Monday, April 16, 2007

Texas likely to join list of states rejecting REAL ID Act

Judging by this week's House Defense Affairs Committee agendas, Texas won't be implementing the REAL ID Act this year because legislators don't want to fork over for the unfunded mandate. On Tuesday the committee will consider a resolution by Chairman Frank Corte requesting that Congress pay for the REAL ID Act if they want Texas to participate, and on Thursday they'll hear another by Carl Isett related to "refusing to implement the REAL ID Act of 2005."

The biggest reason Texas won't implement REAL ID is cost. According to Rep. Isett's HCR 148:
the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) recently informed the House Appropriations Committee that all 18.5 million Texas driver's licenses and ID cards must be verified and reissued within five years under the act, prompting the agency to request $268.7 million as an exceptional item in its 2008-2009 budget; in addition, DPS has indicated it expects ongoing REAL ID-related expenses to be $101.3 million per year
A quarter-billion dollar startup cost and another $100 million to implement is certainly a good reaon not to do it - if you're thinking in terms of opportunity costs, those are more or less the amounts required to implement the Senate's proposal to build and operate three new prisons. But cost isn't the only reason cited in Isett's resolution for Texas' refusal to implement REAL ID:
In addition to unease about expense, provisions of the REAL ID Act raise concerns about data security and possible identity theft; the act requires statewide databases to be integrated and shared with the federal government, but does not establish clear security standards for the network nor designate an entity to control access to the system; and

WHEREAS, These ambiguities in the legislation make it more likely that information about a driver's license or ID card holder could be illegally accessed through another state's less secure system, creating a vulnerability where none currently exists and increasing the likelihood of the very threat the program was designed to minimize
I cannot help but pause here to point out that when Chairman Corte's legislation passed to expand gathering of biometric data from Texas drivers and removed restrictions on law enforcement use of the information, he told the same committee in 2005 that the expense involved would prepare Texas to implement the REAL ID Act because the federal law (which at that time hadn't been finally passed) would require those same provisions. I testified in committee, and the chairman belittled my suggestion that Texas wait to find out what REAL ID would require before spending tens of millions prospectively.

Now it turns out that legislation didn't prepare Texas to implement REAL ID, and massive additional expenditures must be made to do so. Howver, the new data gathered because of Corte's changes last session has already been used by Governor Perry's Texas Fusion Center in ways that were never discussed during the legislative process. That episode was cause enough for me to oppose any future sharing of driver data until we rein in past abuses, so I'm glad to see Texas opt out of the REAL ID mess.

See prior, related Grits coverage:


John R. said...

Why This Conservative Tennessean Opposes REAL ID:

1. REAL ID is a de facto national identification card. At least Lamar Alexander, in recent comments, was honest enough to admit this. Has America sacrificed so much for freedom only to create a “papers please” society?

2. REAL ID does an end-run around the 4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It is unreasonable to give the central government the power (potential) to track individuals in real-time. If the government needs to search the lives of citizens, let it get a search warrant. We should not have to be monitered. Is not this the essence of freedom? REAL ID, and its future additions, will make life subject to the good-will of the government in a software maze of “red light, green light.” This is not freedom.

3. REAL ID reduces God-given rights of the individual to a string of digits, subject to the good-will of software and/or bureaucrats. It makes Americans get “permission” to live and move in the basic functions of society: banking and travel. The permission we need to do this (and more) is God-given. We shouldn’t have to ask permission to be functioning citizens within our own country.

4. REAL ID may require biometrics at the state level or at the federal level. Why should Americans be “booked” like criminals even if they’ve committed no crime?

5. REAL ID compiles personal information into one place. With the ease of internet access, this information is vulnerable to anyone on the globe with the ability to hack.

6. REAL ID is a move towards the centalization of more power. In an age of terror, the country should operate on a philosophy of de-centralizing as much of our lives as possible--so that if an attack handicaps one part of the country, the rest of the country can still function.

7. The burden of proof lies on the promoters of REAL ID: Show us exactly HOW this significantly new and immense power to the government is NOT a threat to freedom. FREEDOMS ARE LOST IN THEORY/PHILOSOPHY LONG BEFORE THEY’RE LOST IN PRACTICE. Conservatives are threatening freedom and promoting “big government” with the REAL ID Act.

8. We should be moving away from an identification society. This kind of atmosphere promotes suspicion and fear. Are Americans innocent until proven guilty, or are we suspicious until properly identified? The presumption of innocence is undermined by REAL ID.

9. Programs like REAL ID never remain static. The private sector will seek to use this identification system as well. One bad application will lead to others. How can we remain an “open” society with this kind of philosophy?

10. Some folks say we already have a national id--Social Security. But if REAL ID is only a lateral move, why are we doing it? We are doing it because it is indeed an increase in the government’s ability to track its citizens. If we’re on the wrong road, the soonest way to progress is to turn around.

We don’t have to do anything stupid. Just because we “can” doesn’t mean we “should.”

JT Barrie said...

Forget the "they're watching us" paranoia. Criminals can steal or forge real IDs. It's just one more "detail" that can be overlooked by honest people. It's also one "detail" that may cause a lot of headaches. I certainly didn't find it easy to produce a Social Security card in the mid 80s = and I was born in this country.

Anonymous said...

This is so WW2. After Pearl Harbor the, "Japs" as they were lovingly known, were put in concentration camps to keep the threat of an attack from America from happening. These Americans were stripped of their rights just because they originated from Japan at some point. Terrorists cannot be identified by race or gender. So whats the next logical step? Put everyone in "camps". Camps Via technology rather than walls. I do not think any of this will end well. Mark my words this will become a "camp" and there will probibly be another economic resession to help it along. Maybe to force America to get the card or not have a job type thing. This is bad news.

Anonymous said...

Several states are attempting legislation to secede from the Union. The entire Indian Nation of Lakota is ending relations with the federal government. Americans are now starting to carry guns on their hips. Power to the people.