Let me see your papers!

The states are just beginning to realize what a nightmare implementing the REAL ID Act is going to be:

Implementing recently passed legislation designed to secure, streamline and standardize the identification granting process among states is likely to be an expensive proposition for citizens and state governments. That is what several governors told colleagues and federal officials behind closed doors at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association this weekend, according to press reports.

States expect the costs of complying with the Real ID Act to top $500 million, the Financial Times reports.

Republican Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, chairman of the Governors Association, did not hide his criticism of the measure. “They have created a national nightmare and they’ll probably be driving up the cost of the driver’s licenses by three- or four-fold,” the AP quoted Huckabee saying.

But the greatest cost to the country cannot be measured in dollars….
The Congressional Budget Office says that REAL ID will cost only $100 million to implement, and that’s the level of funding offered by the Federal government.  But the states are estimating that REAL ID will cost $500 million to $750 million to implement, leaving a nationwide $400 million funding gap that must be plugged by the states.

Sure, the general populace is more than willing to support measures to increase security, but wait until they find out that it may entail long waits at the DMV to get a new license.  One of the biggest unanswered questions the states have is does every currently issued license (227 million of them) have to be reissued?

But dollars aside, the social costs of REAL ID will be staggering.  REAL ID will become the defacto national identity card.  No ID, no flying, no banking, no Social Security check:

The Real ID Act’s identity cards will be required not only if one wants to drive, but also if one seeks to visit a federal government building, collect Social Security, access a federal government service, or use the services of a private entity (such as a bank or an airline) that is required under federal law to verify customer identity.

In other words, it will be well nigh impossible to live without such an ID. That creates not only a huge incentive for citizens and residents to procure IDs, but also a huge incentive for states to comply with this unfunded mandate: If they didn’t, their citizens and residents wouldn’t be able to get access to any of the services or benefits listed above.

In order to get a new approved license – or conform an old one to Real ID — individuals will have to produce several types of documentation. These must prove their name, date of birth, Social Security number, their principal residence (verified by, for instance, a utility bill or lease), and that they are lawfully in the U.S.

States will be responsible for verifying these documents. That means that, when it comes to birth certificates and other documents, they probably will have to make numerous, onerous confirming calls to state and municipal officials or companies to verify the documents authenticity. (Paperwork can easily be faked.) In addition, they will have to cross-check Social Security numbers, birthdates, and more against federal databases.

Once Real ID is in effect, all fifty states’ DMVs will share their information in a common database – and may also verify information given to them against various federal databases. In addition, it’s very possible that such data will be sold to commercial entities: Some states already allow driver’s license data to be sold to third parties.

Finally, the IDs must include a “common machine-readable technology” that must meet requirements set out by the Department of Homeland Security. And, somewhat ominously, Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements–which could include “biometric identifiers” such as our fingerprints or a retinal scan.

Washington State is already planning to implement biometrics in their driver’s licenses:

Washington state officials estimate it will cost $50 million to comply with a new federal law that requires states to turn their driver’s licenses into a national identification card.

The good news is the state has a bit of a head start.

That’s because the Department of Licensing switched to digital licenses several years ago, and in January will start collecting a unique “biometric identifier” – a facial scan converted into a mathematical formula – from some drivers.

Under provisions of a law passed by the Legislature in 2004, collecting that scan will be voluntary. However, the new federal law will make that mandatory in 2008.

Other problems with REAL ID:

Many commentators predict that believe radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will be placed in our licenses. (Other alternatives include a magnetic strip or enhanced bar code). In the past, the Department of Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips.

RFID tags emit radio frequency signals. Significantly, those signals would allow the government to track the movement of our cards (and hence, of us as well).

And not only the government: Private businesses may be able to use remote scanners to read RFID tags too, and add to the digital dossiers they may already be compiling. If different merchants combine their data – you can imagine the sorts of profiles that will develop. And unlike with a grocery store checkout, we may have no idea the scan is even occurring; no telltale beep will alert us.

The State Department – which is going to be use RFID devices in our passports – is including some safeguards, but the Real ID Act requires none.

If the security provisions are not addressed, then Wal-Mart (or any other store with proper equipment) could read your REAL ID RFID as soon as you enter their store.  Any public or private agency could outfit themselves with radio receivers and read the RFID signals of any individual carrying a REAL ID that passes by, collecting whatever data is contained in the RFID.  

But how does REAL ID affect Ellsworth, Kansas?

Federal law will make County Treasurer Paula Schneider do something that would be plain rude on the streets of this little town: treat friends as strangers.

Never mind that she knows practically everyone who walks into her office and wants a driver’s license. Under the REAL ID Act meant to deter terrorists, Schneider will have to make neighbors prove who they are.

REAL ID will become the perfect tool for those whose real agenda is divisiveness.  The underlying assumption of the legislation is that no one is to be trusted, even people you have known your entire life.  This is nothing but a continuation of the atomsphere of fear fostered by those who profit from us being divided.  The ultimate integration of each state’s REAL ID data into a single linked database will be a huge gift for identity thieves.  People will have to pay much more for their licenses and without them you will be unable to bank or fly or maybe even get your mail from the post office.  REAL ID is a terrible blow to the country.  Sensenbrenner is an evil, evil man, a true tool of the corporatists who will profit the most from this piece of shit legislation.

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