National Driver’s License Nightmare Starts

Real ID Propaganda Poster The geniuses who made it next to impossible to get a passport are now set to do the same for driver’s licenses.

Americans born after Dec. 1, 1964, will have to get more secure driver’s licenses in the next six years under ambitious post-9/11 security rules to be unveiled Friday by federal officials.

The Homeland Security Department has spent years crafting the final regulations for the REAL ID Act, a law designed to make it harder for terrorists, illegal immigrants and con artists to get government-issued identification. The effort once envisioned to take effect in 2008 has been pushed back in the hopes of winning over skeptical state officials.

Even with more time, more federal help and technical advances, REAL ID still faces stiff opposition from civil liberties groups.

To address some of those concerns, the government now plans to phase in a secure ID initiative that Congress passed into law in 2005. Now, DHS plans a key deadline in 2011 — when federal authorities hope all states will be in compliance — and then further measures to be enacted three years later, according to congressional staffers who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not yet been made. DHS officials briefed legislative aides on the details late Thursday.

While I’m a small government libertarian type, I’ve got no serious heartburn with a national ID card. The Social Security Card has long been a de facto national identification system and one needs picture ID to do just about anything these days.

But the idiocy of this particular proposal knows no bounds.

  • Which terrorist attack would this have prevented, exactly? Certainly, not the 9/11 attacks.
  • You don’t need to be a licensed driver to get on an airplane or strap a bomb to yourself.
  • Does anyone think al Qaeda couldn’t forge ID cards, anyway?
  • We already tried this with passports and it went down in flames. What kind of learning curve do our counterterrorism officials have?
  • Do we really want to put our counterterrorism in the hands of the DMV?

Propaganda poster: Farewell Freedom via Google.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. independent says:

    I know its currently a criminal offense to even have an old backup copy of your state issued ID. Of course, its also criminal to not have your ID.

    I imagine the new proposal also comes with “harsher” penalties.

  2. floyd says:

    A universal national I.D. will serve no known legitimate purpose, but a national driver’s license would prove to be a DISASTER! One look at the CDL system should be convincing evidence of that!

  3. Tlaloc says:

    Of course, its also criminal to not have your ID.

    State or federal? ‘Cause I never carry my ID unless I know I need it for something specific.

  4. DC Loser says:

    Is it really a crime not to have an ID on you? I recall the SC case a few years back about the black man in NJ who likes to take walks in neighborhoods where people of his skin color were not very visible and the local police took a dim view of his strolls. They demanded his ID and he said he doesn’t have one, so they arrested him. I don’t know what was the outcome of that case, but I thought it was decided in his favor? Am I right or wrong on this one?

  5. independent says:

    Well the state charged me with having two copies of a valid driver’s license, and when I went to look up the law for a defense I discovered that carrying anything other than *exactly one* mint condition ID is a criminal offense: punishable by up to $1,000 in fines, 6 months in jail, and/or up to 1 year of suspended driving privilege. State laws vary, but not by much. The issue of IDs was already nationalized in the early 90s so the law doesn’t change much from state to state (its not a federal law, its that all the states came together to draft uniform codes)

    The cop said he was “going easy on me” because I wasn’t being charged with possessing a “mangled ID” (my dog had chewed the corners on one, which is why I had a second copy). I lawyered up and the state eventually dropped the charge, but not before the whole fiasco cost me close to $1,000 and several days of paperwork, court appearances, and legal meetings.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Interesting. I wonder if that “exactly one” is really interpreted to mean you have to have one, or if it is taken as “no more than one.”

  7. mannning says:

    A national ID or DL, together with a picture and a retina picture, would be safer that today’s type of DL, but no ID has been made that is foolproof.

    The trick is to find out ASAP that a fraudulent ID is being used, and to track the user down. This requires a national ID database, and quick access by many users, including some commercial outfits such as airlines, bus companies, rail companies, auto rental companies, banks, etc, etc. In addition to causing delays in purchasing tickets, there would be the danger of the database being hacked, broadcast, or used for fraudulent purposes.

    This is a technical problem that to date has not been fully solved for massive open access systems, but here again the useful is hostage to the perfect. There will be problems, but there will be adequate solutions sooner or later that admit to a small error.

    To say that there is no useful purpose for a national ID seems to me to say that proving one’s identity itself is not useful under any circumstances, which is nonsense.

