrageous cost and logistical nightmare, many states opted for an extension until Dec. 31, 2009. And even for those that did not request an extension, DHS graciously granted them one anyway, stating that “all states are in compliance with Real ID.”

Critics of the scheme point out the monstrous invasion of privacy and that it amounts to a de-facto national ID. DHS maintains that it is all about security. Spokeswoman for the agency, Laura Keehner, denies critics’ charges that individuals’ information will be put into “a national database” and that it will increase security for citizens because it will protect them from identity theft.

The Associated Press reports, “There is a hub where each state Department of Motor Vehicles will check to ensure that an individual has only one ID, but states will not have access to other states’ data.” This statement is misleading because that is not the concern of persons with privacy issues. Data-mining and the growth of federal databases are the issues.

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There have been several previous efforts by the federal government to create large databases using extensive data-mining that compile dossiers on citizens that have caused alarm and concern. Like the TIA (Total, then Terrorism Information Awareness) program that was de-funded in 2003, the MATRIX (Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange) program was ostensibly “dismantled” by Congress in 2005, but even the ACLU admitted that “part of the Matrix program will apparently continue to be available to individual states.” So the concern is more than valid, as these types of programs are publically shut down but may remain operational as black projects. It is ludicrous to believe that the government is going to give up access to information on citizens just because Congress tells them to. And it is foolish to believe the Department of Homeland Security’s misleading statements designed to allay privacy concerns.

But Ms. Keehner repeated the tired old threat that “The bottom line is that citizens of states who do not move forward with the Real ID mandate from Congress will see real consequences,” meaning that individuals within states who refuse to comply will not be allowed to enter federal buildings or board an airplane if they do not have other federal identification such as a passport (which also now stores biometric data) or a military ID card. This is nothing other than a veiled threat to both states and citizens to comply or lose their right to travel freely on aircraft.

It appears that with the worsening economic crisis at home and the growing number of states who are facing increasing budget shortfalls, more states may refuse this gargantuan expenditure for what amounts to a national ID and the further negation of state’s rights.

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