Saturday, March 10, 2007

Anchorage Daily News Opposes REAL ID Implementation In Alaska

On March 8th, 2007, the Anchorage Daily News published an editorial expressing concern about the impacts of the Department of Homeland Security's REAL ID, questioning whether the benefits would outweigh the drawbacks. ADN believes at this time that the burdens would indeed outweigh the blessings. Click HERE to view the entire editorial. Graphic at left courtesy of

REAL ID is a program conceived by the Department of Homeland Security in which states will be required to adopt uniform driver's license and identification card requirements. These Federal mandates, which will be unfunded (meaning states will be required to pay for them), will necessitate stricter documentation, cost us billions of dollars, take us a long way to a national ID card, and realistically do very little to make the homeland more secure.

In fact, Alaska's Division of Motor Vehicles already has preemptorily adopted new regulations requiring stricter documentation for newly arrived residents applying for driver's licenses without waiting for a legislative mandate. No longer does another state's license stand for proof of identification and legal status. New Alaskans must have documents proving their legal name, birth date, address and Social Security number, and a secondary proof of identification.

The DMV's preemptory implementation spawned a lawsuit by the My Alaska ID privacy advocacy group, who claim the DMV has no authority implement the regulations without legislative approval. Lawmakers are currently considering House Bill 3 to confer such authority upon the DMV.

Not only does ADN hope the suit succeeds, but they even urge the legislature to scuttle HB3 and forget about REAL ID and its stricter license requirements altogether, a bad idea that caught a ride into law on a 2005 appropriations bill for the war in Iraq and tsunami relief. Rejected by Congress in 2004, REAL ID passed in the budget bill without a single hearing. That's probably the only way it could have passed.

The Anchorage Daily News highlights four major objections to REAL ID:

- Americans are leery of a national ID card. You don't have to suffer paranoia about unmarked helicopters to oppose a national ID or its like, especially one that could carry vital information about any of us without privacy protections, a card that could subject us to increasing government control of travel, business and freedom. REAL ID provisions allow Homeland Security to add more elements to the card later -- such as fingerprints and retinal scans.

- Estimates for program costs -- an unfunded federal mandate -- begin at about $10.7 billion and range to $22.4 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and Department of Homeland Security. The states would pick up the tab. That means Alaskans would pick up their share.

- States would be required to verify the authenticity of documents presented as proof of identification, adding to delays and costs.

- No privacy provisions are included. For example, one of the requirements that Homeland Security could add to new driver's licenses is a radio frequency identification chip embedded in the license. The State Department already has these in passports, but has adopted privacy protections -- the chip can't be scanned when the passport is closed. REAL ID requires no such safeguards, nor reimbursement for states that try to provide them.

And numerous states have now started backing away from this legislation. Not only has Maine's legislature voted overwhelmingly in January to reject REAL ID, but similar legislation has been passed by one chamber in the legislatures of Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming. Bills rejecting Real ID have also been introduced in Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia, with more expected in the coming weeks. That's 23 states so far which have problems with this piece of legislation - nearly half. Even the Department of Homeland Security has admitted the measure is flawed and has delayed implementation from May 2008 to the end of 2009. That should be time enough to either fix it or kill it.

Meanwhile, there's no need for Alaska to take any steps toward compliance with REAL ID. Increased need for documentation will put a burden on thousands of law-abiding citizens, while giving no guarantee of catching either terrorists or illegal immigrants.

BOTTOM LINE: Until REAL ID enhances security and privacy and liberty, Alaska should say no.

Proponents of REAL ID claim the drawbacks are overrated and are outweighed by the potential benefits. The Department of Homeland Security attempts to address these concerns on a Q & A page of their website. Here is an excerpt:

REAL ID Proposed Guidelines: Questions & Answers

Question: What is REAL ID?

Answer: REAL ID is a nationwide effort intended to prevent terrorism, reduce fraud, and improve the reliability and accuracy of identification documents that State governments issue.

