National id Essay

     “May I have your federal id please?” In approximately three years, Americans from Maine to California will hear these chilling words before being allowed to board an airplane, enter a federal building, open a bank account or apply for Social Security.  The REAL ID Act was sneaked into an appropriations bill by Congress and passed without debate on May 10, 2005.  The new law blackmails state governments into exploiting drivers’ licenses to create a draconian tool of the federal homeland security apparatus. Touted as anti-terrorism and immigration reform in Post-911 America, your new state driver’s license will certainly make you feel insecure knowing that Big Brother is inappropriately monitoring the movements and transactions of every American.

     The REAL ID Act establishes a national ID card by mandating that states include certain minimum identification standards on driver’s licenses. “It contains no limits on the government’s power to impose additional standards. Indeed, it gives authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security to unilaterally add requirements as he sees fit” (Paul).

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     A National ID card is a superficial “quick fix” to preventing illegal terrorists from entering our country. As the American Civil Liberties Union points out it offers a “false sense of security” because it would enable individuals with an ID, who may in fact be terrorists, to avoid heightened security measures.  After all, “an identity card is only as good as the information that establishes identity in the first place. Terrorists and criminals will continue to be able to obtain – by legal and illegal means – the documents needed to get a government ID, such as birth certificates and social security numbers (“National ID Cards: 5 Reasons”).

 A national id system using advanced technology would actually increase the threat to safety and privacy and create “one stop shopping” for criminals. The use of radio frequency identification chips (RFID) embedded into licenses, which the Department of Homeland Security has indicated it prefers, is an insecure and invasive technology (French). Criminals could remotely steal the contents of the card, which can hold a plethora of information including health records, bank and credit card information, family history, fingerprints and space for iris scan verification.

     Further, subjecting every citizen to surveillance will actually make us less safe, not in the least because it will divert resources away from tracking and apprehending terrorists and deploy them against innocent Americans. “Worse, the Real ID Act cannot guarantee safety. A super-secure license would not have stopped the 9/11 terrorists because they entered the country legally” (“Suspicious”).

     To effectively combat terrorism, the federal government should repeal the National ID law and focus its attention not our citizens, but the individuals entirely responsible for terrorism – a small group of foreigners. Instead of driver’s licenses, the government should develop RFID-embedded Visa’s for non-citizens. Electronic ID’s could track the date a VISA expires, maintain employment status, record air, bus and train travels, list the address where a foreigner resides, store fingerprint data and maintain an individual’s home country information. Should a foreigner seek to drive, the federal government would handle license administration. All the information of non-citizens would be stored in a database assessable to U.S. border agents and other federal agencies.

The Department of Homeland Security is currently testing an RFID ID for foreigners who go through checkpoints entering the U.S. in Arizona, New York and Washington. Passports from different countries must adhere to standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to operate worldwide. The ICAO’s international specifications call for a minimum data capacity of 32KB, but the U.S. passports will include twice that storage space should Big Brother opt to add new biometric data, such as fingerprints or iris scans, in the future (Weiss 2).

America does not need a National ID. Electronically monitored passports, which are already available, suffice. This month the State Department began issuing RFID passports for government workers with “official” or “diplomatic” clearances. By October of next year, U.S. Citizens applying for travel overseas will receive RFID passports as well (Weiss 1). “Paper passports now in use would be replaced as they are renewed, according to a State Department spokesman. About 8 million passports are renewed annually out of some 57 million passports in circulation” (Weiss 2).

These anti-terrorism measures are the only justifiable aspects of the REAL ID Act of 2005 as is a provision which sets aside funding to complete the three mile hole in the fence on the U.S./Mexican border near San Diego (Paul). Other than these provisions, the REAL ID Act creating a defacto National ID is a really big headache especially to States.

