Photo: U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

The deadline for REAL ID implementation is fast approaching. Under current rules, states participating in REAL ID must begin issuing compliant drivers' licenses by December 31, 2009. That is, unless, these states have applied for an extension to May 11, 2011. Of course, there are also 23 states that have passed legislation partially or completely prohibiting participation in the REAL ID program.

The REAL ID Act of 2005, which was written in response to the 9/11 Commission's findings that 18 of the 19 hijackers had obtained fraudulent state drivers' licenses, has always been controversial. The act requires states to issue drivers' licenses that conform to federally mandated security standards - with no federal money to do so. Almost immediately the act was decried by organizations at all points on the political spectrum as a gross invasion of privacy as well as a national identification card in disguise.

The 2011 extension is just the latest setback for REAL ID advocates. Signed into law May 11, 2005, the act was supposed to take effect in May 2008. But an unprecedented revolt in the states has kept kicking the REAL ID can farther down the road. The current timeline calls for full implementation to take effect by 2017. However, with nearly half the states refusing to cooperate, REAL ID's future is uncertain. In fact, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano recently declared REAL ID "DOA" -- dead on arrival.

Napolitano is the former governor of Arizona, one of the states that opted not to comply with REAL ID. She also served as chairwoman for the National Governors Association, an organization that has fought hard against REAL ID. Her track record opposing REAL ID and her declaration that the legislation is dead would seem to put the issue to rest. Unfortunately Napolitano has only complicated matters, ironically, by advocating a new bill called PASS ID.


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Chad Vander Veen  |  Associate Editor