REAL ID is coming from the federal government near you. Although optional for now, it won’t be long before state driver’s license offices will have to comply with stricter standards before issuing identification documents.
Since the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the high-ranking federal agency in charge of national security has been waging the War on Terror – which began the following day.
President George Bush and his successors continued overseeing congressional fundings to the tune of billions of dollars as fledgling DHS grew bigger and stronger. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is in charge of ports of entry, most notably conducting airport passenger screening services that some members of the public have reported as being over-zealous, inappropriate, and intrusive.
Now, DHS is rolling out a new arrow in its quiver of national security defense measures: REAL ID:
“Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005 to enact the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government ‘set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.’
“The Act established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.
“States have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act.”
Participation by states is voluntary, although federal agencies are prohibited from accepting driver’s licenses or identification cards from noncompliant states for official purposes such as boarding aircraft, accessing federal facilities, and entering nuclear power plants.
States are not currently required to adopt REAL ID standards because the mandate applies only to federal agencies, restricting the circumstances under which they may accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards for official purposes.
Full enforcement of REAL ID begins on October 1, 2020. REAL ID will be required to accessing a Federal facility or boarding a commercial aircraft. Individual agency policies may still apply.
Until then, DHS and its component agencies, including TSA at its airport security checkpoints, will continue to accept for identification purposes all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards issued by both compliant states as well as noncompliant states with a valid extension.
But after October 1, 2020, federal agencies – including DHS and TSA – will only be allowed to accept state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards from states which are compliant and in accordance with the federal REAL ID security standards. REAL IDs will be flagged by a special marking.
At first, says DHS, REAL ID will be required only as identification needed to access federal facilities, including TSA airport security checkpoints.
An alternative form of identification acceptable instead of REAL ID is an Enhanced Driver’s License – but they are issued today only in Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington.
Although Real ID may wriggle out of the strict definition of a national ID card – something many Americans regard as unnecessarily totalitarian and absolutely dangerous to civil rights – DHS is nonetheless creating a national database. The top-level agency in charge of national security denies this fact:
“REAL ID is a national set of standards, not a national identification card. REAL ID does not create a federal database of driver license information. Each jurisdiction continues to issue its own unique license, maintains its own records, and controls who gets access to those records and under what circumstances.”
This is a pleasant fantasy but the truth is that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been helping themselves to state driver’s license records in order to build national face recognition systems.
According to DHS, “the purpose of REAL ID is to make our identity documents more consistent and secure.”
Consistent data would allow all state and federal agency databases to import and export complete or extracted volumes of residents’ personal identifying information.
Secure data would be inviolate from hacker attacks or other unauthorized breaches such as befell credit clearinghouse Equifax in 2017 when millions of consumers’ most valuable data, including social security and credit card numbers, were stolen by thieves still at large.
To find out if your state is compliant with federal REAL ID standards, check out the DHS map. Odds are you’re good to go tour a nuclear plant, fly to Peru or visit a federal penitentiary since only five states (Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Maine) are noncompliant but have filed for deadline extensions.
Ready or not, willing or not, the federal government and private corporations are setting up intrusive biometrics programs without the public’s prior knowledge or consent. The public is assured that all of this is a benefit for the common good, to create a safer and more personalized planet with facial recognition technology and to test and explore the use of new technologies to make our world safe and wonderful.
But what if the opposite were true?
All evidence points to the FBI and ICE as federal agencies illegally creating a national identification database system where citizens with no criminal record are subjected to guilt-assuming biometric measurements and comparisons constantly, in public places, your car, and in the comfort of your SMART (eavesdropping) home.
As Jim Morrison of The Doors sang, “The time to hesitate is through.” Speak now or forever hold your peace. Are you OK with a national ID card as Phase 2 of the REAL ID national security program?