REAL ID – Plain and Simple
Like it or not, Americans rely on driver’s licenses for every day life. That’s why the security of state licensing systems is so important. And, licensing systems are only as secure as the weakest link.
Unfortunately, we learned this the hard way. Twice.
First, in 1995, when Timothy McVeigh was able to create a fake South Dakota license with ease; all it took was a manual typewriter and a kitchen iron. He used the license to rent a Ryder truck in Oklahoma and destroy the Murrah Federal Building. Then, on September 11, 2001, eighteen of the nineteen hijackers carried government-issued IDs – mostly state driver’s licenses, many obtained fraudulently.
The 9/11 Commission recognized that it’s too easy to get false identification in the U.S. That’s why the Commission determined that “(s)ecure identification should begin in the United States. The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” Congress responded with the REAL ID Act of 2005, which requires the federal government to set standards for the identifications it accepts.
At its core, the regulation requires that, in order for a state’s ID to be used to gain access to federal facilities, airplanes and the like, the state must implement strong security standards in three areas.
- First, the state must apply better standards when verifying the identification of those applying for driver’s licenses.
- Second, states must increase the physical security features on the driver’s license card by making it harder to alter or forge (e.g., optical variable devices, ultraviolet features, micro-printing, fine line duplex patterns, and other features that cannot be reproduced using commercially available products).
- Finally, it calls for the security of the production facilities and materials used in the production of licenses, as well as the security of the DMV databases.
That’s where REAL ID comes in. Plain and simple.
As I write, four states have yet to commit to secure licenses for their citizens. The good news for these state leaders is that there’s still time to get on board. I’ll have more to say about this in the coming days. In the meantime, thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.
Stewart A. Baker
Assistant Secretary for Policy