    Freedom and Liberty to scuddle around through all of our world, unidentified and unidentifiable by anyone for any reason, must have defined limits and barriers. Illegals using forged papers come to mind–to obtain employment illegally–or simply to roam the nation with terror activities on their minds, such as a new 9/11 act using airplanes.

    It was required of me to carry my US passport at all times in Holland for over ten years, along with my driver’s license. There was no special problem to do this–it became a habit very quickly. I think libertarians and ACLU types are paranoid about IDs, to the detriment of sane solutions to the identity problems.

    Your papers, please!

  8. grampagravy says:

    The purpose of terrorism is to disrupt and ultimately destroy our way of life. The terrorists have to be laughing their butts off to watch our government do that job for them in the name of “security.” FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” pops into my mind every time I hear of another fear driven encroachment on our freedom.

  9. Johnnyb says:

    Ze papers, ze papers please…

    No serious heartburn, eh? Do you want the government to know what prescriptions you are getting filled? Want the government to know your health care records?

    “I’m sorry Mr. Smith, but I cannot sell you this gun because it seems like you had a psychiatric medication filled.”


    “Yeah it says here that you got a prescription for Wellbutrin filled about 5 years ago. We can’t sell guns to the mentally ill.”

    “But I was trying to quit smoking! I’m not crazy.”

    “Sorry. Tough luck.”

    Not only could that apply to gun sales, but it could also apply to travel, employment, credit, banking whatever you name it!

    The democrats are come in and socialize medicine, all of medical records get stored in the same database. Go to the store and…

    “I’m sorry Mr. Smith, but I cannot sell you this bacon, the national database says that your cholesterol is too high.”

    “I’m sorry Mr. Smith, but I cannot sell you these donuts, database says that you are too fat.”

    “I’m sorry Mr. Smith I cannot sell you this beer, database says that you are a drunk.”

    The National ID card is the latest installment, towards a police State. Free People don’t show their “papers.”

  10. independent says:

    I can only find the statute that requires you to hold an ID if you are operating a motor vehicle.

    However, its been my personal experience (mostly from when I was younger and walked/biked everywhere) that a police officer can demand identification without cause.

  11. just me says:

    The only positive I can see in a national ID would be that they could issue you an identification number other than your social security number.

    When social security was created-the number was meant to solely be used for purposes of social security, but almost everyone wants your number now.

    But I don’t really think there is an ID card that can’t be duplicated to some degree-there just isn’t going to be a foolproof method-there might be a method that makes it more difficult for the less than creative, but there are enterprising criminals that will rise to the occassion.

    I recall a DMV employee somewhere getting arrested a year or so back for using the DMV photo liscense equipment to create fake identities for those who wanted them and a very nice fee.

    I don’t consider a national ID Big Brotherish or anything to get up in arms over, but I am not sure I see a real purpose in having one either.

  12. grampagravy says:

    Inch by inch still adds up to yards, it’s not an issue of whether each individual inch is worth “getting up in arms” over. Every power given to government diminishes the freedom of the individual. Think past your nose and imagine the consequences of another McCarthy or Hoover with the powers we’ve recently surrendered.

  13. Jay says:

    What JohnnyB said. It makes me want more than ever simply to drop out and be a rebel.

    The approach that’s been taken for fatherland security is patently absurd, but it also didn’t start out of the blue at the 9/11 demarcation.

  14. Johnnyb says:

    America is at a funny stage in her development, its too late to stop that bastards from taking over, but too early to start shooting the sons of bitches.

  15. Legal American says:

    If you don’t think that the federal government doesn’t know everything about us U.S. citizens already, you must be living in the land of OZ. Just think about it, between your current drivers license, Social Security card, your birth certificate, voter card, credit cards, passport, filing your income taxes, etc., the government already know EVERYTHING about you…and if they want to “get you”, they will. This national ID card would only consolidate a fragmented system and make it easier to identify those who are not suppose to be here. It would also serve as a secure way for employers to identify people who they are hiring and then they would not have the excuse it is “not their fault” that they hired that illegal alien because they presented, what turns out to be, some bogus form of I.D. I know that this forum is about national I.D’s but I must say that the primary reason that these illegal aliens are coming here is to get jobs. If we make it a felony to hire these illegal’s and start putting people in jail who hire them and start revoking their business licenses’, these businesses would stop hiring these people. If this was done, and there were no jobs to come here for, we would not have the problem that we currently have. Also, if you take away the ability for these illegal’s to make a living, they will just go back home on their own. Remember the movie “Field of Dreams”, “if you build it, they will come”…..well, we built it and they came,… and they are still coming. This national I.D. is a good thing and I don’t think that the federal government has that much interest in the day to day activities of everyday americans, but I do want them to have interest in the day to day activities of NON americans

