"REAL ID" - REAL REBELLION BREWING
Last month, Maine became the first state to pass legislation declining participation in the national ID system mandated by the Real ID Act of 2005. State-level legislation either repudiating Real ID, asking Congress to repeal its worst privacy-violating provisions, or asking for a delay while states study the issue, exists in various stages (sometimes passed by one House but not the other), or is being considered, in other states: as of this writing, the list consists of Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, Washington State, and Wyoming. In other words, a state-led rebellion against Real ID is brewing. Let’s review the relevant history.
The Real ID Act of 2005 was passed by Congress not on its own (nonexistent) merits but folded into the larger Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsumani Relief, 2005 (PL 109-13) as its Division B. This bill, which included appropriations for the Iraq War, was considered must-pass by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on May 11, 2005. This means that the Real ID Act was passed as the equivalent of a stealth measure—the sort of thing author Claire Wolfe called land-mine legislation in a classical article. The Real ID Act does not just federalize our driver’s licenses but hand them over to the Department of Homeland Security. It calls for the creation of mammoth databases of information on law-abiding U.S. citizens. It places state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) in the position of having to become domestic spies—and it does so without any thought to the resources required, much less the dangers (e.g., of identity theft). It was signed into law despite the opposition of dozens of groups all across the political spectrum.
An impact analysis released last September by the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is devastating. These groups show that efforts to implement Real ID will create a massively expensive logistic and bureaucratic nightmare. State DMVs have neither the technology nor the manpower to implement this gigantic unfunded federal mandate—nor the legal means to compel compliance from those they must contact to secure verification of documents. The cost to my state (personal correspondence from the executive director of South Carolina DMV) could range from $25 to $28 million, with recurring costs in the $10 million to $11 million range. The study just cited estimates the total cost of implementing Real ID at over $11 billion over a five year period, with upfront costs of around $1 billion! The costs to individual U.S. citizens attempting to obtain or renew a driver’s license? Unknown, although I have one estimate at $100!
This analysis overlooks a crucial point: the Real ID Act is unconstitutional! The Constitution does not give any branch or any agency of the federal government this kind of power! It should come as no surprise, however, if no one associated with this thing has read our country’s founding document. Thus, as matters currently stand, unconstitutional or not, Real ID goes into effect on May 11, 2008. When it goes into effect, here is what we are looking at: without a Department of Homeland Security approved conversion of one’s driver’s license or other personal ID into the Real ID, law-abiding U.S. citizens will not be able to board an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security, obtain a passport, enter federal buildings or otherwise do business with the federal government or other commercial endeavors requiring federally-mandated standards of personal identification.
Those of us who have been following these matters for close to ten years saw this coming. There was, after all, a stealth effort to give every American a national ID card during the Clinton years. That law, also a stealth measure buried deep inside an omnibus appropriations bill, would have gone into effect in October 2000. It was thwarted. The post-9/11 era has given us a political climate more amenable to setting up a surveillance state. The official line on Real ID, originating with one interpretation of 9/11 Commission recommendations, is that it will hamper illegal immigration and protect us from terrorism. Obviously, though, if the federal government was serious about either, they would start enforcing existing immigration laws, cease imprisoning border patrol agents for doing their jobs, and secure our border with Mexico. But of course, Real ID is not about immigration, it is not about border control, and it is not about terrorism. It is about tagging and monitoring U.S. citizens.
The elites behind this boondoggle may have bitten off more than they can chew. I recently obtained a document entitled “Administrative Burdens on the States Imposed by the Real ID Act.” It states that “Real ID changes the very nature and mission of DMVs, from responsible primarily for ensuring the safe operation of vehicles on state roadways, into wide-ranging enforcement agents of the federal government in areas from rules to Social Security fraud.” The document goes on to enumerate the requirements of the Real ID Act, along with the problems.
One of the worst of these stems from the requirement that states “shall verify, with the issuing agency, the issuance, validity, and completeness of each document required to be presented” to get the Real ID. The required documents include an existing photo ID, proof of date of birth, proof of Social Security number, proof of address, and proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status.
