Third Party & Independents Archives

Papers Please

President Bush is being stonewalled, not by the compliant Democratically controlled congress, but by the states, in his attempt to implement a National ID Card. But why is there so much pushback? Wouldn’t it solve a lot of problems? That is debatable, but at what cost? And specifically, what is it about THIS particular card that draws the ire of many civil rights advocates?

First, by Civil Rights Advocates, I am not speaking as I should be about every single citizen in the United States. Unfortunately it appears that that ship has sailed, when people are more concerned about their individual civil rights than what they can get back in the form of a few extra bucks in their bank accounts. Instead, I am talking about the people like the EFF, CCR and ACLU who still look at our individual civil rights as something to be stringently defended and not handed over to a tyranical government.

The story of the REAL ID Act started in the winter of 2004, as Congress worked to pass legislation to implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission. During those debates, Rep. Sensenbrenner and others argued for the inclusion of a number of restrictive provisions that opponents argued were anti-immigrant. But 9-11 Commission members spoke out against these provisions, arguing that they would not make any significant contribution to public safety and security.

After extensive public debate, as well as several hearings, a few of the harshest measures were removed from the final version of the legislation. The resulting draft eventually was passed by Congress as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

But in 2005, Rep. Sensenbrenner quickly reintroduced the controversial provisions he had removed. And on February 10, the House of Representatives passed Sensenbrenner's full package.

A month later, that same legislation was attached to a huge emergency appropriations bill to fund the U.S' military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the The Act is Division B of an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005. The House passed this massive funding bill without any public debate or hearings.

When the debate shifted to the Senate, the REAL ID Act was not included. But when the bill went to the Conference Committee, House supporters pushed strongly for the provisions to be included.

During debates, a couple of the most nefarious proposals - such as one that would have created private bounty hunters to enforce immigration law - were removed. But most of the troubling provisions remained and became law.

Unfortunately for the states, they were being told to comply with the act even through the Federal Government had not yet defined the parameters for compliance! Plans for compliance had to be started with open ended requirements in order to meet the deadline while the government still had not detailed them out.

Well, recently they did. And here's what is known about the requirements:

• If implemented, the Real ID Act could establish an enormous electronic infrastructure that government and law enforcement officials – or whoever else hacks in – could use to track Americans’ activities and movements.

• The final regulations do not set rules for the security of Americans’ personal information. The Real ID statute requires that each state provide an unspecified array of government officials in all other states and territories access to personal information stored in DMV databases – such as Social Security numbers, photos and copies of birth certificates. The Department of Homeland Security essentially leaves it up to the states to determine how to protect privacy and security. This means sensitive, personal information would only be as safe as the DMV or state office with the weakest security system.

• The law also mandates that all driver’s licenses and ID cards have a “machine-readable zone” that would facilitate tracking by the government and private sector. Real IDs would leave a digital fingerprint whenever swiped, scanned or read, which would allow the federal government, or anyone with a reader, to collect an enormous amount of information about people’s activities and interests. Encrypting the information on Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses would reduce some of the privacy threats, but the Department of Homeland Security has refused to require encryption, fearing that it would prevent easy access to the information contained in the barcodes.

• The final regulations place no limits on what types of information could be stored in the Real ID’s machine-readable zone. Nor do the regulations prohibit third-party access to such information – meaning any business equipped with a reader could capture personal information and use it to develop customer “lifestyle profiles” or simply sell the information to other businesses or to the federal government.
“Essentially, the Real ID Act puts our personal information up for sale,” Lieberman said. “It is the equivalent of an EZ-Pass for identity thieves. Under this law, the federal government conceivably could learn what books people read, what sorts of contraception they use or what medications they are prescribed.”

• The Real ID Act imposes an enormous unfunded mandate upon the states. Despite a nearly $10 billion cost estimate, the federal government has set aside only $40 million to help states pay for implementing the law. The Department of Homeland Security has made it clear that it expects individuals and state governments to pay for the costs of Real ID. At a time when New York is facing a $4 billion budget deficit, the Spitzer administration has estimated that implementation of the Real ID Act would cost New York tens of millions of dollars annually and require 10 new DMV offices.

Now people are suggesting that this card could be used for access to medical care and to help prevent the creation of meth labs! It will keep terrorists from flying or driving and stop illegal immigration in its tracks!

Except, that it won't. Many states already issue driver licenses to illegal aliens and as the 'War on Drugs' has taught us, people will still find a way to do what they want to do and get around laws that seek to prevent an activity from occurring.

