Two former government officials with expertise on the REAL ID Act are
available to comment on the final regulations for REAL ID, expected
imminently from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Former
counsel to the 9/11 Commission Janice Kephart helped draft the Commission’s
recommendation that eventually became REAL ID and has authored white
papers on the Act. The Honorable C. Stewart Verdery, Jr., former
Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security for Border and
Transportation Security Policy, managed credentialing policy, among
other responsibilities at DHS, from 2003-2005. Both Kephart and Verdery
held key staff positions on Capitol Hill before 9/11 and have testified
numerous times on document security issues.
Kephart is president of 9/11 Security Solutions in Alexandria, Va.
Verdery is partner and founder at Monument Policy Group, LLC in
Washington, D.C. Both are broadly acknowledged experts on REAL ID and
other border security issues. Each also has experience with print,
broadcast and electronic formats.
Following is a backgrounder on the REAL ID Act.
What REAL ID is
The REAL ID Act is a 2005 federal law setting minimum security standards
for state-issued driver’s licenses and IDs for
those states willing to comply. Under the Act, individuals must have a
REAL ID-compliant license in order to continue using their driver’s
license or state-issued ID for federal purposes such as boarding a
commercial airplane or entering a federal facility.
Why REAL ID was enacted
REAL ID was enacted in direct response to a recommendation of the 9/11
Commission that the federal government set standards for IDs such as
driver’s licenses. The Commission found that
the 9/11 hijackers obtained 17 driver’s
licenses and 13 state IDs – at least seven by
fraud. Of those obtained legally, many were duplicates, with some states
issuing the same hijacker multiple licenses within a several-month
Most of the Act’s provisions were adopted from
a secure ID framework drafted by the American Association of Motor
Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) in response to the 9/11 Commission’s
REAL ID’s end goal is to protect consumers and
national security simultaneously. In addition to aiding in the war on
terrorism, secure IDs will help abate other national problems such as
identity theft, drug dealing and abuse, deadbeat dads, underage
drinking, and a vast support network for counterfeit ID documents. While
no state must comply, the more that choose to meet REAL ID minimum
standards, the less vulnerable we all are.
Debunking Myths about REAL ID
Myth: REAL ID invades privacy.
Fact: REAL ID protects privacy by assuring people are who
they say they are. The information contained on a REAL ID license will
be the same as what is required by most states today. That information,
such as digital photo, name, permanent address, age, height and weight,
is widely available and does not implicate privacy concerns. REAL ID
licenses are not required to contain RFID technology, biometric
fingerprint information, or Social Security numbers.
Myth: REAL ID will create a hackable, national
Fact: There is no aggregation of personal data into “one
huge, hackable database operated by the federal government,”
as some claim. REAL ID calls for the states to operate secure
databases that are searchable by other authorized parties (motor vehicle
agencies, law enforcement). The Act also calls for crosschecking
applicants’ information with federal and
private databases to better authenticate credentials. Most of these
databases are currently used by states to verify identity –
with no privacy complaints. The databases are networked to the states by
an AAMVA secure network, which will be further upgraded. Thus the
federal government does not hold individual applicants’
information, and the notion that REAL ID would create a single federal
database is completely erroneous.
Myth: REAL ID creates a national ID and is a federal
Fact: The driver’s license is
the most common form of ID used in the U.S. today, accepted for
everything from opening a bank account to boarding a plane to picking up
movie tickets with a credit card. Securing an already widely used
credential makes good sense. Each state will still issue many varieties
of REAL ID compliant – and if they choose –
non-compliant IDs. REAL ID does not affect states’
right to decide who is eligible for a driver license or ID; that
decision remains with each state. There is thus nothing “national”
about such issuance. If anything, REAL ID can be said to obviate the
need for a national ID. Nor must states comply at all; the law remains
Americans support REAL ID
Eighty percent of Americans believe in securing driver’s
licenses to help fight terrorism, identity theft and other crimes,
according to a recent poll sponsored by the Information Technology
Association of America (ITAA). An even higher percentage is willing to
provide more documentation and pay more to assure their identities are
verified and their credentials secure. An earlier Zogby poll found that
70% of Americans support the provisions of REAL ID.
Other supporters include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Drug Free
America Foundation, the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s
License, the Document Security Alliance, and ITAA.
REAL ID is moving forward
After collecting thousands of comments from states and other interested
parties, DHS is ready to issue final regulations for the law and has
gone to great lengths to respond to reasonable requests from states that
will bear the burden of compliance. Many states have made significant
progress toward implementing provisions of REAL ID already. The Congress
recently provided additional funding to implement REAL ID.