by Timothy Lee
Wed, Mar 5th 2008 12:55pm
CNet reports on a talk by Department of Homeland Security official Stewart Baker, in which he defended the Real ID Act against its many critics. Conceding that the proposal "has a bad bumper sticker reputation," he insisted that the Real ID Act will make it easier to catch identity thieves. But as my colleague Jim Harper has pointed out, the opposite is closer to the truth: by centralizing loads of private data in one database, the Real ID Act will make identity thieves' jobs a lot easier. One sign of how badly Real ID is faring can be judged from the fact that Baker is bragging about the fact that 45 states plus DC have been granted waivers to continue using their existing driver's licenses while they work toward complying with the law by next year. Why is it a victory that 45 states are going to miss the original deadline this coming May? Because the other 5 states have refused to comply at all. There are a couple of things to note about this. First, as Declan McCullagh points out, DHS has been practically begging states to request waivers, and a number of states have accepted waivers while continuing to express doubts about whether they'll ever comply. Second, there's no way the feds are actually going to impose the promised punishment -- refusing to accept state IDs in airports -- on the residents of the five states that have refused to comply with the law's requirements. Imagine the chaos if every traveler in South Carolina discovered that his or her South Carolina driver's license was no longer a valid form of identification. The feds will back down (especially since showing your ID isn't legally required at airports anyway) rather than risk being held responsible for chaos at the nation's airports.
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