Like the little girl said in the 1982 movie, Poltergeist, “They’re baaaaack.” In real life, it’s not the evil spirits emerging from haunted television sets that are returning, but the discredited national identification card program, known as “RealID.” This law was passed in 2005 by Republicans in the Congress and supported by President Bush in the White House. Following its launch and multi-year lead-in, however, RealID was widely condemned by privacy advocates from across the ideological spectrum, and by state governors and legislatures concerned with the size of the unfunded mandate it represented.
Facing such broad opposition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended the time states would have to comply with the Act’s edicts designed to ensure that all state drivers’ licenses were alike, to May 11, 2011; just two months away. The Act requires, for example, that in order for a state-issued driver’s license to be considered valid identification for any “federal” purpose (which the feds consider to include just about anything), it must contain the precise information (and biometrics) the feds require, in the format they require, and based on only acceptable supporting documentation the feds require.
Because of the high cost of complying with these mandates, and in some instances based on privacy concerns, many states refused to comply with the law and some even passed legislation prohibiting compliance. That state governments would have the audacity to thus disagree with the federal government has been a source of considerable pique by Republicans, including former House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and current Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY). Now that their party is back in control of the House, Republicans Sensenbrenner and King, joined by current Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, recently wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and demanded that she not extend the May 11th compliance deadline any further. Thankfully, Napolitano ignored the Republicans’ demands and this week extended the deadline to January 15, 2013.
The Republicans in the Congress will likely continue their crusade for a national identification card, using the familiar “the-sky-is-falling” argument. In their assessment, unless all Americans have the same, federally-defined identification card, terrorists will destroy the country. The cost of such heavy-handedness to the average citizen will be extreme.
If and when RealID takes full effect, anyone wishing to board a plane, enter a federal building (including a courthouse), or visit any federal government office to obtain a benefit (such as Social Security or veteran’s benefits), and who fails to present a RealID-compliant driver’s license, would be turned away.
Americans not only should encourage the Obama Administration to further postpone implementation of the RealID program, but demand it take steps to drive a stake through the heart of this unnecessary and privacy-invasive Act, so it cannot ever again rear its ugly head.
By Bob Barr — The Barr Code.