Real ID

Why Real ID program offers a false sense of security: A Q&A

Why Real ID program offers a false sense of security: A Q&A
Published: Monday, May 14, 2012, 8:08 AM
By Star-Ledger Staff

Mitsu Yasukawa/The Star-Ledger
A driver license and insurance card are pictured in this file photo. Jim Harper of the Cato Institute discusses by the Real ID program offers a false sense of security in this Q&A.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union won an injunction against New Jersey’s TRU-ID program, the state’s version of the federal Real ID secure driver’s license program. Created in the aftermath of 9/11, the law is an attempt to close loopholes that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to acquire U.S. driver’s licenses.
Security and privacy experts say Real ID does little for security, but places personal privacy at risk.
Jim Harper is director of policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, where he is an expert in security and privacy. He spoke last week with Star-Ledger editorial writer Jim Namiotka.
Q. How will Real ID improve our national security?
A. It won’t.
Q. Please explain.
A. The driver’s license isn’t a security tool, and the things that Real ID does would be trivially easy for terrorists or other attackers to avoid. There isn’t a real security value in Real ID.
Q. Why the focus on driver’s licenses?
A. The proponents of Real ID talked about terrorism as the reason for passing the law. Actually, their goal is immigration control. They want a national ID in place that would be used to do a background check on everybody when they start employment. In the future, it could be used to control access to financial services, to control access to health care, or housing, or pharmaceuticals, for example.

What’s Behind the REAL ID Act?

Thanks to Kev for sending this in:

Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff rated a nationally syndicated article January 16th to plug the REAL ID Act which Bush signed into law on 11 May 2005. The Act mandates standardized state driver’s licenses as the official piece of identification effective 31 December 2009. After that date, non-compliant licenses, or identification cards for non-drivers — will not be valid ID for boarding commercial aircraft, admission to nuclear power plants, or for entry into any other federal or federally-regulated facility. To obtain one of these licenses a person must present proof of identity, verification of Social Security status, proof of residency, and proof of citizenship or legal-alien status. The license or ID card must contain at least four pieces of biometric identification that are machine-readable by all states and the federal government.

Chertoff uses a form of propaganda called “implied truths” in his article. He asks three rhetorical questions: “Should banks cash checks from people who cannot prove who they are? Should parents hire babysitters they know nothing about? Should airlines let passengers on board without validating their identity?”

Of course we all know the answer to those questions but Chertoff doesn’t say the present documents aren’t adequate. Instead he implies inadequacy with another rhetorical question – “But are [the present] documents necessarily reliable?” – and then asks us to consider several facts: