Tag: real id

Fake ID Foolishness

In this USA Today story, identity-based security mavens sputter about the availability of high-quality fake IDs that include digital holograms, credit-card quality plastics, and specialty inks found in “more secure” drivers’ licenses. Along with adding technical security measures to cards, states that once made driver licensing easier reversed course and discontinued issuing licenses over the counter so they could new-fangle their IDs. All this inconvenience and expense has done nothing but require bad guys (and college students) to order their driver’s licenses at sites like ID Chief.

One could have predicted all this:

The more valuable a driver’s license is for access to work, mobility, goods, and services, the more likely people will seek to acquire this document illegally. Reforms … may “stiffen” state-issued identification card processes, but they leave it brittle.

Meanwhile the expense and inconvenience of restricted access to identification cards will fall on all Americans—including the ones who need drivers’ licenses for the simple purpose of driving. Honest, law-abiding Americans will suffer impingement on their freedom of action, their individual power, and their security from identity-based frauds. The REAL ID Act is full of reforms that do not fix.

Instead of “strengthening” our national identification system, policies that reduce the value of breaking identification systems will improve identification. Jujitsu is needed much more than brawn.

That’s yours truly, writing in the 2006 Cato book, Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood.

Will Pennsylvania Join the REAL ID Rebellion?

Since Congress passed a national ID law called the REAL ID Act in 2005, states have been registering their objections. The law tries to coerce states into implementing the feds’ national ID and would have them issue uniform drivers’ licenses and put drivers’ personal information into a federal data exchange. By 2009, fully half the states had barred themselves from implementing REAL ID or passed resolutions denouncing the law.

The states continue to play their constitutional role in counterbalancing federal overreach. I noted a few weeks ago how New Hampshire is resisting E-Verify, the federal background check system. But—as I also recently wrote—federal “bureaucrats and big-governmenters” are working to revive their national ID.

Pennsylvania may soon join the REAL ID rebellion. The legislature there has sent Governor Tom Corbett (R) a bill to opt the state out of REAL ID’s national ID system.

As we often see, though, there is confusion about the relevance of IDs and a national ID to national security. In the story linked above, state representative Greg Vitali (D) is cited saying that the 9-11 hijackers were carrying multiple phony drivers’ licenses. “And I’m just concerned with regard to the message that we send by backing away from more secure IDs,” he says.

Representative Vitali is mistaken on the facts. The 9/11 hijackers did not have false identification documents. The 9/11 Commission report said: “All but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of U.S. identification document, some by fraud.” Those “frauds” were things like fibbing about the length of their residency in Virginia, not their names.

The security issues are complicated. I dealt with them in my book, Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood. But here’s what it boils down to: Had REAL ID been the law prior to 9/11 and operating perfectly—100% compliance, no corruption at DMVs, and no forgery of breeder documents or licenses—that might have required the 9/11 attackers to keep their visas current. That’s the extent of its security value.

How many hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars should we spend, how much of Americans’ privacy should we give up, and how much power should we transfer to the federal government when the only benefit is to mildly inconvenience some future attacker?

Many of the threats we imagined in the years after 9/11 were not real. Sleeper cells? Osama bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.

Terrorism didn’t get its start on 9/11, and it will never be non-existent. But our strong nation can celebrate its victory over terrorism by deep-sixing the national ID card. That’s the “message” that would come from defeating the federal government’s national ID law.

Bureaucrats and Big-Governmenters Work to Revive Their National ID

There are some rich ironies in a recent Stewart Baker blog post touting the slow crawl toward REAL ID compliance he believes states are making. One of the choicest is that his cheerleading for a national ID appears under a Hoover Institution banner that says “ADVANCING A FREE SOCIETY.”

No, having a national ID would not advance a free society. You could say “ADVANCING A SECURE SOCIETY” but even then you’d be overstating the case. A national ID would reduce the security of individuals massively in the aggregate in exchange for modest and arguable state security gains.

Speaking of which, Baker posts a picture of Mohammed Atta’s Florida driver’s license in his post. The implication is that having a national ID would have prevented the 9/11 attacks. In fact, having a national ID would have caused a mild inconvenience to the 9/11 attackers. Billions of dollars spent, massive aggregate inconvenience to law-abiding American citizens, and a much-more-powerful federal government so that terrorists could be mildly inconvenienced?

One of the greatest ironies is that Baker doesn’t—as he never has—takes on the merits of how and how well a national ID would advance security goals. But the merits don’t matter. Baker’s post provides a nice reminder that the bureaucrats will use their big-government allies to restart their moribund national ID plans if they can. Despite massive public opposition to REAL ID, they’ll try to build it anyway.

