Feds Give States More Time on Real ID Act

At 11:10 a.m. the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, announced the implementation of the Real ID Act. A recommendation of the 9/11 commission, the Real ID Act suggests uniform requirements for state IDs and drivers licenses.

The idea would be to make it harder for criminals to obtain a valid identification, and to make it easier for officials to judge the validity of a license. The new requirements would ask states to have their applicants provide documentation for the following:

     1. Identity

     2. Date of Birth

     3. Legal Status

     4. Social Security

     5. Address

These five requirements could be met by submitting various forms, such as a passport, proof of permanent residence, a Social Security card or W2 form, as well as a bill for proof of a permanent address.

DMVs across the country would take a photo of the applicant, scan or copy sufficient documentation such as a birth certificate, and follow up with a common sense verification, meaning contacting a landlord and/or place of employment.

Chertoff says that 47 out of the 50 states are now capable of the Social Security requirements asked by the Real ID Act. The government is asking that the states comply before May 11, 2008. However, during Chertoff's press conference today he said as long as a state has an excuse it could have this completed by Dec. 31, 2009.

"I'm announcing today that states may seek justifiable extensions and obviously they have to prepare, ultimately, prepare a plan for compliance," Chertoff said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, has spent the past two years suggesting revisions to the act. Signed in 2005, the Real ID Act was attached to an emergency supplemental bill which passed this week.

"The secretary has now conceded that states do, in fact, need more time to comply with this mandate," Collins said. "States will not be required to make a complicated case for the waiver. It will be an automatic extension."

In order to urge states to hop on board with the federal program, the government is willing to offer 20 percent of total DHS state funding available for states use. This works out to approximately $11 billion of tax payer money, averaging approximately $20 per person.

"I think most people would say, you know, that's pretty reasonable -- that's $20 well spent," Chertoff said.

Criticism of the act not only includes cost but also privacy rights issues. Privacy rights organizations such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center feel that the implementation of rules and regulations by the federal government to regulate states might resemble a big brother-type phenomenon.

Marc Rotenberg, the center's executive director, is skeptical of the act because of what he sees as privacy and security risks.

Chertoff urges that people hear him clearly and that states not take the measure the wrong way.

"The idea here is not to jam the states, but it is to make sure that we move briskly and efficiently to a goal that I think we all believe is important," said Chertoff.

Chertoff suggested that the Real ID Act is a way for the federal government to work in conjunction with the states in order to protect the American people and prevent another 9/11.

"I'm assuming we're all going to work together in good faith. And I'm confident that that's going to be what happens."