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Federal Drivers’s Licenses: Can Colorado Say “NO”?

Opinion Editorial
June 8, 2005

By Mike Krause

The “Real ID Act” passed easily in the House and was attached to the Iraq War spending supplement, thus ensuring overwhelming approval in the Senate on May 10, 2005. An un-funded federal mandate with dubious security benefit, backed up by federal coercion, the act will turn the driver’s license into an internal passport and the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) into a branch office of the federal Department of Homeland Security. Real ID was marketed as a tool against terrorist travel, but with even the slightest scrutiny, this argument falls apart.

A May 5th Rocky Mountain News editorial quoted a spokesman for the House Judiciary Committee, inadvertently making the case against Real ID: “Eighteen of the 19 (Sept. 11) hijackers could’ve used their passports, but chose instead to use state-issued ID and driver’s licenses and it allowed them to get on the planes without detection.”

In other words, terrorists who don’t have U.S. driver’s licenses can simply board a plane with a passport. As the News correctly asked, “So how exactly would this misguided law have stopped them?” The short answer is: it wouldn’t have.

Most any kind of ID can be forged (and even when badly done, pass basic scrutiny), and any state DMV, or federal agency for that matter, is open to corruption. At least two 9/11 hijackers bought their licenses from corrupt Virginia DMV employees. And as the recent DMV scandal involving illegal aliens purchasing drivers licenses here in Colorado shows, corruption seems to be the easiest way to get a fraudulent Colorado ID.

According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), police in Florida recently arrested over 50 people, including DMV examiners, in a fraud scheme that sold over 2,000 fake licenses. In Maryland, police nabbed, among others, a state motor vehicle employee, in a scheme to sell over 150 fake licenses.

If anything, the new federally mandated and controlled driver’s license will negatively affect only the law abiding, while at the same time making an illegally obtained license even more valuable than it is now.

Once the act goes into effectthree years from this Mayyou will quite literally have to re-justify your existence to renew your license. The act requires the DMV to verify, copy and store electronically all the breeder documents, such as the birth certificate and social security card required to prove, among other things, your birth date, citizenship and address.

Identity theft is already out of hand, partly driven by continuing federal mandates over use of the social security number as a national identifier (the SSN is the key to a successful identity theft). The act will make the DMV a central repository for identity documentation and verification, in other words, a one stop shopping center for identity thieves and other criminals.

As EPIC continues, when thieves in Nevada wanted motor vehicle data, they simply “rammed a vehicle through a back wall at a DMV near Las Vegas and drove off with files, including Social Security numbers, on about 9,000 people.” The act requires all state motor vehicle departments to link up their databases. So just multiply the chance of your DMV data being abused by fifty. The act also requires that new driver’s licenses have “common machine-readable technology,” a swipe card in other words. Driver’s licenses as they currently exist have a defined amount of information associated with them; and access to that information is limited.

What data is to be included on, and associated with, your new machine readable license, and how that data will be accessed and used, these are left up to the Secretary of Homeland Security, as opposed to your elected and accountable state legislators.

Since Congress cannot legislate that states implement federal regulatory programs, the act instead will deny anyone who does not carry a federally approved license the ability to board a plane, open a bank account, or any other service or activity the federal government claims jurisdiction over. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander, writing on the act in the Washington Post states, “If just one state refused to do the federal government’s ID work, Congress would be forced to create what it claims to opposea federal ID card for citizens of that state.”

So for any Colorado legislators, who are inclined to actually say no to a federal edict, and who stand up for federalism, here’s an ideal opportunity. It might be quite enlightening to see who in the U.S. Congress would actually stand by, while every Coloradoan is denied “federal” services and activities, just because they are not carrying the proper papers. Especially those conservatives who wonder if they can continue to support Republican lawmakers who so casually seek to grow the scope of the central government.