New Hampshire Joins Montana in Real ID Victory

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/31/2008 - 3:53pm.

Détente has arrived in the fight between independence-minded states and a federal bureaucracy keen to claim a unanimous victory in its drive to create a de facto national identity database.

 

The key? The renegade states send a nice letter that is not a request for an extension of a looming deadline but touts the security of their driver's licenses, which the Department of Homeland Security accepts as an official extension request. That lets DHS save face, even as it backs down from repeated threats to punish the citizens of rogue states.

On Thursday, New Hampshire became the second of the four holdout states to get an unasked-for extension, following the path blazed by Montana's feisty Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer last Friday. Schweitzer told Threat Level he sent DHS "a horse, and if they want to call it a zebra, that's up to them."

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New Hampshire Governor John Lynch followed the lead of Montana and secured a reprieve from federal ID-rule punishment, without agreeing to comply with Real ID.
Photo: AP/Jim Cole

The legislators in the Live Free or Die state, like those in Montana, banned the state from complying with the Real ID mandates, citing state's rights, the inequity of unfunded federal mandates, and privacy issues. Under the rules, almost all license holders will have to return to the DMV with notarized "breeder documents" like birth and marriage certificates, and states will have to interlink their databases of digital photos and personal information. Citizens of states that opt out can't use their licenses for federal purposes, such as entering airport screening lines or going to a Social Security office.

DHS says the new licenses will prevent terrorism and identity theft, and Secretary Michael Chertoff says it's one of his top priorities in his last nine months in office.

In a terse February letter, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, asked that DHS not stop accepting New Hampshire licenses come the May 11 deadline, as DHS had threatened to do to the citizens of any state that didn't agree to eventually comply with Real ID. If that had happened, New Hampshire residents who didn't have passports would have been frisked at airports and banned from federal buildings.

However, Earl Sweeney, assistant commissioner of New Hampshire's Department of Safety   wrote a new letter (.pdf) Thursday. It highlighted the state's efforts to include more anti-counterfeiting features in its identification cards and to verify people's documents and eligibility for a license. But Sweeney also noted that New Hampshire is "currently prohibited by law from implementing Real ID."

DHS Undersecretary Stewart Baker promptly responded by interpreting the letter as a request for an extension (.pdf), thereby averting a May 11 showdown.

Now only Maine and South Carolina remain without extensions, but it's very likely both states will submit similar letters by the April 1 deadline. That will turn the Real ID map all green, clearing the way for a DHS victory proclamation.

That lets the Bush administration claim credit for implementing Real ID, even though no states will begin offering Real ID-compliant licenses until at least 2010, well into someone else's term at the White House.

And the states get to claim victory over the federal bullies.

And it leaves time for Congress to step in, if it wishes, to actually hold hearings on identification policy and figure out if a de facto national ID, complete with a national biometric database, is really the right solution to preventing someone from blowing up a mall full of shoppers.

Ryan Singel - March 27, 2008 - posted at http://blog.wired.com

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/31/2008 - 3:53pm.