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Does the "Real ID" law make sense?

The controversy involves not only whether it will make Americans safer, but also whether it's a step toward national ID cards.

The Real ID law requires state driver's licenses to meet security requirements—including the use of technologies that make forging it virtually impossible, and ensuring that documents people use to get a license are valid—for licenses to be acceptable ID at federal agencies. That will make it tougher to get a fake driver's license.

Why did Congress act? Because it's not very hard to buy a fake license over the Internet, or make one with a digital camera, computer, and laser printer. This lets criminals, including terrorists, easily switch identities.

The 9/11 hijackers had dozens of fraudulently obtained state IDs, which they used to rent cars, open bank accounts, take flying lessons, board planes, and fit into society. This is why the 9/11 Commission recommended that the federal government set tighter standards for issuing driver's licenses.

Unfortunately, some groups are trying to whip up opposition to the Real ID, incorrectly equating it with a national ID, and claiming it will lead to a 'show us your papers' state, and allow people to be tracked. All three claims are wrong.

First, states will still be responsible for issuing licenses; they will just need to meet federal standards. Second, the rules that govern when the police can request to see your identification don't change. And third, better technology (like a computer chip on the card) will not allow people to be tracked since the cards will not be able to be read without the owner's permission.

In short, Real ID will make us safer while keeping us free.

Robert D. Atkinson
Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Americans don't look favorably on national identification cards, no matter what they're called. We know how such documents have been used—and abused—in other countries, and we don't want them in our country.

In Nazi Germany, national ID cards were used to find and eliminate political dissenters and to exterminate Gypsies and Jews. In many Western European countries today, national ID cards must be carried by all citizens and presented for such everyday activities as staying in a hotel.

In the U.S., a national ID card would give authorities the power to identify, track, and, potentially, control us. That is just not acceptable.

So we must be ever vigilant when any proposal for a national ID card surfaces. The Real ID driver's license is just such a law from the federal government. It would require that every state's driver's licenses meet uniform federal standards and require us to provide personal information (beyond name, address, and photograph) that would be entered into an interstate databank and shared with all states and the federal government.

A Real ID driver's license would at first be required to enter federal buildings and to board airplanes. But later, I fear, it would be required to get a job, rent an apartment, and do an increasing variety of ordinary-life activities. It won't enhance national security or keep us safe from terrorists, as evil-doers will resort to forgery and continue to evade the law.

A Real ID driver's license is a national ID card by another name, and it's very un-American.

State Rep. Neal M. Kurk
N.H. House of Representatives