Question: Where did this effort originate?

Answer: The 9/11 Commission recommended that the U.S. improve its system for issuing secure identification documents. In the Commission’s words, “At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.” The Commission specifically urged the federal government to “set standards for the issuance of…sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” Congress responded to this key recommendation by passing the REAL ID Act

Question: What is a REAL ID license needed for?

Answer: The REAL ID Act requires that a REAL ID driver’s license be used for “official purposes,” as defined by DHS. In the proposed rule, DHS is proposing to limit the official purposes of a REAL ID license to those listed by Congress in the law: accessing a Federal facility; boarding Federally-regulated commercial aircraft; and entering nuclear power plants. DHS may consider expanding these official purposes through future rulemakings to maximize the security benefits of REAL ID.

Question: Did DHS consult with the States in the development of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)?

Answer: DHS consulted with State officials and State representative associations in the development of this proposed rule through meetings and conference calls in 2005 and 2006. Many States and State representative associations participated in these events and submitted written comments for consideration in the development of this proposed rule.

Question: How does the NPRM protect privacy of license holders?

Answer: Continuing to protect the privacy of license holders was a key consideration for DHS in the development of this NPRM, which contains a detailed analysis of the three key privacy issues posed by the Act: (1) the connectivity of the databases; (2) the protection of the personal information stored in the State databases; and (3) the protection of the personal information stored on machine readable technology on the DL/IDs. We invite comments on whether the steps outlined within the NPRM are appropriate and adequate.

Question: Does DHS support an extension of the May 2008 deadline? Does DHS think that States will be ready?

Answer: DHS understands that the States are concerned about the tight timeline required to comply with the REAL ID Act. The Secretary and other DHS officials have discussed this matter with various Governors. Since DHS wants all States to be able to comply with the Act, DHS has set-up a procedure in the NPRM for States to obtain extensions until December 31, 2009. DHS expects States that have been granted an extension to begin issuing compliant licenses no later than January 1, 2010, in most cases with a roll-out of licenses as they expire.

Question: What does a State have to do and when does it have to do it?

Answer: States that need an extension from DHS should file a request by February 1, 2008, though States are encouraged to inform DHS of its intention to request an extension as soon as October 1, 2007. DHS can grant an extension through December 31, 2009. A State that is complying with the REAL ID Act must begin issuing REAL ID-compliant licenses and identification cards no later than May 11, 2008. However, States that have been granted an extension will be required to issue compliant licenses and identification cards no later than January 1, 2010. All licenses and identification cards held by individuals from a State must be compliant by May 10, 2013.

Question: States contend they do not have the funds to implement REAL ID. How does DHS expect states to pay for REAL ID?

Answer: DHS will enable States to use up to 20% of a State’s Homeland Security Grant Program funds for REAL ID compliance efforts. This would make substantial funds available to States beginning this calendar year. Congress, not DHS, can appropriate additional funds to help States meet their compliance obligations. [Ed. Note: This means that without additional Congressional appropriations, states would still have to fund 80% of the cost. However, this also reveals another way to kill REAL ID - convince Congress NOT to grant additional appropriations.]

Question: What do DMVs need to do to check documents establishing a person’s identity?

Answer: All source documents must be verified with their issuing agency. DHS has identified appropriate methods for verifying identity, lawful status, date of birth and SSN with the issuing agency. DHS is also assisting the States in the development of querying services that would assist states in querying other States to determine whether an individual currently holds an active license in another jurisdiction.

Question: How long will a REAL ID license be valid for?

Answer: The proposed regulation requires that REAL ID licenses be valid for a period limited to eight years. If a state has maintained the source document images, the DMV may re-verify that information without requiring that the applicant re-present the source documents. If, however, the State does not have the information and images of source documents at the time of the renewal, the State would need to require the applicant to re-submit any appropriate, missing documentation. [Ed. Note: What a bureaucratic nightmare. In addition, any such database of information and source document imagery could be hacked.]