Worse, it creates a single large database of information about everyone that can then be either lost/stolen or sold off to private companies.

But the real problem comes down to requiring individuals to carry an ID with them, one that BROADCASTS this information into the air so that it can be read from a distance, while travelling within the confines of the United States. Citizens of states that do not comply will have to get a passport to use any federal services and fly and, as detailed previously, in the future have access to medicine, healthcare and any other service that the federal government wishes to institute its requirement for now or in the future.

Many areas of the country are even starting to play with cameras monitoring the actions of the citizenry. Even at a time when the country that uses this approach to surveillance is having second thoughts.

In reality, thanks to support from both sides of the aisle, you will have to make sure you carry your papers around, especially if you look hispanic or are a member of a subversive, un-American group, like say the Green Party, Greenpeace, Earth First! and Amnesty International, or you could be giving up your rights to habeas corpus.

EDIT: Thanks to information provided in the comments, I have discovered that RFID has been removed from the final requirements for now. It is to be replaced with two unencrypted bar codes.

Posted by Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 5:00 PM
Comment #243187

Rhinehold… if you ain’t got nuthin’ to hide, what the heck you worried about?

I mean, c’mon! A case could be made that members of the Green Party should probably have their activities monitored…

Posted by: Doug Langworthy at January 17, 2008 6:41 PM
Comment #243191

Rhinehold, there is merit to what you say if government is completely corrupt.

As adamant as I am against corruption, I recognize the need for an ID.

I thing the ID needs to be improved (e.g. biometics), but it’s a start.

I support it until it proves to be a detriment.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 17, 2008 7:00 PM
Comment #243193

CORRECTION: I thing think the ID needs

Posted by: d.a.n at January 17, 2008 7:01 PM
Comment #243200

Great post Rhinehold, Ive been wondering when someone would get to this. I live in Nevada and the last I heard they were holding out against the feds and their unreasonable ID demands. I hope our Governor, the repub conservative he is, has what it takes to fight this but since he was our rep in the 04 time frame and lived in fear of the terrorist I wouldnt doubt that he helped get this one through the house. This encroachment on states rights has me wondering if there are any conservatives left that would go against the fascist wing of the repub party running the government. Have you heard any of the current crop of candidates display any outrage over this obvious power grab by W and his ilk? GO ACLU!

Posted by: j2t2 at January 17, 2008 7:59 PM
Comment #243204

While this may not rise to 1984 fear mongering levels, it does give one pause.

I didn’t think that I’d live in America that builds walls at the border and asks for papers as you board the trains. You’d think at least the trains would run on time and the crematoria would solve the energy crisis.

Posted by: googlumpugus at January 17, 2008 8:39 PM
Comment #243212

This is a good one:

Driver’s licenses issued by states which do not file a waiver indicating intent to comply with the new standards will not be valid for air travel or to enter federal buildings starting May 11, 2008.

Well, it has been extended, but still that’s pretty sad…

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 17, 2008 10:48 PM
Comment #243213

I went and downloaded the PDFs to read. In the meantime these are from the website linked to in the first post:

Will a national database be created that stores information about every applicant? No. REAL ID does not establish a national database of driver information. The Federal government will not collect information about driver’s license and identification card holders pursuant to REAL ID. States will continue to manage and operate databases for driver’s license and identification card issuance.

Who will have routine access to the information that the DMVs collect?
As they do now, only authorized DMV officials and law enforcement in the licensing State will have access to DMV records. Licensing authorities will be able to verify that an individual holds only one REAL ID document, and is not attempting to obtain multiple documents from multiple States. Neither the REAL ID Act nor this final rule creates greater access to State DMV records by the Federal government than already exists under current statutes for law enforcement purposes.

How does the final rule protect the privacy of license holders?
To ensure that an individual’s personally identifiable information is protected, the final rule prohibits the release and use of information inconsistent with the Federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act. Further, States are encouraged to provide even greater protections via their State laws and regulations. DHS has addressed privacy concerns and questions by integrating these important considerations throughout the development of the final rule, and States will be required to submit a Security Plan that documents, among other things, how the State is protecting personally identifiable information and data.

Does the final rule require States to collect fingerprints or iris images from drivers? What about RFID technology?
No. REAL ID does not require any biometrics beyond the photograph and signature already required by States and does not require Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

Posted by: womanmarine at January 17, 2008 11:05 PM
Comment #243215

Just think Rhinehold when the IRS comes to take us away they wont be able to put us in the courtroom or sentence us to federal prison. Of course on the other hand we wont be alllowed in the post office. What a great piece of work, I just cant beleive W didnt veto it.

