Halt implementation of ID law with more workable system
The Department of Homeland Security has released its regulations for implementation of uniform state driver's licenses.
STATES are rebelling against an anti-terrorism law requiring states to make driver's licenses more secure, and not just because of the $11 billion price tag handed to states. Concerns about identity theft by incursion into the vast system should result in the shelving of the Real ID Act and its replacement with a more secure and workable system.
A bill proposed by Sens. Daniel Akaka and New Hampshire Republican John Sununu is receiving bipartisan support and appears to be the vehicle for such a shift. The Real ID Act is scheduled to be implemented next year except for states granted an exemption until the end of 2009. Under the law, Hawaii residents would be stranded -- unable to board commercial planes -- if the state were found to be in noncompliance.
The need for security against terrorism is indeed real. Seven of the 9/11 hijackers had obtained driver's licenses and identification cards without proving legal residence or identity. The law would require people to prove their identity, address, date of birth, Social Security and legal residency in order to receive magnetically encoded licenses placed into states' uniform data bases.
In a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee, headed by Akaka, Mayor Mufi Hannemann testified that the federal government should pay for the law's cost. That cost during the law's first five years is estimated at $25.7 billion.
The problems with the Real ID Act are not limited to its cost. The law was hastily written in 2005 and tacked onto a military appropriations bill, without having been subjected to congressional hearings. It was widely regarded as merely following the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.
"However," Akaka said earlier this month, "the massive amounts of personal information that would be stored in interconnected databases, as well as on the card, could provide one-stop shopping for identity thieves. As a result, Real ID could make us less secure by giving us a false sense of security."
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn, who is chairman of the full committee, said he is "concerned as I was two years ago that the Real ID Act impedes rather than facilitates the achievement of that goal" of creating secure licenses. Sen. George Voinovich, the committee's ranking Republican, said he is worried about "unmet homeland security needs" if other anti-terrorist funds are transferred to the program.
The National Governors Association has declared its opposition to executing the Real ID Act, and Hawaii is among 28 states that have introduced legislation indicating they will not comply.
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