Saturday, December 19, 2009

Real ID: Not Dead Yet

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano gave the states a sort of Christmas present: the deadline for the implementation of Real ID has been extended from December 31, 2009 to May 11, 2010. The main reason for the extension is to avoid the extra scrutiny of those holiday travelers from states which will not be in compliance with the law by the end of this year. From the Washington Post:

Under a controversial 2005 domestic security program passed by Congress and known as Real ID, states were required to issue more secure licenses by the end of 2009. Those would be the only licenses accepted by federal officials for such purposes as boarding commercial aircraft. Instead, states now have until May 11, 2011, to comply with Real ID, Napolitano said.

"In order to ensure that the millions of Americans traveling this holiday season are not disrupted, DHS is extending the Dec. 31 REAL ID material compliance deadline," Napolitano said in a written statement.

Real ID has indeed been controversial, and for several reasons. Civil libertarians have pointed out that the program is just a fancy variation of a national identification card with all the intrusive collection of data on citizens that implies. States have objected to the requirements as involving a costly and unfunded mandate from the federal government at a time when states are having difficulty financing even the most basic of services.

In the face of these objections, President Obama has suggested a replacement for the original law:

After opponents fought the Bush administration to a standstill, Obama security officials and governors jointly asked Congress last spring to replace Real ID with a new program called Pass ID, which would cost half as much, be less stringent and come with federal grants.

That plan would give states five years to include in their IDs a digital photograph and machine-readable features such as a bar code. It would also require states to verify applicants' identities and legal status by checking federal immigration, Social Security and State Department databases and original birth certificate records.

It would add stronger privacy controls than contained in the Real ID program and drop a demand for new databases.

President Obama's plan just added to the controversy. Now congressional Republicans are upset, claiming that the president's proposal weakens national security instead of bolstering it, the reason for the original bill, and Democrats don't like the natural tie-in with the overhaul of immigration laws. Fortunately for all of us who object to both Real ID and Pass ID for all sorts of reasons, Congress hasn't acted on the new bill, primarily because it has been far too busy playing "Let's Pretend" with health care reform.

Make no mistake, however: Real ID is not dead. It's just lying low. Unless and until Congress acknowledges that the program is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, it will once again arise, certainly no later than May 10, 2010. The camel has already taken up full residence in the tent.

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Anonymous PeasantParty said...

Damn! Isn't their millions on a no-fly list enough? They just love to spend money on shit that will not help anything.

5:47 AM  
Blogger the bewilderness said...

Can you please restate May of which year? Is it 2010 or 2011.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Oops! My bad. The correct year is 2011. Thanks for pointing out my error.

2:00 PM  

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