Some state driver’s licenses are no longer valid ID documents in many government buildings, as federal agencies and departments begin implementing a law critics say is a de facto national ID.
Susan Podziba found that out the hard way when security wouldn’t let her into a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) building because the only ID she had was her Massachusetts driver’s license.
“It was like wow, I am a US citizen and suddenly my Massachusetts ID isn’t good enough,” Podziba told The Boston Globe. Security guards wouldn’t accept Podziba’s driver’s license as valid identification because it does meet standards imposed by a federal law called REAL ID.
“It was bizarre, and then I really felt embarrassed,” she said.
Including Massachusetts, six states have yet to comply with the REAL ID act: Alaska, Arizona, Louisiana, Maine and Oklahoma. Eventually, citizens in those states won’t be able to board an airplane without a legitimate identification.
The lack of identification forced Podziba to end up holding a meeting with high level NOAA officials at a cafeteria. REAL ID was passed in 2005 but Homeland Security only started enforcing it at some federal facilities in July. The law requires that states take and store digital photos of applicants that is accessible by the federal government and by photo-recognition software. Critics say it puts in place a system to track all government citizens.
“A national ID can be used in times of crisis for really, really horrible things,” Jim Harper of The Cato Institute told Off The Grid Radio.
Critics have warned that the REAL ID act is open to abuse in the future. That’s because in its list of locations where an acceptable driver’s license is required, the law’s text says it “includes but is not limited to” federal buildings, aircraft and nuclear plants “and any other purposes” that the Department of Homeland Security secretary requires. That means that in the future, DHS could require the use of an acceptable ID at just about anywhere.
(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth interview with Harper about the REAL ID act here.)
Persons with Driver’s Licenses Will Be Kept off Planes
People with noncompliant driver’s licenses could be kept off of commercial aircraft as early as 2016, The Globe reported. The same people will be kept out of almost all federal buildings and nuclear power plants starting in January 2015.
“The whole thing has been kind of a bit of a farce,” Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said of REAL ID to The Globe. “I don’t hold out an awful lot of confidence it will be implemented in a timely way and have any effect on border security or national security.”
Dunlap’s office is now advising Maine residents to bring a second form of ID such as a passport with them when they visit federal buildings. Dunlap’s office has declined to comply with REAL ID because of the high costs of implementation, which would include new computers and background checks for state employees.
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“For any American citizen, they should find this whole program completely laughable and ridiculous,” Dunlap said.
Passed After September 11
The REAL ID Act was implemented based on suggestions from the commission that investigated the September 11 tragedy. The commission noted that a number of the terrorists behind that atrocity used driver’s licenses to board planes.
REAL ID was passed in 2005 but has been implanted gradually due to backlash from states.
“Years of study have shown that this does not do much for security,” Harper told Off The Grid Radio. “Should we spend as a society millions of dollars, should we threaten our own liberties … just so we can cause a minor inconvenience to a future terrorist? I don’t think we should.”
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