When I first read the good news that Maine had decided to not be bullied into enforcing the ill-conceived Real ID act, I thought it was a nice gesture but would be a minor footnote once the entire story was written years from now. But as I learned more about what other states are doing in regard to this intermediate step towards a national ID I was joyous to find that several of them are also taking a hard look at how best to respond to the law and the conerns appear to cross party lines.
In fact, the future of Real ID looks very uncertain at this time. So far only Maine has actually passed legislation to not follow the federal recommendations, however several other states have laws in their state legislatures saying the same thing. And with at least one state standing up and saying no, with several others following, those still on the fence may find the courage to join them.
One such opponent is Brady Wiseman of Montana who has said
We don’t want it, we can’t afford it, get rid of it. Out West, people are very protective of their privacy and against an intrusive federal government that wants to collect a lot of data. There’s a good whiff of a corporate boondoggle around this thing and they (state lawmakers) are finding reasons to reject it. They don’t see much benefit to support the cost.
Brady Wiseman has introduced legislation that has passed the State House of Representatives of Montana that would order the state not to participate with the program and governor Brian Schweitzer has spoken in support of the bill. In addition, a companion measure that was included with the bill challenges the Real ID law on constitutional grounds.
Maine and Montana are just two of ten states that are actively looking to oppose the Real ID law. Other states with pending legislation opposing the law include Hawaii, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Vermont and Washington. On the other side, thirteen states have passed or are voting on laws ordering their states to follow the federal guidelines.
According to the Great Falls Tribune
Missouri state Rep. Jim Guest is forwarding Montana’s bills to other states interested in fighting Real ID. So far, more than 30 states have expressed interest, he said.
“There’s a groundswell out there,” Guest said Wednesday in a telephone interview. Maine has already passed a resolution rejecting Real ID, and other states also are considering bills or resolutions, said Guest, a Republican.
Maryland is another state who has an issue with the guidelines. The Real ID law states that a person’s social security number must be on the ID. Maryland does not require this and many people have an issue with having this information on their drivers license. In Indiana I have the option of leaving mine off and routinely do. In addition, Maryland also issues IDs for people who are not citizens. This practice would have to stop under the law that was passed as a rider to Iraq war funding and Tsunami relief. In fact, he Real ID Act has never been debated on the US Senate floor. They’ve never talked about it in any committee. How many congresscritters do you think read the bill, written by Wisconsin representative F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
What is worse is that Homeland Security just finished writing the standards, one year late. Standards which are suppose to be in place by May 2008. That’s a pretty quick turnaround that all 50 states would have to go through in order to ensure that not only are they in compliance but that they do so in a way that protects the sensitive information of the citizen in question. And with recent knowledge that citizens’ personal information is already being routinely made available unintentionally by state governments having yet another method for this to occur and a timeline that almost ensures it will happen is an ominous turn of events.
And worse, the original requirement by the 9/11 commission that this is supposed to be addressing called for fraud-resistant ID systems. Anyone who has some experience in the computer field will tell you stores about how RFID chips, which are used now in passports and being suggested as part of the guidelines of Real ID, are anything BUT fraud-resistant. In fact, a person can read the information from a RFID chip, duplicate the contents and then steal the identify of that individual. Not a theoretical occurrence, something that has already been proven to be achievable.
Even some of our US congressmen are showing concern about the law and there is talk of repealing it. In fact, Daniel Akaka and John Sununu introduced a bill to repeal the Real ID act at the end of last year’s congress. Now with a Democratically controlled congress, perhaps this is one of the things that they were talking about when complaining about the overreaching of the federal government during the past six years.
We shall see.