MCLU Blasts New REAL ID Regulations

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
January 11, 2008 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


Delaying Implementation to 2017 Doesn’t Fix Privacy Nightmare

Portland – The Maine Civil Liberties Union condemns the final regulations for the REAL ID Act, issued by the Department of Homeland Security today. The REAL ID Act passed in 2005. In January of 2007, the Maine State Legislature was the first in the country to reject the REAL ID, passing a resolution calling for its repeal. An Act To Prohibit Maine from Participating in a National Identification Card System was subsequently passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor John Baldacci. Sixteen other states have followed Maine’s lead in rejecting the REAL ID.*

“These regulations are a weak attempt to put a pretty face on an ugly, dangerous law,” said MCLU Legal Director Zach Heiden. “REAL ID is still a real nightmare for Mainers privacy, freedoms and pocketbooks.”

The Real ID Act attempts to set federal standards for the issuance and appearance of state driver’s licenses and identification cards, but it goes much further. Driver’s licenses and ID cards would have to meet these standards to be accepted for “official purposes” by federal agencies, which would include boarding a commercial aircraft, entering federal facilities, such as federal courthouses, and any other purposes the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security determines are necessary.

The law places no limits on potential required uses for Real IDs. In time, Real IDs could be required to vote, collect a Social Security check, open a bank account, go to a Red Sox game, access Medicaid or buy a gun. The private sector could begin mandating a Real ID to perform countless commercial and financial activities, such as renting a DVD or buying car insurance. Real ID cards would become a necessity, making them de facto national IDs.

If implemented, the Real ID Act could establish an enormous electronic infrastructure that government and law enforcement officials – or whoever else hacks in – could use to track Americans’ activities and movements. This vast network of interlinking databases would contain enormous amounts of Americans’ personal information – such as Social Security numbers, photos and copies of birth certificates – and would be accessible to federal and DMV employees across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

The law also mandates that all driver’s licenses and ID cards have a “machine-readable zone” that would facilitate tracking by the government and private sector. Real IDs would leave a digital fingerprint whenever swiped, scanned or read. Inevitably, Americans will likely have to produce a Real ID card to perform any number of government and commercial transactions. Information captured from each transaction could be used by the government and corporations to develop detailed profiles of people’s daily activities.

The new regulations delay implementation of the law until 2017.

“Delaying implementation to the Chelsea Clinton or Jenna Bush Administration doesn’t fix the privacy nightmare that is the REAL ID Act,” said Heiden. “Congress needs to repeal this national identity card now.”

In February of 2007 Representative Tom Allen introduced H.R. 1117, the REAL ID Repeal and Identification Security Enhancement Act. That bill has 32 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

This week the Maine Civil Liberties Union presented the 2007 Roger Baldwin Award to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, Senator Elizabeth Mitchell (D-Kennebec) and Representative Scott Lansley (R-Sabattus) for their extraordinary advocacy in opposing the REAL ID national identification card.

* Seven states passed binding legislation to stop Real ID (Georgia, Maine, New Hampshire, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington), and 10 additional states have passed resolutions registering their dissent (Nevada, Idaho, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Hawaii and Missouri).

To learn more about the Real ID Act or read about its history, visit

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release