News

Most states give green light to tamper-proof IDs

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

  • Mimi Hall
  • USA Today

Washington, DC -- Forty-four states are moving ahead to comply with a law requiring more secure driver's licenses, according to the Department of Homeland Security -- despite privacy concerns and worry that the new documents will be too expensive.

The department's evidence: Those states have applied for and received extensions to a May 11 deadline for issuing new tamper-resistant licenses that require proof of citizenship and address.

'We expect that states requesting an extension will comply' with the law, department spokesman Russ Knocke says.

Residents will have to show the new identification card before boarding a commercial flight or before entering a federal courthouse, among other things.

The federal Real ID Act requires states to issue the more secure version of the driver's license in an effort to make it difficult for criminals and would-be terrorists to get fake licenses. Some states continue to balk at the law.

Tim Sparapani of the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes Real ID and warns that the government won't be able to adequately protect databases of citizens' personal information, says some states applied for the extension 'to run out the clock on the Bush administration.'

Secure licenses were a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, which found that the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers had 34 state licenses and government ID cards among them. Congress passed the act in 2005.

Homeland Security policy chief Stewart Baker says states have until the end of March to apply for an extension. Otherwise, residents from those states will not be allowed to use their driver's licenses to fly.

The six states that have not yet applied for an extension are: Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, last month urged fellow governors to join him in defying Washington. 'Please do not accept the Faustian bargain of applying for the DHS extension,' he wrote to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, also a Democrat. 'If we stand together, either DHS will blink or Congress will have to act to avoid havoc at our nation's airports and federal courthouses.'

The first extension lasts until the end of 2009.

If states do nothing, their residents starting on May 11 must use passports to board commercial flights and enter federal buildings or be subjected to extra security checks.

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