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    Arizona Legislature Passes Bill to Opt-Out of REAL ID System

    UPDATE: Gov. Napolitano signs bill prohibiting state from implementing REAL ID system.

    Disclosure: I believe the REAL ID Act creates a fundamentally flawed national identification system and the Act should be repealed.

    By a vote of 51-1, the Arizona House has passed a bill prohibiting the state from participating in the REAL ID national identification system. In May, the Arizona Senate passed the bill by a vote of 21-7. Now, HB 2677 goes to Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has not said whether she will sign the legislation. HB 2677 reads:

    This state shall not participate in the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-13, Division b; 119 stat. 302). The Department shall not implement the REAL ID Act of 2005 and shall report to the governor and the legislature any attempt by agencies or agents of the United States Department of Homeland Security to secure the implementation of the REAL ID Act of 2005 through the operations of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

    If Gov. Napolitano does sign the bill or if the state legislature can override her veto, then Arizona would become the twentieth state to pass anti-REAL ID legislation. Some states have come out forcefully against the national ID scheme. In January, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer wrote (pdf) to the governors of 17 States, stating, “Today, I am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to comply with the provisions of REAL ID.”

    Arizona will not face any immediate punishment from the federal Department of Homeland Security if HB 2677 becomes law, because the state (and every other U.S. state and territory) has received an extension on fulfilling the REAL ID requirements until the end of 2009. That is the deadline for states to “materially comply” with this national ID system or the federal Department of Homeland Security will stop accepting rebellious states’ ID cards for federal purposes, which includes entering federal buildings (such as Social Security offices or courthouses).

    In May 2005, the REAL ID Act was appended to a bill providing tsunami relief and military appropriations and passed with little debate and no hearings, though members of Congress called for hearings. The REAL ID Act of 2005 mandates that state driver’s licenses and ID cards follow federal technical standards and verification procedures issued by the Department of Homeland Security, standards that even the federal government cannot meet.

    The REAL ID system also enables tracking, surveillance, and profiling of the American public through the interlinking of the motor vehicle databases of all 56 states and territories, the use of an unencrypted machine-readable zone on the state ID cards and driver’s licenses, and the ability for the system to be used for much more than the few purposes set out by the 2005 law.

    In the REAL ID Act, there are only three purposes for this system: “boarding of Federally-regulated commercial aircrafts, entering of Federal facilities, and nuclear power plants.” Yet, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff continues to encourage the use of the REAL ID national identification system for a wide variety of purposes.

    In an opinion column written by Secretary Chertoff after the publication of the final regulations to implement REAL ID in January, he urged states, companies, and the general public to embrace the national identification system. Secretary Chertoff said “embracing REAL ID” would mean using the one ID card to “cash a check, hire a baby sitter, board a plane or engage in countless other activities.” It is clear that the Department of Homeland Security wants the REAL ID card to be used as a national identifier for everyday activities that are not under the jurisdiction of DHS.

    Beyond the cost of implementation of the REAL ID system (see the National Conference of State Legislatures’ estimate), there is the real cost to national security and civil liberties. In May, I co-authored a white paper detailing the privacy, civil liberty, and security problems with the Department of Homeland Security’s national identification scheme: REAL ID Implementation Review: Few Benefits, Staggering Costs. Read it (pdf) for a full analysis.

    The Arizona Republic, Arizona Daily Star, and Associated Press have coverage of the debate over HB 2677.

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