Rep. Richardson on Federal ID Act

Federal Real ID Act””Uncle Sam or Big Brother?

The Oregon Legislature has a decision to make. Should we join the five states–so far–that officially have refused to comply with the federally mandated Real ID Act? Your answer to this important question will be requested below. Please read on.

The Federal “Real ID Act of 2005“ is a federal mandate for each state to revise its driver’s license issuance system to conform to federal requirements. It was passed without Senate hearings and without debate as a rider to emergency spending legislation. The Real ID Act requires all American drivers to personally take to their state DMV, birth certificates and other original proof-of-identity documents. These documents will be scanned and become part of the state’s DMV database on that driver. The cost to implement Real ID for America’s 245 million drivers is $11-23 Billion, yet the federal government has allocated only $40 Million to do the job. The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates the cost for Oregon’s compliance to be $65 million.

On June 1, 2007 the Oregon House voted to pass House Bill 2827. I voted against it, based on concerns I expressed on the House Floor during the debate. (Watch my Floor Speech on YouTube.) The hours spent researching this newsletter have only confirmed my angst over the Real ID Act. Once implemented, the Real ID Act will provide digital access to every American driver’s personal data””including the original documents””to all 50 states and the federal government. In short, the Real ID Act creates a national identification card system. Making such personal data available to state-workers (and talented computer hackers) through tens of thousands of computer terminals across America has serious “unintended consequences.” Victims of domestic violence, witnesses who have testified in ccriminal prosecutions, and consumers who would prefer not to have their personal information data available to ingenious marketers all have something to fear from the Real ID Act.

The U.S. Federal Government will flex substantial muscle against any State that refuses to implement the Real ID Act. By the end of 2009, the feds will require a “Real ID Card” to enter post offices and all other federal buildings, to qualify for federal social security, Medicare and other benefits, and for permission to fly on a commercial airplane, and even to open a bank account. Notwithstanding federal threats, after considering the high cost of this unfunded federal mandate and its many serious consequences, Washington, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Maine, as well as Idaho, Georgia and several other states, are taking unprecedented and decisive action by just “saying NO” to the Real ID Act.

I am an Oregon State Legislator. I was elected to watch over Oregon’s State rights and the liberties of all Oregonians. I swore to uphold and sustain both the Oregon and the U.S. Constitutions, and I take seriously these solemn responsibilities. When I see an encroachment on personal liberties, personal privacy and state autonomy by the federal government, I get concerned.

I am one Legislator who joins with conservatives and liberals, from Red and Blue states across America in questioning the Real ID Act. I believe State Legislators have a Tenth Amendment duty to be vigilant and protective of State’s rights, and suspicious of any federal agency or administration that treats the States as subordinate and subservient to the national government.

I am constantly watching for consequences””good and bad, intentional and unintentional””of the laws foisted on the people by their elected representatives. Our Senators and Representatives in Congress have sent us the Real ID Act. I see the following Assumptions and Realities of the Real ID Act.

Assumption: Only those without a Real ID card intend to harm the USA.

Reality: If Real ID cards existed before the Oklahoma City bombing, both Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would have had them. Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, also would have had a Real ID card.

Assumption: Identification of and tracking of individuals promotes greater national security.

Reality: Two airline baggage handlers recently used their uniforms and identification cards to circumvent Orlando, Florida’s airport security and take a duffle bag filled with 14 guns and illegal drugs bound for Puerto Rico. Both had passed federal background checks. After the plane landed in San Juan, the operation was foiled solely because of an anonymous tip to the police. Such a gross breach of anti-terrorist security measures is great cause for alarm. I do not feel reassured, even when, “Christopher White, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration in Washington, says passengers on the plane — a Delta flight from Orlando to San Juan – were not in danger.”

Assumption: Government databases of personal identification information are secure from internal compromise or external hacking.

Reality: Identity theft is the top concern of U. S. consumers for the past seven years.(See Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Fraud and Identity Theft Compliant Data yet, more than a million data records of U.S. residents have been hacked, sold or otherwise exposed since January 2005 as a result of security breaches. Instead of setting high standards to ensure security of personal data, the opposite is true. The Department of Homeland Security states the Real ID cards must contain, “”¦physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purpose” and “common [bar-code machine readable technology] with defined minimum data elements.” (See REAL ID Draft Regulations 10,835.) Thus, common 2D bar-code reading machines will have the capacity to read the wealth of personal data contained on each Real ID card. The Dept. of Homeland Security has no provisions for encrypting the information, and such encryption cannot be used because it would interfere with the required state-to-state reading of every other state’s citizens’ private information. As a final thought on information security, consider the following: a DMV employee from any office in any of the 50 states will have access to yours and my personal Real ID card information here in Oregon, and to our digitalized signature, and to all the original documents each of us presents to Oregon’s DMV for scanning and archiving when we first obtain our Real ID cards. In addition to the financial devastation caused daily to thousands of identity theft victims, the consequences to women who have fled an abusive relationship, to victims who have testified against dangerous criminals, gives me chills.

As a result of multiple crimes of murder, rape and stalking, as well as identity thefts, resulting from public access to personal information from DMV records, Congress passed the 1994 Drivers Privacy Protection Act. The many protections of DPPA, and other improvements in personal data security implemented since then, are jeopardized by the provisions of the Real ID Act.

If I had to boil my concerns down to a single thought, it would be this: We live in perilous times, and our desire for security must constantly be balanced against the usurpation of our liberty.

I believe, if implemented, the Real ID Act will set in place a national identification card system enabling an intrusive database of private information that ultimately may be used to track the goings, comings, purchases and finances of 245 million American citizens to an extent never conceived of in the history of our nation. To me the benefits gained by such a system are far outweighed by the risks inherent in such a pervasive violation of our personal privacy.

In conclusion, we have come full circle to the introductory question, should Oregon comply with the Real ID Act? Based on my research and the concerns expressed above, I say No. Do you agree or do you believe Oregon should support the Real ID Act, allocate the $65 million, or whatever the cost is to implement it, and get on board with its requirements without further delay? I would like to receive every reader’s opinion, so please participate in my survey below.

To VOTE: Should Oregon Comply with REAL ID Act? Click Here.


Dennis Richardson
State Representative