Last Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced her renewed interest in establishing a national identification card system that modifies the failed REAL ID program created four years ago. The REAL ID Act became law in 2005 after being passed as a rider on a defense spending bill. The act aimed to standardize state identification cards to make them easier for the federal government to use. But as an unfunded mandate to the states, many states refused to submit to the act’s requirements, passing statues or resolutions denying the act from being implemented. Many state governments observed that the REAL ID was not really much of an improvement in accurate identification due to the easily forged documents a REAL ID was created from.
And another major concern is of course the reduction of state sovereignty caused by such federal mandates. Many Americans justifiably fear the REAL ID program as a program more suitable to an authoritarian state than a republic.
So far the Department of Homeland Security has granted waivers to every state in the country, as not one has complied with the act. A new bill named the PASS ID Act seeks to modify the REAL ID Act by easing requirements and extending compliance date requirements. But this bill is just another act trying to force the states into submission by the the federal government. Not only will the act require expensive restructuring of bureaucratic processes already in place in state DMVs, but its requirements will also likely make IDs more expensive and time consuming for individuals to obtain.
The promoted original intent of the REAL ID act was to prevent terrorism. But since the documents that are required to obtain a REAL ID being relatively are easily forged, the new form of ID is not much more secure than what is currently in use.
Also, the identity of an individual reveals little about his or her intentions. The real objective of the national ID system is to make tracking of individuals easier for domestic surveillance purposes. If you thought the domestic wiretapping program was shady, you can justifiably fear a national ID. The ID would eventually be required for every part of your daily business, and the electronic features contained in the card would enable you to be shadowed by a centralized database. The tracking features would also be able to be used by the private sector to monitor your routines or more easily steal a standardized identity.
Frankly, it is ridiculous that a bill is even being considered that would require any further burdens upon the already financially-strapped states. Even if federal inflationary debt spending was used to speed the adoption of a nationalized ID, it is completely unnecessary and potentially fearsome. A nationalized ID system is not only unconstitutional (as most federal bills have been in the last century), it also paves the way for future invasions of privacy by a government that is growing ever more authoritarian in its focused micromanagement of businesses and individuals.
Colin McKim is an environmental management and protection junior and a Mustang Daily political columnist.