Saturday, September 01, 2007

Anchorage Daily News Fires Another Editorial Shot At Real ID: More Bureaucracy, Less Security, Less Freedom

While the Columbus Dispatch continues to soil their pages with repeated slander and character attacks on Columbus Police Officer Susan Purtee (HERE and HERE) over her appearance in at least three YouTube videos imperiously proclaimed "racist" and "anti-Semitic" by Columbus's civic plutocracy, the Anchorage Daily News has performed a far more useful service to the reading public. On August 31st, 2007, ADN fired their second editorial shot this year in opposition to Real ID.

Their first editorial column, published on March 8th, 2007, enumerated the chief drawbacks of this bureaucratic, Byzantine, and cumbersome legislation. But it also focused on the Alaska DMV's preemptory implementation of some elements of Real ID, which spawned a lawsuit by the My Alaska ID privacy advocacy group, who claimed the DMV has no authority to implement the regulations without legislative approval. Just two weeks later, ADN published a guest column by Alaska author Heather Lende, who chronicled her frustrating experience trying to renew her driver's license (in fairness, she changed her last name years ago after getting married, but failed to formalize the change in court). In response to the lawsuit, Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage Hillside) submitted HB3 to confer this authority upon the DMV, but it got stranded in the Finance Committee. Rep. Lynn attempts to justify HB3 in his Alaskadistrict31 blog, which he personally maintains to communicate with his constituents.

In response to the specific concerns of the Anchorage Daily News and other Alaskans, Rep. Jack Coghill crafted HJR19, designed to opt Alaska out of Real ID. But it got stranded in the House State Affairs Committee.

So the Anchorage Daily News decided to try it again, and spice up the rhetoric a bit. And for good reason - as the deadline edges closer, the urgency to pull the plug on this measure grows. By the end of 2009, the federal government will require every state to produce drivers licenses which effectively serve as a national ID card. The states, mostly at their own expense, must demand to see a birth certificate and proof of residence, verify those documents, make sure the license can easily be read by federal scanners, and link all the license information to a national database. If Alaska rejects this intrusive, burdensome federal mandate, the feds will refuse to accept Alaska's ID for "federal purposes" and Alaskans will need a PASSPORT to board any domestic flight or visit any federal building or national park. That's right, a PASSPORT, just like in the old Soviet Union, where Soviet citizens had to carry internal passports to travel from one city to another!

And what would we gain? Here's the most pertinent excerpt from ADN's editorial:

- More bureaucracy. States would have to vet and maintain huge volumes of personal information, and would have to do most of it on their own dimes. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has made it clear that the states will pick up most of the tab, approximately $23 billion nationwide over 10 years, by Homeland Security's own estimate.

- Less security. Mr. Chertoff complains 8,000 separate ID cards for various purposes in the United States make it hard to recognize forgeries and protect our borders from illegal immigrants or terrorists. But the Electronic Privacy Information Center, for example, argues that a single card is like having one key to many doors. In the wrong hands, that key can shatter security and privacy on a vast scale. Security experts also warn that terrorists and other criminals will find ways to forge REAL ID cards, no matter how expensive and difficult, to steal identities of honest citizens.

- Less freedom. A passport to fly to Seattle? To visit Denali? To walk into the Social Security office in downtown Anchorage? Ridiculous.

And the Anchorage Daily News is uncharacteristically blunt about their objections this time around. They say it's an "absolute lie" to claim that a federally-dictated driver's license is not a national ID. Way to go, ADN; this insensitive, arrogant Federal government of ours needs some tough talk directed at it for a change, considering that the feds are getting ready to add insult to injury by imposing more stringent criteria for dealing with SSA "no-match" letters.

And just like No Child Left Behind, which is obsessed with "credentialing", favors testing over teaching, and left Bush Alaska's schools struggling to shoehorn a "one-size-fits-all" mandate into their unique cirumstances, mostly at Alaska's expense, Real ID likewise imposes a disproportionate financial burden upon the states. Those states which balk will find their citizens relegated to second-class status, permanently suspect, because the feds will reject any state ID that doesn't comply with federal rules.

Duane Bannock, head of Alaska's Division of Motor Vehicles, expresses no opinion about Real ID, but reminds us that final regulations haven't been published yet, and holds out hope that the revision may address some objections. However, both the methodology and the concept are equally flawed.

The latest count shows that 17 state legislatures have expressed official legislative "reservation" against Real ID in one form or another. In 2006, Alaska Representatives Paul Seaton (R-Homer) and Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage) led a successful bipartisan effort to delay our compliance. However, another bipartisan effort this year, HJR19, led by Rep. John Coghill, got stranded in committee. So, despite an additional effort by the Alaska Libertarian Party to spur action by adopting a resolution against Real ID in June 2007, Alaska is still on the fence.

ADN wants us off the fence. Not only should the state legislature pass HJR19, but Congress needs to repeal Real ID, which was tucked into a 2005 spending bill to cover the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and tsunami relief. This meant that members of Congress who wanted to vote against Real ID would have been blckmailed into voting against the war effort and tsunami relief, leaving them vulnerable to spinmeisters and prospective opponents alike. To address the latter problem, Congress should also quit sneaking controversial legislation into popular bills; that's far more unethical than the so-called "earmarks" that the media is constantly crying about.

Commentary: Actually, the concept behind Real ID isn't quite as bad as it sounds. Identification ought to have some standard attributes; name and age should be easily located, particularly for those who must process people quickly and efficiently, or for those in the hospitality industry required to verify age. A more standardized system would be more difficult to counterfeit.

Bit placing chips on the cards would also increase vulerability to identity theft. In addition, the certification process is simply too demanding and inflexible; not all American citizens or legal residents will have the right forms of certification since this need was not anticipated years ago. I already learned of the case of one man in Florida who had to give up the driving privilege simply because he could not provide Real ID-compliant certification to the DMV to get his license renewed. This absolutely, positively should NOT happen. If a few illegal aliens sneak in under the wire because we loosen up the process, so what? I'm of the school of thought that believes it is better for nine guilty parties to go free rather than unjustly convict one innocent party. Real ID must be re-designed so that it places the burden of proof back on the government where it belongs, and minimize the identity theft potential.

Opting Alaska out of the program is the best way to convince the feds that they need to go back to the drawing board and completely reconsider both the methodology and the concept.

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