  16. grampagravy says:

    Mr. Legal,
    Your illegal alien issue is just a strawman. Ending the criminal employment of illegals does not require a national I.D. card, and your opinion that the federal government has no interest in our daily lives is a direct refutation of the purpose of government in the first place. A government owned by the corporations gave us this illegal alien problem and its consequent effect on the value of labor by failing to enforce laws we already have. The immigration laws have been there for years and ignored by the authorities. The answer is to take back the government of the people, demand that the laws we already have are enforced with efficiency, and stop cowering in corners while a government that clearly doesn’t have the average American’s prosperity or freedom in mind sells fear to increase its powers.

  17. Legal American says:

    Mr. Grampagravy, your point is well taken. I totally agree that we have a government that refuses to enforce laws that we already have… but maybe we need a tool in place to help force the enforcement of those laws. My only point is that consolidation and defragmentation of information that is already known about us legal citizens is not anything to be all that worried about. A system such as this would by default identify those people who are not suppose to be here! We always hear about law enforcement agencies not being able communicate with one another for one reason or another and how illegals or other criminals slipped through the cracks because of this lack of communication. This national I.D. system would help to eliminate any excuse that they come up with as to why information was not conveyed. All I am saying is that all of us legal U.S. citizens (which include federal and state agencies) have to get on the same side and do everything in our power to keep illegals out of our country instead of making excuses to let them in and let them have all of the same privileges such as jobs, medical care, education, and other entitlements of legal people. If this national I.D. system forces the hand of sanctuary States and cities to identify people who are not suppose to be here and not allow them the same privileges granted to legal citizens, then I am for it. I just don’t think that any of my personal day to day liberties will be affected by the consolidation of information that the government already has on me. Its a damn shame that things have come to this point but I guess we just have to adapt to these situations as they come at us. I think that if we were all on the same side and were doing everything we could to protect our country that these types of measures would not have to be taken.

  18. Alan Kellogg says:

    I blogged about it myself, and I noticed that James apparently left out a few things. Such as being asked for your DL or ID before boarding a plane. And the requirement for an alternative means of identification (passport) should your state decide it’s not going to take part in the scheme (Minnesota for example).

    It’s unnecessary, it’s discriminatory, it’s an imposition. Never mind the fact it’s useless to begin with. Not without a drastic expansion of government resources dedicated to keeping an eye on people, and we all know how that worked out for the Warsaw Pact in the long run.

    No country ever prospered that did not trust its people, or gave its people cause to trust it.

  19. James Joyner says:

    No country ever prospered that did not trust its people, or gave its people cause to trust it.

    But the problem is identifying “its people.” Presumably, we wouldn’t want to trust al Qaeda operatives who happen to be running around.

    We already have to show ID to board planes, buy cigarettes or alcohol, cash a check, and innumerable other routine activities. I don’t have any philosophical objection, then, to using advanced technology to make the ID more effective and harder to counterfeit.

  20. Alan Kellogg says:

    If only it were just an improvement in technology. A number of states have said they will not participate. Your state doesn’t participate, you can’t board a plane unless you have an acceptable alternate form of ID. Last I heard, that means a passport. This proposal goes through it would mean that certain segments of society would be singled out for special treatment. The citizens of certain states would be discriminated against for all intents and purposes.

    Minnesota is one of those states. You happen to be a Minnesotan your ID would be invalid because your state does not follow Federal guidelines. You wish to fly to, say, New Jersey, you would (so far as I know) need a passport to prove your standing as a citizen. A passport for internal travel, that remind you of any now defunct government?

    Sharing information I’m for, but the way Washington is going about it is draconian. Ultimately state IDs are state matters, to be handled by the states. Our Federal government needs to butt out. Washington wants a national ID, then Washington can propose a national ID and stop pussyfooting around.