Lawmakers raise privacy and cost issues associated with the national ID law.
Republicans and Democrats alike are harshly criticizing the Bush
administration's Real ID program, which requires states to digitally store individuals'
identity documents and provide electronic access to all other states.
Implementation of the controversial law signed by Bush in 2005 has twice
been delayed, and states currently have until 2011 to meet the standards
outlined in the legislation.
"The massive amounts of personal information that would be stored in
state databases that are to be shared electronically with all other states, as
well as the unencrypted data on the Real ID card itself, could provide one-stop
shopping for identity thieves," Sen. Daniel Akaka said at a Senate Homeland
Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing April 29.
Akaka, the Democratic chairman of the committee, has introduced legislation
to scrap the Real ID Act entirely, replacing it with a "negotiated"
rulemaking between the states and the federal government. Akaka's proposal has
the support of fellow Democrats Patrick Leahy, Jon Tester and Max Baucus, along
with a number of Republicans.
"It is unclear what privacy and data security laws would apply to this
network of networks and what redress mechanisms are in place for individuals
whose data is lost or stolen in another state," Akaka said. "Because
of the lack of privacy details in Real ID, this expansive effort may create a
false sense of security while actually making Americans more vulnerable to
Republican Susan Collins, the ranking member of the committee, said while
the two extensions have delayed any short-term crisis, "they do not
resolve other problems with Real ID."
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that the Real ID program will
cost $10 billion to implement, with states being forced to pay about $4
billion. Stewart Baker, an assistant secretary at Homeland Security, told the
committee the actual amount might be lower.
"It is, as I see it, the worst kind of Washington
D.C. boondoggle," said Tester. He said
the program is being "implemented in a style that makes ordinary folks
The Real ID program has its origins as a response to the terrorist attack of
Sept. 11, 2001. Most
of the hijackers acquired some form of U.S.
identification document-some by fraud-which helped them in boarding commercial
flights and renting cars. The 9-11 Commission recommended stricter requirements
for the issuance of driver's licenses and other forms of personal
Concerns over privacy, state's rights and cost stalled the legislation until
Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., attached the bill as a rider to a military
appropriations bill. Since then, the law has been mired in controversy.
"States are struggling to figure out how they are to pay for what is
essentially an unfunded mandate," Akaka said. "The matter is even
more important given the current economic climate. States are trying to figure
out how to pay for schools, roads, health care and other central services in a
tight budget. Now they have to figure out how to pay for secure ID cards."