     Local governments will be responsible for picking up the bill to create the new federally approved driver’s license system. Currently, 49 states use either magnetic stripes or 2-D technology to protect individuals’ licenses, and have encountered minimal identity theft problems. This technology is easily produced and inexpensive since many states already use a storage system to keep the information secure. The DHS, however, has expressed a preference for driver’s licenses using radio frequency identification technology, a costly, less secure and more invasive endeavor. If used, states will have to build a new system to verify, track, and store RFID information, costing an estimated $17.4 billion. Not a dime would come from the federal government. As a result, the unfounded federal mandate would be passed onto taxpayers through higher fees from $25 on average to at least $90, a fee which will fall disproportionately on lower-income taxpayers and those on fixed incomes, including many senior citizens (French 19).

     As Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) pointed out, “while states technically are not forced to accept the standards, any refusal to comply would mean their residents could not get a job, {open a bank account,} receive Social Security or travel by plane” (“National ID Cards Will Not”).

     The license renewal process will be a major inconvenience to citizens as well. Anyone who seeks a drivers’ license, including current license holders, will have to provide multiple documents to verify their identity: photo ID, a birth certificate, Social Security card, a home address document such as a cable bill. The law would then compel Department of Motor Vehicle employees to verify the documents against federal databases and store the documents and a digital photo of the card holder in a database. Democratic Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack believes that the law makes motor vehicle department employees “quasi-immigration officials”…(Gearino)  It would require that state department of motor vehicle clerks become, in effect, the nation’s immigration police.

     New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson considers the law bad policy. “A licensed illegal alien is easier to keep track of. And since denying a driver’s license to a person willing to risk his life to get here is unlikely to be much of a deterrent to coming, the law will do little more than increase the number of unlicensed and uninsured motorists” (“Deputizing”).

     Besides the burdensome cost, National ID’s will end up like social security numbers and become a universal identifier for industry, government and institutions. The same outcome will undoubtedly happen to the National ID card (“National ID Cards”). ”Law enforcement, tax collectors, and other government agencies would want use of the data. Employers, landlords, insurers, credit agencies, mortgage brokers, direct mailers, private investigators, civil litigants, and a long list of other private parties would also begin using the ID and even the database, further eroding the privacy that Americans rightly expect in their personal lives” (“National”). Another example is the potential for unsolicited marketing use. Bars and restaurants could buy scanners to verify that customers are old enough to drink. These scanners could collect personal information including addresses and birth dates (“Suspicious”).

     Just as we must not allow terrorists to threaten our lives, we must not allow government to threaten our liberties. It would be less costly to just secure the borders, crack down on ID Theft, fraud and illegal visitors than to waste tax dollars on monitoring law-abiding citizens.  Does anyone seriously think of the United States as the “Land of Liberty” any more? If so, they’re living in the past. Welcome to the United Police States of America.

Works Cited

 “Deputizing the DMV.” 25, July 2005. The Wall Street Journal Online.  10, Dec. 2005 ;;

French, Angela. “Real ID: Big Brother Could Cost Big Money.” 17, Oct. 2005. Citizens Against Government Waste Online. 08, Dec. 2005 Washington, DC. ;;

Gearino, Dan. 10, Dec. 2005. “Governors rip feds over new ID cards.” Quad-City Times Online. Davenport, Iowa. 09, Dec. 2005 ;;

McCullagh, Declan. “Faq: How Real ID Will Affect You.” 06, May 2005. CNET Online. 08,   Dec. 2005  ;;

“National ID Cards: 5 Reasons Why They Should Be Rejected.” 11, Feb. 2002. American Civil Liberties Union Online. 09, Dec. 2005.

Paul, Ron Representative. “National ID Cards Will Not Stop Terrorism or Illegal Immigration.” 2-, April 2005. 10, Dec. 2005 ;;

“Suspicious License.”  09, May 2005. Boston Globe Online. 10, Dec. 2005 ;;

Weiss, Todd R. “Federal Rules Adopted for Electronic U.S. Passports.” 27, Oc. 2005 ComputerWorld Online.  09, Dec. 2005 ;,10801,105750,00.html;