Womenmarine the ACLU link Rhinehold posted has a 22 page document that differs from this.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 17, 2008 11:08 PM
Comment #243218
Will a national database be created that stores information about every applicant? No. REAL ID does not establish a national database of driver information. The Federal government will not collect information about driver’s license and identification card holders pursuant to REAL ID. States will continue to manage and operate databases for driver’s license and identification card issuance.

Let’s see, the federal government is mandating what information is collected, how it is stored and that all states must link their systems together for rapid searching by any individual in any state…

Technically, they are not actually running the system themselves. They are just mandating that the system be put into place and run according to their rules, but since they aren’t actually ‘running’ it, they don’t have to pay for it and can pass the cost onto the states. The estimated costs to be passed to the states is 23 billion dollars…

The regulations are complex, ranging from the kinds of documents required to get a license, how states databases will interact, the required elements on a compliant I.D. document’s face, how states need to store copies of your breeder documents, and how states can attempt to deal with homeless people and other cases, such as judges, police officers and victims of domestic violence and stalking.

If it walks like a duck…

Does the final rule require States to collect fingerprints or iris images from drivers? What about RFID technology? No. REAL ID does not require any biometrics beyond the photograph and signature already required by States and does not require Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

I just found the section pertaining to this, which, while it makes me happy also has me concerned that it will creep in eventually anyway. Though they are demanding ‘unencrypted’ bar code strips (Why not encrypt it?), it is better than RFID.

So are they going to be removing this nonsense from the passports as well?

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 1:24 AM
Comment #243219
Rhinehold, there is merit to what you say if government is completely corrupt.

Government is corruptable and has been given the legal right to use force on us to enforce its laws. We can not guarentee that corruptable individuals are not elected or appointed to office (I think we can all agree about that). Which is why we MUST guard our civil rights as tightly as possible against the one organization that can use force upon us.

As adamant as I am against corruption, I recognize the need for an ID.

Which is? Do I need to carry this ID around with me at all times?

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 18, 2008 1:31 AM
Comment #243225

Rhinehold, you have written an extremely fine article here. Your research and even handed treatment of the subject, in my opinion, constitutes one of WB’s finest contributions. And it is timely.

On the subject, I am with you that we, the people, need to fight this. Not on principle, but, for lack of stringent oversight, checks and balances against abusive use by future politicians as well as unauthorized personnel.

When I was born, my parents were issued a birth certificate with my foot print, name, date and place of birth. I have used that document to obtain a social security card, a driver’s license, to enter the military, and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree, among other things. I am 58 years old, and the government having a record of my existence has opened a great many doors for me. So, on principle, I don’t have a problem with a government tracking both who its citizens are, and the other essential information like address of record, phone number, employer information, etc.

When however, either that information is likely to fall into the wrong hands or my comings and goings are to be monitored, there, I draw a line of resistance. In the wrong hands, my life can be turned into a morass of red tape and bureaucracy trying to get my identity back, not to mention loss of wealth and savings. My comings and goings however are protected, as I see it, by the 1st Amendment’s “right of the people peaceably to assemble”. The first step to abridging that right is knowing with whom I am meeting, where, and when, and on what schedule. There is an implied right of privacy for American citizens to NOT be monitored and surveiled in their comings and goings, without a court order (i.e. due process).

This is yet another example of why I carry my ACLU membership card and pay my dues to that organization, despite their getting it wrong upon occasion.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 18, 2008 3:22 AM
Comment #243345

Accurate identification is necessary for withdrawing money from your bank, getting on an airline, etc.

But abuse of that information is a problem too.

Already, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation (which is why I have LifeLock and account monitoring). My identity has never been stolen, but my wife’s has been, and there are millions of cases per year with losses of over $50 Billion per year.

I don’t think rejecting some form of IDentification is the solution.

But, once again, like many other problems, it won’t be adequately addressed until not doing so becomes too painful (and expensive).

Also, remember, some of the perpetrators of 11-SEP-2001 were illegal aliens, and 18 of the 19 terrorist hijackers possessed state-issued and/or counterfeit driver’s licenses or ID cards and ALL 19 had obtained Social Security numbers (some real, some fake). Those terrorists very simply tapped into an enormous market for fraudulent documents that exists because 12 to 20+ million people have successfully breached our borders and now reside here illegally. Their presence has spawned widespread document and identity fraud that threatens our ability to distinguish illegal aliens from U.S. citizens and legal foreign residents.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 19, 2008 12:47 PM
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