ACLU Slams Gov. Eliot Spitzer for Plan to Sacrifice New Yorkers' Privacy for Failed, Costly Real ID Program

October 27, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The ACLU today condemned an announcement by New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer that he would implement the Real ID Act, which would turn state driver’s licenses into a national ID card. Spitzer made the announcement with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff.

“Eliot Spitzer is acting in isolation,” said Senior Legislative Counsel Timothy Sparapani. “No other governor, Republican or Democratic, has been willing to impose such a huge tax increase on citizens and sell out their privacy for this failed program. Instead, states have been rejecting Real ID in droves. Spitzer is not only shilling for the Bush Administration, he’s blindly endorsing a program for which no final regulations even exist.”

Although DHS is the agency tasked to create guidelines for states to implement Real ID, it has failed to issue final regulations for implementation more than two years after the law was passed. That failure, along with its $23 billion price tag, and the dangers it poses to Americans’ privacy and identity security, have led seven states to pass laws against implementing Real ID, and an additional 10 to pass resolutions calling on Congress to repeal the Act.

The Real ID Act was passed in 2005, attached to an emergency supplemental appropriations bill. It received no hearings or full debate in the Congress. Since its passage, states have balked at the massive cost and have complained that the law would expose citizens to invasions of privacy and identity theft. The state rebellion against Real ID has led to the introduction of bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress to repeal the Act. This past summer, the U.S. Senate twice voted against expanding and providing funding for Real ID.

“Spitzer is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory,” said Technology and Liberty Program Director Barry Steinhardt. “According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own numbers, Real ID will force Americans to pay nearly $100 to get a driver’s license. The fact that Spitzer is willing to plunge his state into fiscal irresponsibility, while exposing his constituents to massive identity theft, is unfathomable. Other governors across the country are standing up to the Department of Homeland Security’s fear-mongering. Real ID is a failed program on life support; Spitzer’s attempt to resuscitate it is a major mistake, and a slap in the face of New Yorkers.”

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