By Mark Anderson —
The state of Washington is one of 28 states and U.S. territories that have been granted time extensions to comply with the far-reaching federal REAL ID Act of 2005, a nationwide personal-data consolidation and tracking law passed by Congress 10 years ago but implemented in phases into the present day.
Since its 2005 passage, the act has been administered and modified by the DHS—a creature of the post 9-11 surveillance state that carries out airline “security” through its rather unpopular and often disreputable appendage, the Transportation Security Administration.
Anyone without what the DHS deems a “valid” (federally compliant) ID may eventually need a passport or have to submit to some other screening process in order to travel domestically or enter federal buildings.
Amid several implementation delays of this act, access to some federal facilities is already restricted without a properly enhanced ID. As early as next year, such an ID could be required to board commercial aircraft, though the federal government hasn’t given a firm timeline on access to flights. The DHS is expected to announce travel requirements by the end of this year.
The mainstream press has largely limited recent REAL ID discussion to nuts-and-bolts matters, despite DHS’s broad mandate.
Washington state is a recent focal point. An October 29 Seattle Times piece, entitled “Feds say regular Wash. drivers license isn’t strict enough for flying,” noted that the federal government has denied Washington another extension. DHS wants Washington to hurry up and comply with “tougher federal [rules] that require proof of legal U.S. residency in order for [Washington’s] driver’s licenses and IDs to be valid for federal purposes, including, eventually, boarding commercial aircraft.”
Answering Washington’s request for more time, DHS just issued the state a letter, which reads, in part: “Although DHS recognizes the state of Washington’s efforts in enhancing the security of its drivers licenses and identification cards, Washington has not provided adequate justification for continued noncompliance that would warrant granting your request of another extension.”
This boils down to the DHS wanting to get all the “hold-out” states fully on board, lest REAL ID become an incomplete experiment in monitoring citizens’ movements through trackable radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips implanted into these enhanced cards. Does that mean that the long-anticipated possibility of microchips embedded into human skin, voluntarily or not, is but a short step away?
Washington State has already created the enhanced drivers licenses that have apparently sufficient personal data and technological sophistication to satisfy the DHS. “Since 2007, more than 500,000 Washington residents have gotten an enhanced drivers license or enhanced ID card,” the Times added.
Yet a whopping 5.4 million people in Washington State still have the old standard licenses, and about 600,000 have regular ID cards. And while Washington has even changed its standard licenses to make them more DHS-RFID compliant, the broad concern is that if Washington’s RFID compliance window is closed too soon, then Washingtonians who still possess the simpler licenses and IDs could conceivably be barred from taking flights—a mode of freedom of movement.
In moving to corral all the states and territories, DHS seems to be running out of patience with Washington and the 27 other states (and territories) that the agency has begrudgingly granted time extensions for compliance: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Five more are still flatly called “non-compliant”: American Samoa, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York.
What’s often overlooked, though, is that the DHS itself modifies REAL ID rules without congressional involvement and instead moves REAL ID through the executive branch’s federal rule-making process conducted under the Federal Register—a massive compilation of rules and regulations which arguably usurps the law-making powers of Congress.
Over the last 10 years, 40 states have at various times fought REAL ID Act implementation.
In January 2007, the Maine legislature resoundingly passed a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act.
The concern in Maine had been that the law does more harm than good, would be a bureaucratic nightmare to enforce, threatens individual privacy, is a massive unfunded mandate on all the states, makes citizens increasingly vulnerable to ID theft, and would cost taxpayers tons of money.
On February 16, 2007, Utah’s legislature unanimously passed a resolution against the REAL ID Act, stating that the act is “in opposition to the Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty,” but has since effectively complied with DHS.
Under the law, compliant states must remake drivers licenses, restructure computer systems, and create new intra-state data-sharing networks. There’s been serious talk of sharing Americans’ personal data with foreign governments as well. Even opening a bank account could become more difficult for those without federally compliant driver’s licenses and general IDs.
Mark Anderson covers the annual Bilderberg meetings and is chairman of AFP’s new America First Action Committee, designed to involve AFP readers in focusing intensely on Congress to enact key changes, including monetary reform and a pullback of the warfare state. He and his wife Angie often work together on news projects.