The Real ID Act passed the Senate on May 10, 2005, and was signed into law by President George Bush with a compliance date for State DMVs of May 11, 2008.
Most Americans have staunchly and consistently opposed any kind of a national ID card each time it had previously been considered. But Congress approved the Act, tucked largely out of sight inside an emergency war spending and tsunami relief bill. This stealth passage of the Real ID Act shocked and angered many Americans, especially those who remembered Congress’ own assurances when creating the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with language actually written into the US Homeland Security Act of 2002, that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the development of a national identification system or card.”
Now in 2008, after nearly three years of incessant fear-mongering and challenges to opponents’ patriotism, the public is still outraged, and resistance is swelling. Seven states have now enacted binding legislation to stop Real ID (Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington), with Oklahoma on the verge of being the eighth. Fourteen more states have passed resolutions in at least one chamber registering their dissent, and similar efforts have been introduced in 11 more.
The American Policy Center has issued many warnings of the serious threats to public and national security this liberty-smothering law, and ultimately wealth-suppressing law brings to bear on the American public.
The public comment period has come and gone. All 50 state governors notified DHS Secretary Chertoff, President Bush, and all 535 members of Congress they opposed the Act, at least as written, for a variety of reasons. Despite the strong negative reaction, whether from average citizens, state agencies, or members of Congress, on January 11, 2008, Secretary Chertoff released his department’s final Real ID regulations, which can be read here: Part 1, and Part 2
Secretary Chertoff says he’s heard the concerns, rectified many shortcomings of the Real ID Act, and is now offering states an 18-month (with the option of an additional 18-month) extension period within which to comply (by demonstrating material compliance with the core requirements of the Act). Additionally, only those born after December 1, 1964, will have to have their current Driver License re-issued. The rest of us can choose to keep our current DL, so that by December 1, 2017, all 245 million Americans that hold either a State issued Driver License or ID card will be compliant. Encouraging news, right? After all, any delay is a victory.
Secretary Chertoff has taken some hits. On January 18, 2008, Montana’s Governor, Brian Schweitzer (D), invited the governors of 17 other states to join Montana in all-out rebellion against the Real ID Act. The Montana Bill states in part:
“The legislature finds that the enactment into law by the U.S. congress of the REAL ID Act of 2005, as part of Public Law 109-13, is inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people, and was adopted by the U.S. congress in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th amendment to the U.S. constitution.
(2) The state of Montana will not participate in the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005. The department, including the motor vehicle division of the department, is directed not to implement the provisions of the REAL ID Act of 2005 and to report to the governor any attempt by agencies or agents of the U.S. department of homeland security to secure the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005 through the operations of that division and department.”
Schweitzer’s letter went out to the governors of Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
A piqued Chertoff snapped that opponents of the Act needed to “grow up.” He further warned that, as of May 11, 2008, anyone not presenting a Real ID-compliant state, or federal, ID at an airport will be subject to a complete pat down, screening of their carry-on luggage, and possibly will not be allowed on a commercial airplane.
Governor Schweitzer wants Congress to show some leadership and enact alternative legislation to stop Real ID, while re-instating the commission working on driver’s license rules before the Act assigned DHS sole authority to set the rules. He took “great offense at this notion we should all simply ‘grow up’,” saying Chertoff’s remarks “reflect DHS continued disrespect for the serious and legitimate concerns of our citizens.”
Laura Keehner, a DHS spokeswoman, said DHS has no intention of backing down. Her comments indicated a department policy of trying to turn States’ citizens against their governors, stating failure to comply “will mean real consequences for (a rebel state’s) citizens starting in May if their leadership chooses not to comply.” Keehner suggested that patted-down citizens will turn their wrath on their state leadership, rather than the federal government.
Secretary Chertoff has also hinted the Real ID card will soon be used for a wide variety of purposes not specifically detailed in the Real ID Act, stating DHS will do nothing to prevent non-government private parties from requiring the ID card. So you could soon be required to have a Real ID card to obtain or hold a job, open a bank account, enter a school, receive medical care, purchase a gun, or a virtually unlimited host of unrelated purposes. Eventually, once smart chips are incorporated, these ID cards will contain your entire life history - not just identification, but birth, school, employment, medical, financial, purchase and travel records.
Incredibly, Secretary Chertoff has no plans for encrypting the stored data on these cards, leaving unprotected the very personal records and access to the financial assets of 245 million Americans. The Real ID Act does not require DHS to secure the records they create or link to. Thus, this national web-like database will provide easy, one-stop shopping for identity thieves, swollen beyond recognition as not only state and national government agencies input and share data, but the private sector accesses the system for routine tracking, monitoring, and regulation of everyday Americans’ every move and activity. These ID cards will truly be “internal passports,” utilized by the federal government to determine where and how you will be allowed to travel, whether within your own state, or within your own country. Do you really want Big Brother making these decisions for you? Do you want to be tracked in office buildings, subways, or on buses?
Governor Schweitzer has demonstrated great leadership. The Real ID Act will impose rules that threaten the privacy, security and freedom of 245 million Americans. This Act is, as was so aptly stated by the New Hampshire legislature, “contrary and repugnant” to state and federal constitutions. We must all demand other state governors follow suit. We must call Secretary Chertoff’s bluff! Follow the spirit of Governor Schweitzer’s command to his fellow Montanans - report demands by any federal employee that you produce a Real ID card to your elected state and federal representatives. Complain loudly! Complain in your own best interest, and that of your children. The Real ID Act is fatally flawed, and will soon result in massive litigation. That litigation will be funded, in all phases, by your tax dollars!
Rebellion against the Real ID Act goes far beyond simple defiance of an unpopular public program. Our national roots, our heritage, the very foundation of America springs from a profound understanding that the power of our federal government must be limited - restricted to certain enumerated powers. We have allowed, as a society, and as individuals, the usurpation of much of our liberty and freedom of choice. We’re already allowing ourselves to be video taped in private, and on public roads and within public facilities. When is enough, enough? The United Kingdom has one video camera in place for every 14 people in the whole country. Video cameras do NOTHING to increase security; they merely assist the police with later identification of the perpetrators of whatever horror or crime HAS ALREADY BEEN COMMITTED.
Likewise, improved, so-called tamper-proof identity documents that cannot be counterfeited (Oh, really!) will do little, if anything, to secure our borders, and they will DO NOTHING to protect you from a suicide bomber. After all, most potential suicide bombers are already in country, may well have been born and raised here, and will not have a history of this criminal activity. We need to get real, people, and DUMP THE REAL ID ACT!
Tom Deweese the publisher/editor of The DeWeese Report and is the President of the American Policy Center, a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Warrenton, Virginia.Commenting Policy
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