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• REAL ID Standards Still Not Released. A Department of Homeland Security spokesman announced that draft standards for REAL ID driver's licenses won't be released until the fall or winter, giving the states less than 2 years to overhaul their motor vehicle departments. In May 2005, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which requires states to meet federal ID standards. If states that don't comply with the law by 2008, then their ID cards would not be accepted for federal purposes, such as boarding airplanes or entering federal courthouses. (June 13)
• ID Database to be Used for Criminal Checks in United Kingdom. The Criminal Records Bureau in the United Kingdom plans to integrate the national ID cards database into the criminal record vetting process, beginning in 2009. For a charge, the bureau conducts background checks on job applicants who would work with children and vulnerable adults. But its system has had a rash of technical problems since its launch in 2002. (May 23)
• New Hampshire Holds Off on REAL ID Rejection. The New Hampshire Senate voted 14-9 to create a study group analyzing the pros and cons of implanting the REAL ID Act, rather than rejecting the program outright, as the New Hampshire House of Representatives did. New Hampshire had been chosen as the pilot state for the federal REAL ID program, which mandates particular features to be built into state drivers' licenses. The standardization process threatens to turn state drivers' licenses into a de facto national ID card. The state-created commission will report its findings in November. (May 11)
• United Kingdom Will Use ID Cards Database as National Register. The UK government says it will use the newly created national ID card database as a national population register of personal information. The data would include name, address, date of birth and a unique ID reference number. The UK government also has called for the development of a national children's register. Earlier this month, UK lawmakers approved a measure requiring Britons applying for passports before January 2010 to get an identity card. A Briton can opt out, but if he does, he will be put into a national opt-out database. (Apr. 19)
National ID cards have long been advocated as a means to enhance national security, unmask potential terrorists, and guard against illegal immigrants. They are in use in many countries around the world including most European countries, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Currently, the United States and the United Kingdom have continued to debate the merits of adopting national ID cards. The types of card, their functions, and privacy safeguards vary widely.
Americans have rejected the idea of a national ID card. When the Social Security Number (SSN) was created in 1936, it was meant to be used only as an account number associated with the administration of the Social Security system. Though use of the SSN has expanded considerably, it is not a universal identifier and efforts to make it one have been consistently rejected. In 1971, the Social Security Administration task force on the SSN rejected the extension of the Social Security Number to the status of an ID card. In 1973, the Health, Education and Welfare Secretary's Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems concluded that a national identifier was not desirable. In 1976, the Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification rejected the idea of an identifier.
In 1977, the Carter Administration reiterated that the SSN was not to become an identifier, and in 1981 the Reagan Administration stated that it was "explicitly opposed" to the creation of a national ID card. The Clinton administration advocated a "Health Security Card) in 1993 and assured the public that the card, issued to every American, would have "full protection for privacy and confidentiality.) Still, the idea was rejected and the health security card was never created. In 1999 Congress repealed a controversial provision in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 which gave authorization to include Social Security Numbers on driver's licenses.
In response to the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been renewed interest in the creation of national ID cards. Soon after the attacks, Larry Ellison, head of California-based software company Oracle Corporation, called for the development of a national identification system and offered to donate the technology to make this possible. He proposed ID cards with embedded digitized thumbprints and photographs of all legal residents in the U.S. There was much public debate about the issue, and Congressional hearings were held. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich testified that he "would not institute a national ID card because you do get into civil liberties issues." When it created the Department of Homeland Security, Congress made clear in the enabling legislation that the agency could not create a national ID system. In September 2004, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge reiterated, "[t]he legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security was very specific on the question of a national ID card. They said there will be no national ID card."
The public continues to debate the issue, and there have been many other proposals for the creation of a national identification system, some through the standardization of state driver's licenses. The debate remains in the international spotlight - several nations are considering implementing such systems. The U.S. Congress recently passed the REAL ID Act of 2005, which mandates federal requirements for driver's licenses. Critics argue that it would make driver's licenses into de facto national IDs.
What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about?
President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable, federally approved ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.
What does that mean for me?
Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.
The House of Representatives has approved an $82 billion military spending bill with an attachment that would mandate electronically readable ID cards for Americans. President Bush is expected to sign the bill.
The Real ID Act would establish what amounts to a national identity card. State drivers' licenses and other such documents would have to meet federal ID standards established by the Department of Homeland Security.
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The Real ID Act hands the Department of Homeland Security the power to set these standards and determine whether state drivers' licenses and other ID cards pass muster. Only ID cards approved by Homeland Security can be accepted "for any official purpose" by the feds.
