Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Real ID, Real Problem

What can I say, I love it when a really good op-ed gets in a major daily newspaper regarding a topic that has been as "hidden" from public view as has REAL ID.

Cynthia Boersma - the legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland - got this piece published in the Baltimore Sun today:

“No. Nope. No way.” So exclaimed Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana when asked whether his state would participate in the federal Real ID program.

Frustration with this misguided, expensive and unworkable federal mandate also compelled another governor, Republican Mark Sanford of South Carolina, to call Real ID “the worst piece of legislation I have seen during the 15 years I have been engaged in the political process.” If Real ID has any friends in the states, they’re not speaking up.

This sentiment is now percolating through the halls of Congress. In recent hearings before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, senators from both sides of the aisle were blistering in their criticism of Real ID.


Under the Real ID Act, the federal government requires states to issue uniform driver’s licenses - essentially a national ID card - with insecure, unecrypted personal information on machine-readable strips. That means three bad things: huge costs of time and money for Marylanders, an easier task for identity thieves, and less, not more, security for our state.


Real ID then requires these documents to be electronically stored in a database accessible to the federal government and every MVA in the country with no established restrictions on access, data sharing or data mining. It will render every Marylander highly vulnerable to identity theft and will subject personal information to misuse and fraud.

The good news in all this is the far better alternative now being proposed: The Identification Security Enhancement Act. This bill was introduced this year in the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support. As Ms. Boersma notes, the "bill would protect privacy, would achieve effective driver’s license security, could be implemented more quickly than Real ID and would not cost billions of dollars to be shouldered by the states."

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