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>States Say REAL ID Heading for Real Problems

11/24/2009

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Most states unprepared and unwilling to enact draconian ID rules

c/o Air America Blog

If you plan on traveling home for the holidays, there might be more than long lines holding you up. A looming deadline for states to implement draconian ID rules may leave you grounded.

The National Governor’s Association issued a letter on Wednesday to Senate and House leaders asking Congress to revise the timetable for putting the REAL ID Act into effect. Some 36 states are reportedly set to miss the December 31 deadline, which could mean that by year’s end, the noncomplying states will leave countless people unable to use their licenses to board a flight.

REAL ID, passed in the midst of the post-9/11 national security hysteria, attempts to address identification fraud (since terrorists are so great at faking IDs) by imposing tighter federal standards for driver’s licenses. Civil libertarians and immigrant advocates see it as a stealth assault on civil rights. In a 2008 analysis of the law, the Electronic Privacy Information Center warned that it would allow “tracking, surveillance, and profiling of the American public.” Like other domestic policies enacted under the rubric of counterterrorism, REAL ID, EPIC says, could be a stepping stone toward a discriminatory national identification system, an Orwellian surveillance state, or at least a goldmine for identity thieves.

State lawmakers have argued that the regulations impose enormous costs without real safety benefits In fact, the NGA notes, many states have passed legislation that emphatically rejects REAL ID, turning an effort to harmonize state policies into an even more fractious regulatory patchwork:

Since REAL ID was enacted, states have maintained that its timelines and requirements are unrealistic and constitute a huge unfunded mandate with costs far outpacing federal funding. For these reasons, and as a result of privacy concerns, 13 states have enacted legislation prohibiting full compliance with the requirements of REAL ID, and several others have passed anti-REAL ID resolutions or have similar legislation pending. Without state participation, REAL ID falls far short of its promises, and the uncertainty of its future leaves us less secure.

With Congress and the Obama administration poised to revisit the law, the NGA is pushing for a lighter version of REAL ID known as PASS ID, which gives states more flexibility and funding to revamp their license systems.

But EPIC doesn’t think those tweaks address the core civil liberties threats. For example, the group says that following a six-year timetable for implementation, PASS ID would still threaten privacy by:

…prohibiting all federal agencies from accepting any non-compliant drivers license or state identification card for any official purpose (e.g. boarding an airplane, applying for Social Security benefits, student loans, opening a post office box, entering a federal building, etc). This raises questions regarding the rights of the physically challenged, children, poor, and the elderly who receive benefits or services from federal government agencies. There are reasons why each may not hold a federally sanctioned, state-issued identification document. The PASS ID Act does not specify limits on the requirement of an approved identification document to access federal government services, benefits, or meet with federal employees in official settings. In effect, individuals will lose some level of citizenship and rights should they not hold a PASS ID. :::MORE HERE:::

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