Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's the future of the Real ID Act under Obama?

This issue has been dead for quite sometime, and it appears to be making some headlines again now that the Obama Administration and Homeland Security's new secretary, Janet Napolitano, are beginning to give some hints at how they're going to deal with the headache known as the REAL ID Act. Click here to read the posts I've done on this issue in the past.

As I mentioned on January 5, 2009, little is known about how the Obama Administration was going to proceed on REAL ID, writing:

"Making the issue - and how it all will play out - all the more unknown is the incoming Obama administration and his Secretary of Homeland Security Gov. Janet Napolitano. I say this because, as I have mentioned in previous posts here, we know very little about where Obama stands on REAL ID, or what he intends to do about this beleaguered, privacy invasive program. Further, Gov. Janet Napolitano has a VERY spotty record on the issue of privacy, yet she did oppose REAL ID as the Governor of Arizona (but only because it was expensive, not because it invaded privacy).

So all in all we are left with one big question mark as to how this program will or will not evolve. The good news is, if states keep refusing to comply, as Virginia is apparently going to attempt to do again, we'll be in good shape."

Just for a quick refresher course on the Act and the state revolt that it has inspired:

The Real ID Act was approved by Congress - underhandedly as a rider I might add - and then signed into law by President Bush in 2005 as part of the government's effort to combat terrorism. At the time, few lawmakers even knew what they were voting for, or necessarily supported the concept to begin with. Since that time the law has evoked widespread criticism from privacy advocates and civil rights groups, which say it would create a de facto national identity card system that would be hard to manage and even harder to secure.

The law requires states to issue new licenses which are supposed to screen potential terrorists and identify illegal immigrants. However, it carries with it grave privacy risks, not to mention it will be expensive for states to implement and it could potentially restrict summer travel.

Essentially it would create a national identity card and impose numerous new burdens on taxpayers, citizens, immigrants, and state governments – while doing nothing to protect against terrorism. This new federal identity document would be required of every American in order to fly on commercial airlines, enter government buildings, open a bank account, and more.

The common reaction from concerned public citizens across the country has centered on the threat it would pose to individual privacy, the high costs states would incur to implement it, the increased danger of identity theft, and the possible loss of freedoms due to expanded government power.

For everything that's wrong with the REAL ID Act, check out the REAL NIGHTMARE site.

Now for the latest hints on the Act's future in an Obama expected they are taking a "it costs too much" opposition argument rather than a privacy protection one. This is unfortunate...but better than we had under the Bush Administration.

The UK's "The Register" article entitled "Real ID law to receive makeover under Obama" states:

The ex-governor of Arizona, tapped as chief homeland spook by Obama in January, has been an outspoken adversary of the law since its introduction as a rider act for the "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005."

Revisions to the law being proposed by Napolitano and other officials, however, appear to be motivated by the cost of implementing the law, rather than out of concern for the privacy of American citizenry or states' rights.


While the law allows each state to continue issuing non-complying IDs, the old cards must carry a unique design and be clearly marked to show they cannot be accepted for any federal purpose. But the usefulness of non-complying cards is rather put into question by the federal government's running the show at US borders and security check-ins at the country's airports.

Furthermore, the Act specifies needing a Real ID to enter a federal building or nuclear power plant - but leaves the true scope of what is considered an "official purpose" as an ambiguity. For some officials, it's a tempting opportunity to use the system to track more mundane activities such as
purchasing over-the-counter medicines as a means to bust meth labs.


Presently, all 50 states have received extensions to the original May 11, 2008 deadline. A few holdout states ( such as California, Montana, Maine, and South Carolina have either refused to commit to the plan or even passed resolutions not to participate. The current deadline for when all US citizens aged 50 years or younger must have a Real ID license is May 2011.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sums up the concerns of privacy advocates perfectly:

Once the IDs and database are in place, their uses will inevitably expand to facilitate a wide range of surveillance activities. Remember, the Social Security number started innocuously enough, but it has become a prerequisite for a host of government services and been co-opted by private companies to create massive databases of personal information. A national ID poses similar dangers; for example, because "common machine-readable technology" will be required on every ID, the government and businesses will be able to easily read your private information off the cards in myriad contexts.

As we move forward on this issue we must also be aware that Napolitano has also advocated for states rights to individually implement so-called "enhanced driver's licenses," which include an embedded RFID chip that allows for remote tracking.

So we are by no means out of the woods.

Click here to read the article in its entirety.


Anonymous said...

REAL ID is dead, but they have already repackaged it as EDLs (Enhanced Drivers Licenses). These have the same database concerns and come with a RFID chip right out of the box.

Anonymous said...

John Hanson (1715-1783) was the first president (1780-1783) of the United States under the Confederation before the Oligarchs took power with the Constitution which allowed Bush to be president and the ownership of guns. Hanson was an Oldenburg Moor, a black nobleman, and like Elijah-Moses-Enoch-Baptist-Mahdi-Elvis, went to space on a fiery alien ship and never died. Hanson has returned as Obama to end the evil Oligarchy! This is why they could never find Obama's birth certificate! Danny Lazare is right to want to change this NRA chad Oligarch Constitution which allows the angry white talk radio males to object to Obama's berth certificate! We must impeach Scalia to disable the southern oligarchs of Calhoun, Corker, & Shelby and their demented Constitution. They have this evil bill of rights with rights for hate speech, guns, lobbyist blogging, campaign bribery, states, property, bonuses, and other oligarchic thievery that needs to end! Such euphemism, like when they call you boy as if they ever intend to call you man when you "grow"! This is why we must oppose oligarch-serving superstition by supporting one-state solutions in India-Packistain, Palestain-Isreal, Turkey-Grease, Armeania-Asbyjean and Zahir-Condo. Then we can abolish greed and superstition across the globe with free psychiatric healthcare.

CFC said...

I have to apologize (doing this on some of the other comments), due to issues with my account, for the past year and a half I was not aware of all the comments that were being submitted!! I'm so sorry to you, and everyone else. I went back and approved some, but others were so long ago it didn't make much sense. I'm sure I lost out on a lot of good discussions that never occurred as a result. At any rate, thank you, and I will be aware of comments in the future. Zack