Take just the birth certificate requirement. Just presenting one’s birth certificate is not good enough, since birth certificates can be forged. There are five problems. (1) DMVs will need to contact the municipality that issued the license and ask them to confirm that they have a birth certificate on file. Over 6.000 different jurisdictions issue birth certificates. (2) Many of these files do not exist in electronic form. Therefore, a clerk will have to locate the physical document in paper files stretching back decades. (3) Birth certificates are not standardized; thus the DMV clerk and the jurisdiction clerk will have to compare copies to verify the “issuance, validity and completeness” of the original. The potential for bureaucratic snafus is enormous. Some might be as seemingly minor as a discrepancy in the spelling of someone’s name due to a typo by a careless clerk. (4) The DMV clerk will then have to certify completion of the verification process. In order to complete the conversion from the present system to Real ID this will have to be done for approximately 190 million driver’s license holders in the United States.
Finally, (5) there will be people for whom birth information cannot be located, much less verified. Over decades of time, records are misplaced, lost, accidentally destroyed, or rendered unobtainable when facilities close. Even electronic records are damaged or destroyed when hard drives crash and files are not properly backed up. And believe it or not, there are people who do not have birth certificates—especially the thousands of now-elderly people who were not born in hospitals.
Take the case of James Scott, 81, born at home in South Carolina but now living in New Jersey. Last year New Jersey began implementing a “six point” ID verification program to begin complying with the Real ID Act. Scott brought his Social Security card and a photo-ID issued by the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, but these didn’t satisfy the new requirements. He was told he needed either a recent passport or a birth certificate. He had neither. Thus his effort to renew his New Jersey driver’s license was thwarted. Other family members relied on him for transportation, so New Jersey’s refusal to renew his license caused them unnecessary hardship. Scott, a Navy veteran of World War II, told local media, “I served this country. The president didn’t want my birth certificate when he sent his letter drafting me…. I can’t produce something that doesn’t exist.” He quit driving when his license expired. His daughter is attempting to cobble together South Carolina records. Complicating matters is that South Carolina is reviewing records for 27 James Scotts!
There are no provisions in the Real ID Act for such people. States such as New Jersey have attempted to set up “exceptions” clauses for the James Scotts of the country—setting up a two-tiered society: those who are Real ID compliant versus those who are not. The former, of course, will have many opportunities unavailable to the latter.
Birth certificates are just one problem area. Others include: the requirement that states set up extensive electronic databases with interstate data-sharing networks. These will require complex administrative, technical and security measures. DMVs will have to expand into massive bureaucracies. In addition to the higher fees mentioned above, those attempting to obtain or renew their driver’s licenses will face longer lines, poorer service, and greater time-expenditures often through return trips after locating (if they are able to do so) records capable of meeting the new requirements. Ironically, we will probably be less secure. Identity thieves have been caught hacking into DMV databases, and more than one DMV clerk has been implicated in identity theft. Thousands of hastily-trained clerks doubtless to be paid rock-bottom wages risk magnifying this problem! Can anyone in his right mind believe this system can be made secure?!
The situation is even worse! Real ID presents the potential for what may be called a public-private “security-industrial complex,” as information on citizens in these databases is sold to private entities. In recent years we have seen the emergence of private sector data aggregators with names like ChoicePoint, Acxiom, and Lexis-Nexis. Collecting electronic data is now a multi-billion-dollar industry that builds dossiers on individuals using a variety of sources. The federal government is increasingly turning to such companies for help with security functions. The FBI, for example, pays millions to ChoicePoint, and the Transportation Security Administration wants to use such firms in performing identity checks on airline passengers. The risks of identity theft through data theft just get larger.
Finally, there is the real possibility that radio frequency identification (RFID) chips will be placed in Real ID compliant cards—eventually if not right away. The Real ID Act speaks only of requiring “a common machine-readable technology, with defined minimum data elements,” leaving unspecified what Homeland Security will require. Well-connected corporations such as VeriChip®, which manufactures RFID chips, are ready to move. RFID chips in consumer merchandize can be made more efficient than cash, checks or credit cards as the merchandize changes hands. Real ID is thus a potential stepping stone to a cashless society where every legal transaction is conducted electronically—and recorded. It is also a stepping stone to a state of affairs where government spooks can monitor your every activity. They need only scan your ID by remote as you walk or drive within range of their equipment. The final step, of course, will be implanting RFID chips in human beings—marking us all like cattle. (This is already being done to farm animals through the National Animal Identification System.) Dissent will be far easier to control. Become identified as a potential threat, and the authorities may elect simply to disable your chip by remote. The dissident will be rendered unable to buy his next meal.