An anti-immigration group recently issued a report saying that states are getting on board with REAL ID. (They’re meeting massively reduced REAL ID “milestones” coincidentally, not to meet federal demands.) National ID advocate Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) put on a lop-sided show-hearing in the House Judiciary Committee last week, hoping to prop up REAL ID’s decaying body.

As if anyone would believe it, a DHS official said at the hearing that the January 2013 deadline for state compliance would not be extended. Book your tickets now, because there won’t be a damn thing different on the airport come January. The Department of Homeland hasn’t stood by any of its deadlines for REAL ID compliance. If it did, by refusing IDs from non-compliant states at the airport, the public outcry would be so large that REAL ID would be repealed within the week.

REAL ID will never be implemented. That doesn’t stop the federal government from spending money on it, so the bureaucrats keep trying to corral you into their national ID. They get occassional help, and sometimes it even travels under the false flag of “ADVANCING A FREE SOCIETY.”

The REAL ID Fight Continues in the States

Federal programs almost never die. Bureaucrats and their big-government allies are still trying to cobble together an American national ID.

But leaders in the states continue to fight. In this case, it’s Michigan state representative and House transportation committee chairman Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt). In response to a recent report citing state compliance with REAL ID “benchmarks,” he’s put out a scathing report that was written up in the River Country (MI) Journal.

“The things we have done in Michigan, like making sure illegal aliens cannot get driver’s licenses, we are doing independently of REAL ID, and we are not interested in allowing the federal government to have permanent control over our licenses,” said Opsommer. “You can bet your bottom dollar that at some point if Obamacare is not repealed that the federal government will adopt new rules in the future requiring the cards’ use for access to healthcare. You can bet they will require it to buy a firearm. You can bet they ultimately want to put RFID chips into all these and share our full data with Canada, Mexico, and beyond. If we don’t repeal Title II of the REAL ID Act, all we are doing is putting off the ‘I told you so’ moment for a few years down the road.”

The tensions that the Framers of the Constitution designed into our governmental structure are doing their work through Rep. Opsommer.

“State documents should be state documents, and federal documents should be federal documents,” he says.

“If the federal government is bent on having a national ID card, they need to get their own house in order and start to make federal passports more secure and more affordable. Quit trying to outsource your own mismanagement of the federal passport system onto the states and let us get onto the business of issuing our own safe and secure sovereign driver’s licenses.”

The bureaucrats will keep at it at least until the Congress defunds REAL ID. But they’ll keep bumping into the likes or Rep. Paul Opsommer.

Cardless National ID and the E-Verify Rebellion

New Hampshire was the state where the “REAL ID rebellion” got its start. There, in 2006, Rep. Neal Kurk (R-Weare) took to the floor of the New Hampshire House to talk about his principled opposition to the federal national ID law.

In stirring words, Kurk urged his colleagues to overturn a committee recommendation that no action should be taken on his bill to have New Hampshire reject REAL ID. The House went on to pass his bill and half the states in the nation soon followed suit.

Now a bill pending in the New Hampshire House responds to a more insidious version of the federal government’s national ID plans: E-Verify.

E-Verify is a federal background check system that its proponents intend to be used on every person seeking work in the United States. Once in place, E-Verify would expand to new uses, giving the federal government direct regulatory control of all Americans’ lives through control of proof of identity. It’s being fitted to operate using only databases, so I’ve been referring to it as a “cardless national ID.”

New Hampshire Rep. Seth Cohn (R-Merrimack 6) has introduced a bill to prevent his state from contributing New Hampshirites’ personal data to the E-Verify system. HB 1549 would not only prohibit the state from allowing citizens’ personal data to be used in E-Verify. It would prohibit the state from requiring employers to participate in the E-Verify system.

It’s an appropriate response to the Department of Homeland Security’s latest move. You see, a branch of E-Verify is called the “RIDE” program. That stands for “Records and Information from Department of Motor Vehicles for E-Verify” (Yeah, it’s a stretch…) Basically, RIDE is the conduit through which the states are going to start passing data to the federal government, weaving together that national ID outside of the REAL ID Act.

In their desire to bring illegal immigration under control, a lot of people have convinced themselves over many years that growing the federal government and conscripting businesses into “internal enforcement” of immigration law was the way to go. Unfortunately, that route costs a lot of money, it bloats the federal government, and it requires a national ID system, which is a threat to liberty that Americans reject. My paper, “Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration,” goes through many of the details.

Is this the beginning of the E-Verify rebellion? It’s a welcome addition to the national debate from the “Live Free or Die” state.

Question for Candidates: Yes or No to a National ID?

