Friday, December 21, 2007


The Reality of Real ID

Real ID means real headaches, critics contend

“Maryland legislators want to stop the state Motor Vehicle Administration from trying to comply with federal requirements that they believe would burden the state’s treasury and invade the privacy of innocent citizens.”

Now normally I am sensitive to claims of governmental overreaching but my natural sympathies were squashed when I learned that (*sigh* my) State Senator Jennie Forehand (do I really need to indicate her party?) is one of the legislators leading the charge.

You know, the same Jennie Forehand who, when considering whether to allow the state to take over 11 miserably failing schools in Baltimore City, decided to vote for legislation that prevented such a takeover and explaining her vote “…as a courtesy to her Baltimore colleagues.” Fearing her opposition to Real ID was nothing more than “a courtesy” to her illegal immigrant constituents, I knew I had to do some additional readings.

First thing I learn is that Maryland is not required to comply with Real ID. I know this because it says so right in the proposed rule:

“The Act does not require any State to issue REAL ID driver's licenses and identification cards. States may choose to issue driver's licenses and identification cards that cannot be accepted by Federal agencies for official purposes (referred to in this document as ``non- REAL ID driver's licenses and identification cards'').”

Unfortunately, though, there will come a time when some Marylanders will want to jump on a plane and will be distraught to learn that their Maryland-issued driver’s license is worthless for that purpose. That’s because Federal agencies want to ensure that the ID used to gain access to air travel is reliable (insert tried-but-true factoid about the 9/11 hijackers having obtained 13 driver’s licenses.)

But Ms. Forehand is committed, first and foremost, to keeping it real:

“But critics say the security goal of Real ID does not match up with reality.

‘‘People say, ‘How can you oppose this? This will protect the country,’” Forehand said. ‘‘I ask if they’ve ever heard of ID theft. People who say things like that don’t know how things go on in the real world.”

ID theft?? But the only way Real ID could lead to ID theft here in Maryland is if Maryland didn’t have adequate safeguards for protecting the information presented. The Real ID rules do identify which supporting documents are deemed most reliable but they are consistent with source documents already trusted. For example: A valid unexpired U.S. passport, a certified copy of a birth certificate or an unexpired employment authorization document (EAD).

Instead Ms. Forehand is more or less signaling that she feels an agency of our state government is not to be trusted with information we present them. That may be a reasonable prejudice but as a member of the legislature I would think she would better serve us by fixing the problems at the MVA rather than bad-mouthing the DHS’s proposed response to terrorist concerns.

The article presents another inaccuracy:

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID effort would mean driver’s licenses would show citizenship or immigration status...”

But here’s what the actual proposed rule states:

“The following information would be required to appear on State-issued driver's licenses and identification cards: full legal name, date of birth, gender, a unique driver's license or identification card number (not the SSN), a full facial digital photograph, address of principal residence (with certain exceptions), issue and expiration dates, signature, physical security features and a common machine-readable technology (MRT).”

…which pretty much describes what is on my current driver’s license. If ID theft is Sen. Forehand's concern, why not just eliminate licenses period?

No doubt about it, security measures today are often an unreasonable pain-in-the-ass and the Real ID provisions can undoubtedly add some temporary inconveniences...but here’s my question: if we were talking instead about required proof for receipt of reparations or access to Tribal gambling proceeds, would Ms. Forehand really feel comfortable in letting the likes of me merely have to out-maneuver Maryland’s current ID standards to get access to such goodies?

Instead Ms. Forehand is more or less signaling that she feels an agency of our state government is not to be trusted with information we present them.
Actually the information would have to be shared with all other states, as well as the feds of course...

I think most people are concerned with the idea of having a national id-- something most of us associate with Fascist regimes. And doubly so because they are machine read, which means, at the very least, where you go will likely be kept track of and analyzed later by some spooks. At least, that's historically how these things go.
sory for the delay Sean but actually you're wrong - the Voter ID rules do not involve sharing individual ID info among the various agencies - they just require a more uniform and reliable basis for getting an ID. Are you similarly concerned with government agencies sharing info for tax collection purposes?
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