Chertoff to Announce National ID Standards
REAL ID Program Has Drawn Criticism From States, Privacy Groups
By JASON RYAN and PIERRE THOMAS
Jan. 11, 2008
Following 9/11 commission recommendations aimed at rooting out potential terrorists, driver's license rules and procedures will be standardized
across all 50 states, the Department of Homeland Security will announce today.
But the new plan is likely to anger many -- from states who will have to implement the costly changes to civil rights groups who charge the changes
will invade individuals' privacy and make them more vulnerable to identity theft.
The program, called REAL ID, will require states to demand certain standards for individuals obtaining driver's licenses, including proof of
citizenship and residency, instead of the typical date of birth and Social Security number.
States will also have to work together to make certain the applicants don't obtain multiple licenses. They'll also need to add security features
into the license design in order to help stop counterfeiting.
U.S. citizens born after Dec. 1, 1964 will have to comply
with the new guidelines by 2014. Individuals over the age of 50 would not have to
comply, an exception designed to help states transition into the new plan.
Following a recommendation by the 9/11 commission that the United States standardize secure identification documents, Congress passed the REAL ID Act
in May 2005.
The 19 9/11 hijackers had a combined 364 aliases, and 18 of those 19 hijackers had some form of fake identification -- including 17 with phony or
illegally obtained driver's licenses.
In March 2007, when Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced the initial proposals for the REAL ID system, he said, "The REAL ID Act
aims to make it harder for dangerous people to obtain licenses fraudulently and to make it easier for law enforcement and counterterrorism authorities
to detect documents that have already been falsified."
DHS has said individuals will be required to present a REAL ID-verified identification for boarding commercial airline flights, accessing a federal
facilities and entering nuclear power plants. Obtaining a REAL ID approved license or identification card could impact millions of citizens who fly.
The initial proposals for the program required states to have applicants provide documentation for their name and date of birth, Social Security
number and their address. Some states around the country have expressed concern about changing their current system of issuing driver's licenses
because of costs.
Overall cost estimates for the REAL ID program nationwide range from $11 billion to $23 billion. The state of Maine has said that the program could
cost its taxpayers $181 million to implement over the first five years. The Maine State Legislature passed a resolution, 171-4, urging the U.S.
Congress to eliminate the REAL ID program; other legislation bars the Secretary of State from using any state funds for REAL ID efforts.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said U.S. citizens understand the need for such a program, and called their wish for more stringent
identity protection measures "undeniable."
As for the cost to states, DHS maintains that the changes are what citizens want, and that the department will help defray the costs by issuing
Chertoff said in a statement Friday, "For an extra $8 per license, REAL ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage
against falsified documents, and it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal
DHS says it's making approximately $360 million in grant money available to assist states with the implementation of the new guidelines, but states
will need to come up with funds for the remainder of the costs.
States will ultimately bear the brunt: the new guidelines come with a hefty price tag, even after the grants: $3.9 billion, reduced from an original
projection of $14.6 billion.
"There's no doubt about it. The states carry the heavy burden here, essentially they're turned into the investigative arm of the federal government
to insure [that] people are who they say they are, and the burden is in the billions of dollars," Michael Greenberger, Director of the Center for
Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland School of Law. "The federal government today is announcing that the burden has been
reduced, but the states are getting pennies on the dollar for the obligations they have to fulfill this. It's a clear cut unfunded mandate."
The new guidelines quickly sparked criticism from a top Democrat on Capitol Hill, even before they were officially announced.
"It is unfortunate that instead of addressing the fundamental problems this law poses for the states, the [Bush] Administration appears content
merely to prolong a contentious and unproductive battle to force the states to comply," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,
said in a statement Friday morning.
"Rather than improved security, this course will result in resentment, litigation, and enormous costs that states will be forced to absorb."
Citing 21 states opposing the program, and six states that "expressly prohibit compliance with REAL ID by statute," Leahy continues, "The
Administration would do much better to treat the states as partners, and forego the paternalistic mandates that the American people are rejecting."
The state of Maine, for example, has said that the program could cost its taxpayers $181 million to implement over its first five years. The Maine
State Legislature passed legislation which bars the Secretary of State from using any state funds for REAL ID efforts, and also approved a resolution,
by a 171-4 vote, urging the U.S. Congress to eliminate the REAL ID program.
Congress passed REAL ID legislation in May 2005 on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.
But financial burden aside, Greenberger also echoes the concerns of many privacy groups.
"The key question is that the states are going to have to create massive databases, use massive databases, and are these databases going to be
secure?" he asks. "The track record on the security of these databases is not good. They are hacked into on a regular basis."
Additionally, wait times at local departments of motor vehicles are expected to increase. An impact analysis by the National Governors Association
from 2006 noted, "To comply with the requirement that all [driver's licenses/identification] card holders re-verify their identity with the state,
individuals must gather and present all their identification documents, which may more than double the length of time they spend at their DMVs."
[edit on 1/12/2008 by NotOnMyWatch]