How will I get one of these new ID cards?
You'll still get one through your state motor vehicle agency, and it will likely take the place of your drivers' license. But the identification process will be more rigorous.
For instance, you'll need to bring a "photo identity document," document your birth date and address, and show that your Social Security number is what you had claimed it to be. U.S. citizens will have to prove that status, and foreigners will have to show a valid visa.
State DMVs will have to verify that these identity documents are legitimate, digitize them and store them permanently. In addition, Social Security numbers must be verified with the Social Security Administration.
What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes."
Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.
Why did these ID requirements get attached to an "emergency" military spending bill?
Because it's difficult for politicians to vote against money that will go to the troops in Iraq and tsunami relief. The funds cover ammunition, weapons, tracked combat vehicles, aircraft, troop housing, death benefits, and so on.
The House already approved a standalone version of the Real ID Act in February, but by a relatively close margin of 261-161. It was expected to run into some trouble in the Senate. Now that it's part of an Iraq spending bill, senators won't want to vote against it.
What's the justification for this legislation anyway?
Its supporters say that the Real ID Act is necessary to hinder terrorists, and to follow the ID card recommendations that the 9/11 Commission made last year.
It will "hamper the ability of terrorist and criminal aliens to move freely throughout our society by requiring that all states require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. for their drivers' licenses to be accepted as identification for federal purposes such as boarding a commercial airplane, entering a federal building, or a nuclear power plant," Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, said during the debate Thursday.
You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean?
The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.
In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.
Will state DMVs share this information?
Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."
Is this legislation a done deal?
Pretty much. The House of Representatives approved the package on Thursday by a vote of 368-58. Only three of the "nay" votes were Republicans; the rest were Democrats. The Senate is scheduled to vote on it next week and is expected to approve it as well.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan has told reporters "the president supports" the standalone Real ID Act, and the Bush administration has come out with an official endorsement. As far back as July 2002, the Bush administration has been talking about assisting "the states in crafting solutions to curtail the future abuse of drivers' licenses by terrorist organizations."
Who were the three Republicans who voted against it?
Reps. Howard Coble of North Carolina, John Duncan of Tennessee, and Ron Paul of Texas.
Paul has warned that the Real ID Act "establishes a national ID card" and "gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit."
Is this a national ID card?
It depends on whom you ask. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, says: "It's going to result in everyone, from the 7-Eleven store to the bank and airlines, demanding to see the ID card. They're going to scan it in. They're going to have all the data on it from the front of the card...It's going to be not just a national ID card but a national database."
At the moment, state driver's licenses aren't easy for bars, banks, airlines and so on to swipe through card readers because they're not uniform; some may have barcodes but no magnetic stripes, for instance, and some may lack both. Steinhardt predicts the federalized IDs will be a gold mine for government agencies and marketers. Also, he notes that the Supreme Court ruled last year that police can demand to see ID from law-abiding U.S. citizens.
Will it be challenged in court?
Maybe. "We're exploring whether there are any litigation possibilities here," says the ACLU's Steinhardt.
One possible legal argument would challenge any requirement for a photograph on the ID card as a violation of religious freedom. A second would argue that the legislation imposes costs on states without properly reimbursing them.
When does it take effect?
The Real ID Act takes effect "three years after the date of the enactment" of the legislation. So if the Senate and Bush give it the thumbs-up this month, its effective date would be sometime in May 2008.
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Care as long as it doesn't have a 666 on it
Not sure why people would be opposed. We already have them in the form of a state driver's license, and you already have to carry a social security card. Funny thing about a social security card, it is the year 2006 and they are still made of paper that can easily be copied.
You also have a state ID card on the front and rear of your vehicle, IE; License Plate. You cannot even drive down the street without the government knowing who you are. Therefore, I am all for a National ID. Anything that helps keep out illegals.
keep out illegals, the governemnt is already welcoming them with open arms and in fact is trying to, or already is, giving them free health care and social security benefits.
the same benefits that you and i are forced to pay into and we are not even guaranteed anything from it even though we have a number issued to us.
they are going to get our money for free.
if i get a national ID card the first thing im going to do is put it next to a powerful magnet.
we are not the problem, the national ID card is only the first step in the government trying to control the population.
do not be a lame ass duck and accept it.
it's the final step. We already have thousands of laws that do nothing but create revenue for the government while trying to limit and control the people. Many people are found guilty every day for crimes that have no victims. The states already have driver's licenses and non-driver's licenses for personal ID and you can't cash a check with most businesses without one. Social Security numbers are already used almost exclusively by the federal government for personal ID. Why do we need anything else?