Lingle requests time to implement REAL ID
The governor asks to delay the program in Hawaii until 2010
Hawaii wants to delay until 2010 implementation of a national identification card program requiring state residents to carry driver's licenses with new security controls beginning this summer to board airplanes.
Gov. Linda Lingle, in an August letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, said the state needs more time to coordinate the program's launch with counties.
The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 to combat terrorism, demands anyone seeking to board an airplane or enter a federal building after May to present a REAL ID-compliant driver's license.
Lingle said Hawaii should receive the extension to comply with the program because it is the only place where counties issue driver's licenses while the state is in charge of ID cards.
The waiver, which has not yet been granted, would push back the state's deadline to begin issuing REAL ID cards until after Dec. 31, 2009, said Liane Moriyama, administrator for the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center.
Chertoff, who was revealing final details of the REAL ID plan yesterday, said that in instances where a particular state does not seek a waiver, its residents will have to use a passport or a newly created federal passport card if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.
The plan's chief critic, the American Civil Liberties Union, called Chertoff's deadline a bluff -- and urged state governments to call him on it.
"Are they really prepared to shut those airports down? Which is what effectively would happen if the residents of those states are going to have to go through secondary scrutiny," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's technology and liberty program. "This is a scare tactic."
Hawaii and 16 states have objected to REAL ID, passing legislation or resolutions arguing it would be expensive and raise privacy issues by setting up electronic databases of information.
To make the program more appealing to cost-conscious states, federal authorities reduced the expected cost to $3.9 billion from $14.6 billion, a 73 percent decline, Homeland Security officials said.
But Mayor Mufi Hannemann, who supports the program's goal of improving security, still worries it would place a heavy burden on the city's budget, said his spokesman, Bill Brennan.
The city is still calculating the program's cost under the revised format, but it has previously estimated initial expenses of about $7.7 million to set up the system and another $18 million during its first five years.
The city has a $4.87 million driver's license budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year, the city issued 230,616 driver's licenses.
"It is still a costly, unfunded federal mandate for us," Brennan said. "That would be something the city would have to pay for, but where the funds would come from is part of the issue."
Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who has introduced legislation to repeal the REAL ID program, said yesterday the final regulations still impose "a nearly $4 billion unfunded mandate on states." The guidelines, he added, "fail to provide strong privacy protections for the volumes of personal information that will be stored and shared among the states and the federal government."
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were the main motivation for the changes. The hijacker-pilot who flew into the Pentagon had four driver's licenses and ID cards from three states. The Homeland Security Department and other officials say the only way to ensure an ID is safe is to check it against secure government data.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.