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Congressmen: Pass ID Threatens Americans

Mary Bonventre,
Technology & Liberty Program
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July 22, 2009

It’s not every day that privacy advocates agree with this particular group of four congressmen. But in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Congressmen Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) spoke out against PASS ID as a threat to our national security. We concur: PASS ID does present unnecessary risk, all while doing nothing to aid national security.

Unfortunately, once you get past the headline, our agreement pretty much ends. The four congressmen are actually supporters of the failed Real ID Act — Rep. Sensenbrenner is the act’s author. They oppose PASS ID because they feel it weakens some of Real ID’s more draconian requirements.But the PASS ID Act is no benign alternative. It exposes Americans to an increased risk of identity theft, endangers victims of domestic violence, and cuts off religious minorities and some legal immigrants from full participation in society.

For four congressmen who participated in the creation of the Real ID Act, their memory on the matter seems a bit fuzzy. The original Real ID Act, H.R. 418 in the 109th Congress, stalled in Senate committee and had to be added to H.R. 1268, the must-pass Tsunami Relief Package, to be enacted. The four back their assertion that Real ID is working by noting that 16 states “are complying with benchmarks set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or are on track to comply by the end of this year.” Sounds great, except the problem is there are 50 states and the rest are not complying. DHS Secretary Napolitano testified at a hearing last week that no states were expected to be in compliance with the benchmarks by the set deadline, there are currently 24 states on record against complying with Real ID, and more are working to join them.

Given the lengths PASS ID goes to imitate Real ID, we’re honestly surprised that there can be objections labeling PASS ID too soft on terrorists. In any event, the important thing is that the ACLU and congressmen Smith, Sensenbrenner, King, and Issa can stand together and oppose PASS ID on its merits.

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