Proponents say Real ID is an effort to strengthen security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses, a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. The 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001, had 30 state-issued IDs, at least seven of which were obtained by fraud, a commissioner noted. They used them to rent cars and apartments, open bank accounts, and board planes.
But the proposed rules to implement Real ID, critics warn, could open the door to privacy invasions by establishing a national database of personal data, accessible to state and federal law enforcement and other entities. The law would force states to foot a $23.1 billion bill over 10 years for what amounts to a national ID card, they say. And it would, they argue, increase risk of identity theft and fraud.
Now, Big Brother concerns aside, the real question about Real ID is how much is it going to cost, and what are we going to get out of it? $2.3 billion dollars a year for 10 years is a pretty hefty bill for a identity card (note that the 9/11 hijackers would still have been able to acquire a Real ID following the same procedure they followed for getting their driver’s licenses). When professional spymasters and computer security experts pretty much uniformly reject the efficacy of an authentication system, civil rights groups decry the potential for abuse, and the National Govenor’s Association disagrees with the idea, the real question is, how did this law get passed in the first place?
I’m guessing that $23.1 billion represents a pretty big windfall for somebody.