Monday, January 14, 2008

REAL ID Act Postponed

Since it was passed in 2005, the Real ID Act has alarmed privacy groups, lawmakers, state politicians, and the travel industry, and for good reason. The law requires states to issue new licenses which are supposed to screen potential terrorists and identify illegal immigrants. However, the law carries with it grave privacy risks, not to mention it will be expensive for states to implement and it could potentially restrict summer travel.

An announcement on Friday regarding the time table for the implementation of the REAL ID Act by the Bush Administration presented some good and bad news for it's opponents.

Some Good News...

Washington Post Reports:

But they [critics of the bill] also welcomed yesterday's official announcement that states have until May 2011 before they need to begin issuing licenses that meet the department's new guidelines, and until December 2014 to begin replacing current licenses. Drivers over the age of 50 will not have to obtain new licenses until the end of 2017.

The deadline extensions give both Congress and future presidents time to reconsider what opponents have depicted as a national identification system that will infringe on privacy rights and leave room for large-scale identity theft.

Responding to Friday's announcement, the ACLU released this statement:

“In its new REAL ID regulations, the Department of Homeland Security appears to have dumped the problems of the statute on future presidents like a rotting corpse left on the steps of the next administration – and not just the next one, but the administration of whoever is president in 2018. By the time this thing is supposed to go fully into effect, Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush may be fighting for the White House.

That just confirms it: Real ID needs to be repealed. It is not only a threat to Americans’ privacy but it is utterly unworkable. After 3 ½ years of efforts to implement this law, the tortured remains of the statute that appear to survive in these regulations stand as stark evidence of that fact.

Click here to read the statement in its entirety.

Citing incidents of stolen government computers, Jim Lawing, an ACLU representative says requiring citizens to put all of their personal information in one database can be dangerous.

"It will create a whole new database that the government will be in charge of. The government has shown that it's not capable of protecting this kind of data."

Some Bad News...

The Washington Post:

At a news conference yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the guidelines represent a balance between security and privacy in accordance with the Real ID Act. He warned that residents in states such as Georgia and Washington, which have refused to comply with the program, may be subject to additional security checks or prevented from boarding flights once the program begins this spring.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

Despite this threat from our own government, the ACLU claims it could not realistically prevent millions of travelers from these states who lack the REAL ID from boarding flights restrict summer travel.

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