Is there hope of derailing this train before it gets that far? Writing the above paragraph, I had a wicked thought, one which brings to mind the several people who emailed me regarding my article promoting Ron Paul’s candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2008. A few readers wondered what Dr. Paul’s chances could really be. It is true that our “big box” political parties are controlled by globalist oligarchs who don’t want a genuine Constitutionalist anywhere near the White House! One astute reader pointed out that I’d stated this myself in The Real Matrix: “ … elected officials in national elites answer to [the super-elite]. Those without the tacit approval of the super-elite have no chance of coming within a thousand miles of the Oval Office. The masses of people, meanwhile, will have been ‘educated’ to adjust to society, which in this context means following the crowd and automatically withholding support from anyone who ‘can’t get elected.’”
Is this still true, or could circumstances change? The wicked thought: allow Real ID to run its course. Beginning on May 11, 2008, and over the course of the year and ensuing years, it will smack millions of presently unsuspecting people right in the kisser. They will find themselves treated like second-class citizens or even criminals by bored and indifferent clerks if they cannot produce the required papers on demand. Variations on the James Scott scenario may well be repeated all across the country. Some, of course, will buy the official propaganda about government “making us all safer.” Others will become very upset at long lines, repeat trips, and red tape. DMVs may have to take measures to deal with angry citizens, such as increased police presence. Some drivers may allow themselves to be temporarily sidelined while they struggle to locate pieces of paper they haven’t needed for years. Even those who have all their papers will gasp at the expense. Some will probably will take their chances and drive illegally, with expired licenses. One of the side effects of Real ID may well be an epidemic of unlicensed drivers. Ordinary people, after all, rely on their cars to get to work, obtain groceries and do the other things that make up a normal American life today. They will not willingly give this up to satisfy politicians and bureaucrats. Real ID will thus further erode respect for the law.
Faced with the direct and immediate threat of not being able to drive legally, more and more people will laugh at pseudo-pundits who try to dismiss concerns about Real ID as “conspiracy theory” or some other such tripe. They may or may not realize that we are now in more danger from our own government (and its controlling oligarchs) than we are from terrorists. Mounting frustration and anger among those having trouble renewing their driver’s licenses in 2008 could be channeled into grassroots support for a candidate for the Presidency who, given the chance, will put the brakes on our fast track to a surveillance police state. Dr. Paul is the obvious choice, and Tom Tancredo who already enjoys some visibility from his stand on illegal immigration would make an excellent running mate. Tancredo, as most readers probably know, has launched his own exploratory committee. The two, whose views are not identical, should figure out a way to work together, and draw their supporters into a single, unified movement.
The rise to prominence of a team promising a swift and Constitutional resolution to the potential Real ID train wreck and to larger issues involving the future of U.S. sovereignty could make 2008 a very interesting year, to say the least. Reflecting the concerns of a couple of other readers, I do hope that if Dr. Paul pursues his candidacy he hires some good bodyguards and surveillance people of his own—history shows pretty clearly that our ruling banking oligarchs place little value on the lives of those opposing their goals of world domination. They are not the only ones willing to threaten someone wanting to end our federal government’s present policy of open borders. Tancredo canceled a Florida appearance a few weeks ago because of a death threat. Matters could come to a head in this society in 2008. Will we continue our headlong rush towards corporatist enslavement, or begin the journey back to individual freedom under Constitutional government?
rebellion against Real ID has started at the state level, and I consider
this good news! Realization is dawning within the states that Real
ID isn’t going to work under present conditions. Thus last week, Maine
took the leap, and may become the test case plunging the whole national
ID scheme into crisis. Above I listed other states considering legislation
sometimes repudiating and sometimes calling for delaying implementing
Real ID. We need repudiation in all 50 states. If every state
in the Union declines to participate in this scheme and remains steadfast
despite likely federal attempts at bribery, Real ID is finished. The
feds will have to back down. No one really thinks they will allow
the airlines to go under, for example, when citizens can no longer
pass its draconian security measures. As the saying goes, good riddance
to bad rubbish.
© 2007 Steven Yates -
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Steven Yates earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 1987 at the University of Georgia and has taught the subject at a number of colleges and universities around the Southeast. He currently teaches philosophy at the University of South Carolina Upstate and Greenville Technical College, and also does a little e-commerce involving real free trade. He is on the South Carolina Board of The Citizens Committee to Stop the FTAA.
He is the author of Civil Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (1994), Worldviews: Christian Theism Versus Modern Materialism (2005), around two dozen philosophical articles and reviews in refereed journals and anthologies, and over a hundred articles on the World Wide Web. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina, where he writes a weekly column for the Times Examiner and is at work on a book length version of his popular series to be entitled The Real Matrix (hopefully!) to be completed this summer.