Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

January 11, 2008

Federal Driver’s Licenses: The Government’s New Plan To Screw Up Your Life

by UCrawford

The brainiacs who’ve made air travel almost as fun as a 10-hour Coca-Cola enema have unveiled their new master plan for creating an efficient security system…federally mandated drivers licenses for everybody under the age of 50, which all states will be forced to comply with by 2011, whether they’re capable or doing so or not, if the Department of Homeland Security gets its way.  The rationalization for this plan, of course, is the same as that for any authoritarian program…a centrally mandated, controlled, and issued driver’s license will make it more difficult for con artists, drug traffickers, illegal immigrants, or terrorists to gain access to identification that could compromise our security. 

What goes unsaid, of course, is that such a program will inevitably make it more difficult for everyone else to get a driver’s license as well.  Do you like the two-hour wait at your state DMV every time you have to renew your driver’s license?  You can bet it’s going to be longer once every application has to run through a federal database that’s responsible for processing 50 times as many applications which will need to be cross-checked against watchlists of known terrorists, criminals, or illegal aliens.  Considering how flawlessly this approach has worked for the FAA with their no-fly lists, I’m finding it a little hard to believe that the process will run more efficiently or effectively than it does now, or that you’ll be getting your new driver’s license back on the same day that you’ve applied for it (as you can now).  Especially since the systems and processes the feds use to cross-reference are notoriously buggy.

Of course now if you go to the DMV and the computers are down, the inconveniences are relatively minimal.  You may have to come back the next day and endure another two hour wait, and you have to be a bit more careful about any traffic violations lest you get busted for driving on an expired license but you’ll generally be able to go about your life relatively freely.  Under the feds’ new program, however, if you aren’t able to procure your license for reasons beyond your control, or if you’re actually denied a license you won’t be able to enter a federal building, board an airplane, open a bank account, buy a gun, vote, verify your identity when using a credit or debit card, or do anything else that’s significantly affiliated with the federal government.  Basically, the Real ID program will effectively strip anyone who doesn’t have a federally-issued ID card of their citizenship or ability to even function in everyday society.

Perhaps the people who oppose Real ID are being unfair and overly paranoid, but considering that the Bush’s new Czar of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, issues absolute gibberish like this…

“We worked very closely with the states in terms of developing a plan that I think will be inexpensive, reasonable to implement and produce the results,” he said. “This is a win-win. As long as people use driver’s licenses to identify themselves for whatever reason there’s no reason for those licenses to be easily counterfeited or tampered with.”

…to explain his position, somehow I don’t think that their fears are that insane, especially since the creation of an identification card that cannot be forged is about as likely as the ability to corporeally exist without occupying space.  And spending the better part of ten years watching my own little section of the federal government (the U.S. Army) screw up even the most basic of background checks has led me to believe that the feds are generally incapable of handling and should rarely, if ever, be entrusted with this sort of authority.

Update:  A commenter who expanded on this on his own site raised one very valid point that I think merits highlighting: 

It’s funny.  They keep calling it a “driver’s license,” but they never mention anything about driving.

Update 2:  Apparently 17 states have already objected to the Real ID plan. 

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  • uhm

    It will be a more convenient way for the government to squash dissent than the no-fly list.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    uhm,

    Oh I doubt that it’s quite as intentionally malicious as that…I honestly think that Bush and Mukasey are stupid enough to think that this will help national security and that it isn’t a godawful horrible program that will cause massive problems for everybody in exchange for little or no security benefits for the general population.

    That’s why I used the category “Dumbasses and Authoritarians” :) Most politicians in the U.S. probably think they’re doing the right thing with these bills, they’re just too enamored with their own perceived capabilities and blind to government’s limitations to recognize that isn’t the case.

  • uhm

    I agree! They think they are doing the right thing. It will be amusing when the politicians are denied their drivers licenses.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen. Whenever government starts imposing inconveniences on everybody the people who have access to power always seem to find a way around them. I’m sure that if Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner were somehow denied their “driver’s license” the individual or agency who denied them would shoulder the blame (and probably be fired or punished, respectively) while the politicians would find a way to claim that it wasn’t indicative of a systemic problem.

    Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, after all :)

  • uhm

    That makes sense!

    The denial observation is right on so many levels in this society.

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  • Amy

    If the intent is to keep us safe; terrorists and illegal out… why take 11 years after 9-11 to partially implement and 16 to fully implement…

    This is not about driving it’s implementing the REAL ID

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Amy,

    You’re right…it’s got nothing to do with driving. That’s just the superficial justification. And it’s still a shitty security plan. The reason for the long timeline, I suspect is that a lot of states are bucking it because they either can’t afford or don’t want to shoulder the costs of compliance. It’s not going to be an inexpensive system.

  • Patrick Henry

    The REAL ID Act is illegal. It attempts to bribe the states and extort the citizens of America into cooperating with an illegal national drivers license. There is no power delegated to the federal government to commit bribery or extortion. The entire program is fundamentally illegal, an affront to every American principle, tradition, and law.

    Fortunately, New Hampshire and a few other states have decided to just not comply at all. This will lead to some interesting problems, amongst them that the citizens of at least six states will no longer be able to fly, and the federal employees in those states will no longer be able to enter a federal building.

    I just saw one of the chief criminals, Chertoff, on television, saying the only people who oppose REAL ID are terrorists, illegal aliens, and con men. In reality the only people who favor an extremely insecure ID are terrorists, illegal aliens, con men, and fools who aren’t paying attention.

    Death before REAL ID.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Patrick Henry,

    “The REAL ID Act is illegal.”

    Actually, I think the word you’re looking for is unconstitutional. The REAL ID act is unconstitutional because it infringes upon states’ rights by granting the federal government power not allowed by the Constitution. The existence of the REAL ID law makes it legal. If, however, the REAL ID law was found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional and thrown out, yet the feds continued the program unsupported by law then it would be illegal.

    That said I agree it’s a horrible program and Chertoff’s comments were absolutely incomprehensible. What a jagoff.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    The brainiacs who’ve made air travel almost as fun as a 10-hour Coca-Cola enema have unveiled their new master plan for creating an efficient security system…federally mandated drivers licenses for everybody under the age of 50, which all states will be forced to comply with by 2011, whether they’re capable or doing so or not, if the Department of Homeland Security gets its way.

    Honestly, I don’t think REAL ID will ever be implemented and here’s why; the Democrats will take complete control of the government in 2008. The new Homeland Secretary will simply extend the REAL ID requirements another 4 or 5 years and then the next Homeland Secretary will extend the REAL ID requirements another 4 or 5 years and so and so on.

    Remember, this is an extension because REAL ID was supposed to go into affect in May.

    Also, perhaps I’m being a bit lackadaisical about REAL ID because Louisiana was already REAL ID compliant before REAL ID already came out. (In fact, Louisiana’s ID requirements are tougher than REAL ID)

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    I agree that there’s a good chance it will never be a functional program, but I’m betting that it will be implemented to some degree or another and that a lot of money will be pissed away and a lot of people inconvenienced (the identity theft concerns are very real) before it’s written off as a failure.

    If we’re wrong, however, and it does get fully implemented, I believe the consequences will be disastrous for us from an individual freedom perspective. The federal government should simply never be entrusted with this amount of authority because this program absolutely begs to be abused by some power-centric chief executive down the road…and it has the potential to do damage in so many ways, many of which we probably haven’t even considered. The government could essentially strip your citizenship and your ability to function legally in everyday life from you simply by denying you access to a card. That’s an unacceptable amount of authority to cede to government in a free society.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    Kevin:

    In fact, Louisiana’s ID requirements are tougher than REAL ID

    From a functional standpoint, it would be interesting to study how many people have false ID’s, or none, in Louisiana, compared to other states. I’m willing to bet that the statistical numbers are higher than other states with easier ID standards.

    Another interesting study would be to find out whether more or less crimes requiring ID, such as check fraud, is higher or lower in Louisiana.

