Friday, July 24, 2009

Los Angeles Timed Editorial: Real ID -- a real pain

I know this editorial is about a week old, but for anyone that hasn't read it, I highly recommend you check it out...a hopeful sign to be sure!

It wasn't too long ago that the REAL ID program appeared to be dying a slow death from the steady drip of states voicing their opposition. Unfortunately, an improved yet totally unacceptable version of the act has been gaining steam in the Senate, no doubt buoyed by support from the President and Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano.

Little media attention has been given to this new proposal, or the threat it STILL poses to an individual's right to privacy, but perhaps that is beginning to change. Some background:

PASS ID would - just like Real ID - endanger victims of domestic violence by failing to adequately shield their addresses, raise fees associated with identification cards, expose consumers to identity theft and fail to improve our nation's security. In fact, PASS ID proposes to move forward on the one key component of REAL ID that privacy advocates were most opposed to: the creation of a national identification card.

Thankfully, the increasingly nimble and broad coalition of privacy organizations have joined forces to oppose the bill - rightly advocating for the repeal, not the reform of Real ID. Here's a few clips from the recent LA Times editorial, "Real ID -- a real pain":

The law mandates a tamper-proof card that would become the only acceptable form of identification for federal purposes, such as boarding a commercial airliner or entering a federal building. It was clumsily drafted in a way that imposes multibillion-dollar expenses on state governments, enhances opportunities for identity theft, turns state motor vehicle departments into arms of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and will almost certainly lead to harassment of immigrants, legal or otherwise. Though legislation has recently been introduced in Congress that would repair many of Real ID's faults, it doesn't go far enough. The best way to fix Real ID is to repeal it.


The states are in open revolt against Real ID because of its financial burdens, with 13 passing legislation refusing to participate in the program and at least as many more officially opposing it or considering legislation barring compliance (so far, California has been silent). This has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to repeatedly push back its deadlines.

Currently, states don't have to issue the new licenses until 2017, but they must certify that they are meeting benchmarks toward compliance by Dec. 31. If any state fails to do so, and most will, its residents won't be able to use driver's licenses as ID for boarding a domestic flight, instead being forced to produce a passport or other federally acceptable photo ID.This could cripple the nation's airports -- though it's highly unlikely that the Obama administration would allow that to happen. Unless Real ID is amended or repealed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is likely to push back the deadline once again.

Napolitano is backing a different solution, known as the Pass ID Act:S.1261:. Introduced last month by Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), the bill was drafted at the behest of the National Governors Assn. and addresses most of the state-level concerns. DMVs would no longer have to verify birth certificates or home addresses, and they wouldn't have to create databases searchable by other states, which would greatly reduce the costs. What's more, the federal government would issue grants to cover most of the other expenses.

Pass ID is an improvement, but it still imposes risks and burdens that outweigh its national security benefits. It mandates storage of identity documents by state officials and immigration checks at the DMV. It complicates efforts by some states to issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, because such licenses would require special markings to signal that the bearer is here illegally. We don't oppose sensible measures to enforce our immigration laws, but anything that discourages undocumented immigrants from getting driver's licenses -- as Pass ID would -- endangers all drivers on the road and raises insurance costs for everyone.

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.

I also found an editorial in Indiana's "News Sentinel" published yesterday that makes a similar case as the Times. Its unusual for the mainstream media to publicly oppose laws that are being sold to us as critical to winning the phony "war on terror". The media, for whatever reason, appears to be a potential ally in the fight to defeat PASS ID and the concept of a national identification program. The Sentinel sums it up nicely:

So if we put everything into that one document – make it the be-all and end-all of identification for most Americans – what might we have? An invasion of ordinary citizens' privacy and phony documentation in the hands of identity thieves and potential terrorists that we believe too readily is authentic. This is something to talk about before a national ID becomes reality, don't you think?

For more, click here to read a recent post of mine in which I go into greater detail regarding the key similarities and differences between REAL ID with PASS ID.

Also, in case you were wondering, the privacy coalition opposing the new law includes: ACLU, Campaign for Liberty, Citizens Against Government Waste, Consumer Action, Cyber Privacy Project,, Inc., Electronic Frontier Foundation, Equal Justice Alliance, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Liberty Coalition, National Immigration Law Center, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Privacyactivism, Privacy International, Privacy Journal, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Rutherford Institute and U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation.

I'll be covering the legislation's progress right here...

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