ACLU Cheers Failure of Real ID Sucker Money Proposal

July 26, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the failure of an amendment offered to the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that would have authorized $300 million of federal funding for states to implement the Real ID driver’s license program, which has been estimated by DHS to cost $23.1 billion. The ACLU deemed the proposal “sucker money” because it aimed to entice states to accept a paltry amount of funding for a flawed program that would ultimately cost millions more in state taxes and licensing fees.

The amendment was killed when a motion to table it passed 49 to 45, after both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Thad Cochran (R-MS), respectively, spoke passionately against the funding proposal. The death of this amendment means the states will receive no additional federal funding to implement Real ID, dealing a crushing blow to the viability of the unworkable program.

“Real ID is dead in the water, and it is clear that no amount of money can save it,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani. “The only solution to Real ID is to scrap and replace it, and Congress has caught on. With seventeen states opposed to this program and the U.S. Senate standing behind them, this is the beginning of the end of Real ID. $300 million does not even come close to covering the costs of the program, and it is not enough to lure Americans to give up their privacy.”

Real ID poses serious privacy threats. The federally mandated IDs would hold machine-readable data of every American. That information would be stored in a national database available to government employees at all levels, putting every American at risk of identity theft and security breaches.

Ultimately, Real ID could pave the way for a society that tracks Americans’ movements and warehouses personal information in centralized databases that are rife with errors and highly enticing to identity thieves. Because Real ID promises to be such an integral part of our lives, from boarding a plane to opening a bank account to verifying your eligibility to work, a small glitch could have disastrous consequences.

Seventeen state legislatures have passed laws rejecting the program, with seven of those states passing binding legislation refusing to implement it. Never before in modern history has a federal mandate been so vehemently rejected by the states.

“The American people are not suckers and they won’t be duped by attempts to dress up a bad proposal with a little federal funding,” said Director of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Program Barry Steinhardt. “Throwing money at Real ID will not fix anything because the program is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally unworkable. There are only two options: Scrap Real ID altogether, or replace it with something that works. Americans don’t want a national ID, and they shouldn’t be forced to pay for one.”

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