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We Must Try Every Stupid Idea at Least Twice!

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November 2, 2007

The Indianapolis Star reports today that next week, the Indiana state Bureau of Motor Vehicles will begin sending out “No Match” letters to Hoosiers with discrepancies in their records. The letters will go out to anyone whose license information doesn’t match their Social Security records – over 200,000 people that the BMV has identified so far.

If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is.Indiana is one of the only states that has decided to implement the federal Real ID Act, and this is the result. Alabama tried something similar last year and it was a disaster – lines at motor vehicle offices swelled, the state’s computer system crashed and the plan was quickly abandoned. Smart state officials have gone the other direction and have opposed Real ID.

Indiana’s decision is even more astounding in light of the fact that Real ID appears less and less “real” by the day.State officials revealed yesterday that they were told in private conversations with the Department of Homeland Security that the main form of pressure DHS has been using to induce states to comply with Real ID – saying their residents won’t be able to board an airplane without one – is an empty threat. Instead DHS is engaged in a bait and switch – doing all it can to get states onboard by claiming that they’ve watered down Real ID and have given up on the security rationale behind it (which was phony in the first place).

But the Real ID statute is detailed and costly. Eventually states will have to spend billions to be in compliance. Furthermore, Real ID will still compromise Americans’ privacy and civil liberties if implemented. The law creates a national ID database, which will be irresistible both for government snoops and criminal identity thieves.

The Department of Transportation runs a database like this in miniature, which contains 42 million records of “problem drivers” – individuals who have had their licenses revoked or been convicted of serious driving offense. Sharing this kind of information serves a legitimate public safety purpose, but apparently the federal government can’t even get that right. A report released this week by the DOT’s Inspector General revealed that this database is plagued by security weaknesses, and that sensitive information contained within it, including social security numbers, had been repeatedly exposed to unauthorized access and use.

If the federal government can’t even manage to secure a database of bad guys, who would trust them with the personal information of every single law-abiding American? Who, besides the Indiana BMV, that is.