    Not that I’m suggesting such studies should be used as justification, or lack of justification. That is yet more inefficient, ineffective central planning.

    Oh yeah, this is being touted as an anti-terrorism measure, yet all of the 9/11 terrorists had valid ID’s issued to them. As I understand it, few (or none?) of them would have been denied a RealID because the identities they used were not any watch lists.

    I have a friend who is the chief security officer of a multi-billion dollar company. His opinion of RealID is that it’s a complete waste of money for it’s stated objectives, but a great investment for managing and monitoring the activities of the law-abiding population. Interesting perspective from someone who does security work in “the real world” where he has to deal with profit and loss and can’t just top down mandate things with no appeal or recourse.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Adam,

    “I have a friend who is the chief security officer of a multi-billion dollar company. His opinion of RealID is that it’s a complete waste of money for it’s stated objectives…”

    I think your friend nailed it. When I was in Afghanistan I worked with this team sergeant who, when he wasn’t in the reserves, worked as an agent for the DEA. His assessment of government efforts against terrorists and drug traffickers after almost 20 years on the job was “We only catch the stupid ones.”

    It doesn’t matter how stringent the government programs are that we deploy to stop them, the smart terrorists are eventually going to find a way around them because government can’t act as dynamically and fluidly as the terrorist groups can. And as long as our government adheres to the “solutions” that inhibit individuals from acting in their own best interests (like refusing to allow airlines to provide their own security personnel for planes or screen their own passengers) terrorists will have a much greater chance of slipping through the cracks and some will succeed in what they’re trying to do. Absolutely horrible waste of our time, effort and freedom.

    “…but a great investment for managing and monitoring the activities of the law-abiding population.”

    That’s the bit that really scares the hell out of me.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    From a functional standpoint, it would be interesting to study how many people have false ID’s, or none, in Louisiana, compared to other states. I’m willing to bet that the statistical numbers are higher than other states with easier ID standards.

    Another interesting study would be to find out whether more or less crimes requiring ID, such as check fraud, is higher or lower in Louisiana.

    Interesting story along those lines, a few years back, someone simply broke into a DMV and stole the ID making equipment to make fake drivers licenses.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2006/11/22/comrades-i-hereby-declare-the-revolution/ Adam Selene

    seems obvious, and predictable.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Kevin,

    Actually I had a fraternity brother in college who made fake IDs using a license machine that a buddy of his stole from the DMV. He put himself through college for a year with his little business, although his target market was drunken college girls and not illegal immigrants or Middle Eastern terrorists. This was back in the halcyon days of the early 1990s, of course, before activities like that would bring the feds swooping down in force. Eventually he ran out of lamination cards, though, so he smashed the machine and dumped it in the lake so the cops wouldn’t find out about it and shut down our house.

    Interesting guy he was, most of us figured he’d end up either being the President of the United States or land in prison for white collar crime. Last time I saw him he was off to get his medical degree at some college in the Caribbean.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Crawford and Adam,

    I don’t have to tell you how easy it is to get the machines to fake a birth certificate to “prove” citizenship in say Los Angeles for example.

    REAL ID can be gotten around with quite easily.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/2005/11/22/a-bit-about-kevin/ Kevin

    Damn it, machines should be forgeries.

  • Adam Selene

    Oh, obviously Kevin. Nor would RealID have prevented 9/11, as I pointed out above. As with so many other pieces of government control being put in place, this is a response to 9/11 that would not stop 9/11.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    It’s sad…every time some horrible event happens politicians love to tell us how some new law will prevent the next such incident from happening, but if you go back and study what actually happened more often than not you’ll find that it was some law or regulation or other form of government intervention that caused the problem in the first place.

    The Great Depression happened because the Federal Reserve was eliminating the supply of money, Vietnam happened because some guy at the NSA screwed up the date on a transcript misinterpreted what they saw and reported an event (Gulf of Tonkin) that didn’t occur, 9/11 happened because the federal government stripped airlines of the ability to provide their own security personnel on aircraft and didn’t pony up enough cash for air marshals. Sometimes I seriously think that the anarcho-capitalists have it right.

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