Back in March of this year, with a May deadline for REAL ID compliance looming, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security quietly kicked the can down the road. It once again changed the date on which states would have to implement federal standards for their drivers’ licenses and IDs.

The original deadline was three years after the law’s May 2005 passage. It has now been more than five years and there’s no REAL ID thanks to resistance from states around the country. Congress has not moved to repeal this failed law. In fact, it still appropriates money to REAL ID in the Homeland Security appropriations bill.

The DHS has now set a new compliance deadline at January 15, 2013. That’s five days before the next presidential term begins on January 20, 2013. Indeed, the period between the election and the inauguration is when the question of whether to enforce REAL ID against the states will be decided.

Which puts a question before the Republican candidates vying for the highest political office. Where do you stand on the national ID issue? If your Transportation Security Administration is turning fliers away from airports because their states aren’t going along with this federal surveillance mandate, are you going to stand by the feds or stand by the states and people who say no to having a national ID?

The question is a nice bellwether for Republicans on both federalism and essential American liberty.

The New—-Cardless!—-National ID

Your chance to comment on a Department of Homeland Security plan to tap into state drivers’ license databases and create a new national ID system expires next week. It’s the groundwork for a cardless national ID, which threatens liberty even more than card-based schemes like REAL ID.

The E-Verify program’s move to merge federal background checks and state driver license data sets the stage for satisfying all three elements of a national ID. (Two years ago, I discussed what constitutes a national ID in some detail.) E-Verify has not satisfied these criteria up to now, but the pieces are coming together quickly.

First, it is national. That is, it is intended to be used throughout the country, and to be nationally uniform in its key elements. If its proponents have their way, E-Verify will indeed soon go national, a requirement on every employer to vet new workers past the federal government’s databases.

Second, its use is either practically or legally required. This is a judgment call, but in two diferent ways, E-Verify appears to meet this element. First, not having data in the E-Verify databases means not having legal work, so “participation” in E-Verify can be fairly called practically required. Second, try to opt out of the system and you will meet a dead end. The program includes no opportunity I know of to refuse participation. It’s legally required if the state or federal governments have got your identity data.

I could be wrong, of course. Interested researchers should try contacting their state motor vehicle bureaus (cc: your state legislators) and ask not to have data about you transferred to the federal government for E-Verify. Please let me know what you learn.

The final “element” of a national ID is that it is used for identification. Up to now, E-Verify has  largely worked by comparing identifiers. (I.e., Does this name match this Social Security number?) The current plan is to tap into state databases for more identifiers: name, date of birth, driver’s license/permit number, and so on. From there, it’s a short ride to gathering drivers’ license photos and biometric descriptors. (E-Verify already uses federally acquired photos in its “Photo Screening Tool.”) With the inclusion of your driver’s license photo, the E-Verify system will be able to display your picture on the screen of anyone who looks you up, allowing for positive identification.

This is a national identification system. If every employer has to use E-Verify—or even every major employer—it will become the all-purpose security device, used for cashing checks, confirming the name on credit cards, and looking you up at the prescription counter. Of course, it will be used at airport checkpoints. You’ll be screened through E-Verify at entrances to government buildings—maybe private buildings, too. And why not for random, “instant” checks at the subway or bus station? 

Just remember: If you have a tax dispute with the government, the Department of Homeland Security might flag you in the database—or it might de-identify you entirely—until you get right with the government.

Because it’s a database system, you won’t be able to argue your case like you can in the familiar card environment. With a card, at least, you can say, “No, look. This is me. This is my ID card. This is my picture. Give me my prescription.” With E-Verify, the answer will be, “Sorry, you have to talk to DHS or Social Security.” For good reason, I named my paper on electronic employment eligibility verification, “Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration.”

Arguments for the E-Verify system sounding in practicality and common sense do not hold up, but there are also principled reasons to oppose having a government background check system. Using E-Verify, the Department of Homeland Security is rapidly assembling a national ID system that can be converted to boundless uses. In addition to controlling employment, E-Verify can be put to use in regulating access to health care and housing, in gun control and registration, in monitoring travel and lodging—the list goes on and on.

I went through the arguments against having a national identification system in my book, Identity Crisis. In brief, a national ID would strip us of privacy even faster than is already happening, producing formal dossiers and increased surveillance. A national ID would transfer power en masse from individuals to governments. They would administer our rights by controlling the tools we need to navigate a “papers, please” society. A national ID would also be insecure, as it centralizes and homogenizes information assets (identity data) that are more secure if widely dispersed and heterogeneous.

As I noted last week, the federal government cannot and will not implement the REAL ID Act. So it’s on a new tack: E-Verify will soon be the new national ID.