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Advertise on the Tentacle

August 20, 2007

Real ID Real Frightening

John W. Ashbury

Unless the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - or Congress itself - makes an exception, or postpones the effective date of the Real ID sections of a funding bill passed in 2005, Maryland's drivers' licenses will no longer be acceptable as proof positive of who you say you are as of May 11, 2008, just eight months away.

In actual fact many consider this law the creation of a national identification card that must include vital information that can be transferred to any individual who scans the card to make a purchase, open a bank account, get Social Security benefits, get social services help, or to make a purchase at your local convenience store.

The measure was attached to a military funding bill and was signed into law by President George Bush in May 2005. While the Real ID portion had passed the House as a separate measure, it was in trouble in the Senate until it was attached to the spending bill. It passed because no senator wanted to be counted among those voting against financial support for the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill gave the authority to the Department of Homeland Security to establish the rules and regulations - and what must be included on this new identification card. And therein lies the rub.

DHS has issued orders that the following personal information be included:

(1) The person's full legal name;

(2) The person's date of birth;

(3) The person's gender;

(4) The person's driver's license or identification card number;

(5) A digital photograph of the person;

(6) The person's address of principle residence;

(7) The person's signature;

( Physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes; and

(9) A common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements.

Among the regulations are that states issuing these new identification cards must make copies - and store - all documentation used to prove your identity. This includes your Social Security card. Another requirement is that all states must be connected to the other 49 states so that information can be shared between them.

Perhaps the most invasive requirement is that the issuing authority must verify everything. This includes your birth records and your Social Security card to be certain that you are, in fact, a legal citizen of the United States. This could curtail illegal immigration, although there are those who think the illegals will find a way around it.

Most states have asked that either Congress rescind the law, or provide the funds necessary to implement it. So far only $40 million has been funded. Officials in California, which is proceeding with implementation, have stated that it will cost its taxpayers between $200 and $400 million for their state alone.

As you might expect, Maryland's political leaders have stuck their heads in the sand and done nothing except pass a resolution protesting the law and asking for repeal. DHS and Congress are not likely to rescind the law or the regulations already promulgated.

The Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles told legislative leaders that it would need at least a year to gear up to comply with the law and the orders from DHS.

Nearly ever state will use its driver's license to comply. This means that every license will have to be renewed, even if it isn't time to do so. DMV offices across the state are already burdened, nearly to the breaking point. A visit to Frederick's facility at almost any time demands that you set aside several hours to get or renew your license. The Real ID requirement may cause you to take two days off from work to get your license.

And what of the cost? It has been suggested that you will pay hundreds of dollars to renew your license instead of the current amount - less that $100.

At present you can use your Maryland driver's license as photo identification to board an airplane to fly anywhere, including within the United States. Not so after May 11, 2008.

One solution to the "acceptable" photo identification to fly is a passport, which can be obtained through your local post office - at a cost exceeding $100. And remember that it won't be too long before you will need a passport to enter either Canada or Mexico - or to return to the United States from those two countries.

According to several news reports, it takes about three months to obtain a passport after you have filed for it. If everyone takes this route to gain an acceptable photo identification card, the trip to the DMV will look like a walk in the park.

It is certain that some form of national ID is in our future. Whether the Real ID Law is the answer is anyone's guess at this point. But like everything else, no government agency will do anything about addressing the objections to Real ID until it becomes a crisis.

Congress is too concerned with protecting itself for the 2008 elections. Democrats want to recapture the White House and are focused, if seems, almost exclusively on that task. Republicans want to retain that post. So, controversial things like Real ID will fall by the wayside.

Have fun while you can. The clouds are gathering for a storm of public protests.

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