DHS Confirms Real ID Act Regulations Coming; States Rebel

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 02-28-2007
Events at the state and federal level are converging around the Real ID Act, as a spokesperson from the Department of Homeland Security confirmed Feb. 28 that regulations outlining technology mandates could be handed down as early as March 1.

At the same time, as many as 38 states, under a coalition formed by Missouri Representative Jim Guest, have confirmed that they will rebel against the act through legislation in their own states.

Congressman Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, requested Feb. 27 that the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hold a hearing to further discuss the Real ID Act, which mandates that all states overhaul their driver's license procedures by 2008 to include machine-readable technology and a database that holds citizen data, to be connected to other state databases and to a federal database.

"On the one hand [Congressman Davis] thinks it vitally important that we remain steadfast in our support for more secure IDs. On the other hand, we can't simply ignore the rising tide of discontent at the state level," said David Marin, Republican staff director of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, in Washington.

Marin said there are some fundamental questions that need to be answered at a hearing: Why has it taken so long for the regulations to come from DHS, which passed the Act in 2005? Does the statute, as enacted, provide DHS enough flexibility to grant states more time to comply with the mandate? And, more importantly, are the questions at the state level really about time and money, or, "Is there something else at play here?" Marin said.

According to Rep. Guest, there is indeed something else involved: the revocation of basic, fundamental rights granted citizens by the U.S. Constitution.

"We're supposed to be a government of, by and for the people. Government's role is to protect citizens' freedom. In this case, they're not doing that," said Rep. Guest. "[The Real ID Act] is a direct frontal assault on the freedom of citizens when [the federal government] wants us to carry a national ID."

Guest has two primary concerns about the new driver's license standards—the privacy and security threats inherent in the readable technology and the associated databases, and the fact that there is no judicial or congressional oversight for the DHS mandate.

"My concern is that even if they water [the Real ID Act] down a bit, DHS will try and accomplish what they want to with some other legislation," Guest said. "Homeland Security has total control; there is no judicial or legislative control over this. Once they issue [the Act] there is no way of stopping them."

Read the full story on eWeek: DHS Confirms Real ID Act Regulations Coming; States Rebel