Question: Is this a National ID card?

Answer: No. The proposed regulations establish common standards for States to issue licenses. The Federal Government is not issuing the licenses, is not collecting information about license holders, and is not requiring States to transmit license holder information to the Federal Government that the Government does not already have (such as a Social Security Number). Most States already routinely collect the information required by the Act and the proposed regulations.

Question: Who will have access to the information that the DMV will be required to collect?

Answer: As they do now, authorized DMV officials in the licensing State will have access to DMV records. DMV employees in one State cannot “fish” the records in another State. The proposed rule requires States to include a comprehensive security plan for safeguarding information collected, stored, or disseminated for purposes of complying with the REAL ID Act, including procedures to prevent unauthorized access, use, or dissemination of applicant information and images of source documents retained pursuant to the Act and standards and procedures for document retention and destruction. [Ed. Note: Any "security plan" can be hacked and defeated.]

Question: Will a national database be created that stores information about every applicant?

Answer: No. The REAL ID Act and these regulations do not establish a national database of driver information. States will continue to collect and store information about applicants as they do today. The NPRM does not propose to change this practice and would not give the Federal government any greater access to this information.

Question: Will REAL ID change how my license looks?

Answer: The proposed rule does not specify precise designs or layouts of state issued licenses. Instead, DHS is proposing minimum standards that will appear on the face of the card. The proposed regulation would require each of the following on the face of REAL IDs; space available for 39 characters for full legal name; address of principal residence; digital photograph; gender; date of birth; signature, document number; and machine readable technology. Additionally, temporary REAL IDs would need to clearly state that they are temporary. Non-REAL IDs issued by compliant States would need to clearly state on their face that they are not acceptable for Federal official purposes and use a unique design or color that clearly distinguishes them from REAL ID licenses.

Question: Do the proposed regulations require States to collect fingerprints or iris images from drivers?

Answer: No. Though States may independently choose to implement biometrics into their driver’s license process, the NPRM does not require a State to collect fingerprints, iris images, or other biometric data in connection with obtaining a license and has no plans to serve as a repository for the face images the states will collect.

Question: What is the Machine Readable Technology specified in the NPRM?

Answer: The regulations propose the use of the 2-D barcode already used by 46 jurisdictions (45 States and the District of Columbia). DHS leans towards encrypting the data on the barcode as a privacy protection and requests comments on how to proceed given operational considerations.

Question: Will REAL ID driver’s licenses include RFID cards?

Answer: The NPRM does not specify the use of RFID cards as a minimum standard. States may independently choose to implement an RFID solution, in addition to the standard 2-D barcode, to meet their constituents' needs.

DHS has developed a 162-page document defining what consitutes "proof of identity". Click HERE to view the entire document in PDF format (scroll down to pages 32-56 to view core requirements and definitions). Here's the basic list:

- Valid unexpired U.S. passport
- Certified copy of a birth certificate
- Consular report of birth abroad
- Unexpired permanent resident card
- Unexpired employment authorization document
- Unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. visa affixed
- U.S. certificate of citizenship
- U.S. certificate of naturalization
- Another REAL ID driver's license of identification card issued subsequent to REAL ID standards

Clearly, if a 162-page document is required just to set forth standards for identity documents, DHS has gone way over the top. It is clearly too complex, too bureaucratic, and the storage system and technology too indefensible against hackers.

Standardization of driver's licenses is a desirable and achievable goal. However, standardization alone does not require such an eleaborate bureaucracy. We all have to show ID to buy tobacco at Wal-Mart, regardless of age. We all have to at least recite our date of birth to buy tobacco at Carr's (and even show ID upon request if one looks "young"). Haven't we had enough of proving our legitimacy multiple times daily? REAL ID is clearly too much of a burden to accept in the name of this so-called "War on Terror". I agree with the Anchorage Daily News - either change REAL ID, or scrap it.

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