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The National Conference of State Legislators vs the Real ID Act

The Real ID Act of 2005 has been discussed here previously, as have some of the objections raised by both privacy advocates and the individual states.

Well, the National Council of State Legislatures has now established a separate resource on its website to arguments against the Act. Clearly, the group is opposed to the act, which its members view as an $11 billion unfunded mandate.

The site includes a series of documents covering the history of the REAL-ID Act, the status of current legislation -- including a searchable database of action at the state level -- links to critical studies, an archive of related news stories, and a clock tracking the time until the bill goes into effect.

As the May 11, 2008 implementation deadline of the Real ID Act approaches, states are facing an uncertain future. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to release regulations and Congress has appropriated only $40 million to assist states with the implementation. Without adequate assistance from the federal government and regulations to guide state efforts to implement the Real ID Act, state driver’s license security is at a stand still. According to a study conducted by NCSL, the National Governors Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the act will cost states more than $11 billion to implement over five years and will have a major impact on services to the public. All 245 million driver's license (DL) and identification card (ID) holders will be required to make an in-person visit to their DMV in order to obtain a Real-ID compliant license. As a result, states will need to hire more employees and expand business hours to meet the deadline.

Many people believe that creating a uniform form of identity credential across the states is an important step in security. Being against the Act on the basis of the "unfunded mandate" and the burdens that it places on the states for implementation is one thing. Contrary to the security aspect, advocates believe that there are serious privacy and civil liberties issues. Not surprisingly, the ACLU has come out in favor of a new piece of legislation, "Identification Security Enhancement Act of 2007" that in their words, would "fix" the Real ID Act of 2005. For its part, the DHS is supposed to be releasing new guidelines today, March 1 on the implementation of the Act.

I can't help but feel that many of the fears associated with the Real ID Act, and the concern over privacy are overblown. To the extent that common information could be provided on each states' drivers licenses to conform with the Act, it seems that the primary objection is over the direct costs to the states for its implementation. However, with all of the objections being raised, I have yet to read a solution that addresses the simple fact that our identity credentials are faulty, drivers licenses and other forms of identity are forged and yet, today, still, drivers licenses are the form of identity shown by most Americans when they fly domestically or simply, go to the bank to cash a check.

8 Comments

There is a good source of information that offers different perspectives on the need for ID security that is hosted by former 9-11 Commission counsel Janice Kephart. The web address is www.911securitysolutions.com.

Mark, I hope that you don't misunderstand me. Frankly, I am in favor of the implementation of the Real ID Act. Often, though, it is important to look at the opposite side of the issue. This one is especially dicey since the states are dealing with an unfunded mandate.

BTW, I just wish they'd make the 50 states' drivers' licenses the de facto National ID card and get it over with.

Unless someone is operating off the grid, privacy of the type hyped by civil liberties folk is an illusion . . .

With some minor variations all drivers licenses are the same: name, address, physical description. State-issued ID merely validates the documents you provide the state as proof of your identity. Bogus supporting docs still equals a valid ID.

The focus ought to be on ensuring the supporting docs are valid and cross-referencing related data to help reduce ID theft and false identities. Such a move would probably cost more than Real ID, but the results would be more useful.

So true! Only someone worried about being discovered doing something wrong is going to be worried about a loss of privacy, and the ACLU and others like them are concerned about the wrong thing. However, the mandated compliance with the Real ID Act is a very real concern for the states (the $11 billion cost estimate is no illusion).

But if there is one area that I know and know well, its document authentication and the variety of pseudo-solutions that now exist and are being touted by the feds. There are holes and misconceived assumptions being made about the "efficacy" of certain approaches that continue to be shown as vulnerable.

However, it is absolutely true that the breeder documents (first the birth certificate and then the social security card) are the points of greatest vulnerability, if only because forgeries of those documents can lead to the issuance of other forms of valid IDs. To that end, the real question is how do you get the states to re-issue birth certificates, or how do you get the feds to re-issue social security cards to ensure the authenticity of these?

When you get down to it, achieving uniformity at the drivers license level will afford a certain degree more of security than we now have. But when you recognize the implementation and technology questions being raised about the CAC and the TWIC and the e-passport and now with the US-Visit program, I can only conclude that we are barely better off today than five years ago. Of course, I know of at least one approach to document security and authentication that I'd like to see implemented.

Here are Secretary Chertoff's remarks made yesterday on the Real ID Act and its implementation. As suspected, the implementation deadline was postponed.

...agreed to grant states an extra 18 months to comply with uniform driver's license standards designed to thwart terrorists and identity thieves. States also would be allowed to spend up to 20 percent of their grant money from the agency on complying with the new standards.

Now, if only the technologies being implemented were actually tamper proof.

To Mark Rhoads:

I've just had the time to browse through your suggested link. Thank you for it. I'll need to spend more time there reading what Ms. Kephart has to offer.

I have a problem with the national ID on several grounds. First, Senator Schumer is pushing this as some kind of grand solution when it simply is not. I'd point out in his book and in his appearances he is also pushing credit card companies tracking porn site for age checks.

This is BS politics at its best. Kids can see anything they want today without a single penny online. It is disgusting stuff.

His ID card solution is simply more techno blather. The only way this nation will be secure is to first secure our borders.

Both Democrats and Republicans have been irresponsible in this area, including our President.

Sorry, I bought into politicians lies long enough. I now research carefully. And a national ID card can be copied by criminals just like any card. They will determine how to duplicate, infiltrate and sham the system because after all we're talking about the government and 300 million people.

People get paid to duplicate IDs all the time. Money talks. This is just another boondoggle of waste. Instead we need to put up surveilance, walls and trained border agents.
We need to use the actual laws that exist right now instead of BS government waste of more new "laws."

It is outrageous that we do not enforce the current laws in our states, cities and country.

Michael, for some reason I just actually saw this response.

I can't disagree with your point about border security. What we are doing today (nearly nothing) is abominable. What we are allowing the Mexican government to do (or get away with) is beyond belief. And our Nation's policies (or lack of policy) leaves us open not only to an unabated flow of illegal aliens, and a continuing flow of illegal narcotics, but also leaves us open to terrorists leaking through the border.

However, I'm not looking at the National ID card or the Real ID Act as one politician or one political party versus another. I believe that it is an essential step toward our security. Alot of other people I know agree with me. The fact that documents impervious to forgery and counterfeiting may not now exist, does not by any means suggest that they cannot. And yes, the document trail starts with birth certificates and social security cards.

Perhaps we should chat about a six-factor authentication solution that would make duplication quite unlikely.