WASHINGTON - Residents of at least 17 states are suddenly stuck in the middle of a fight between the Bush administration and state governments over post-Sept. 11 security rules for driver's licenses — a dispute that, by May, could leave millions of people unable to use their licenses to board planes or enter federal buildings.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who was unveiling final details of the REAL ID Act's rules on Friday, said that if states want their licenses to remain valid for air travel after May 2008, those states must seek a waiver indicating they want more time to comply with the legislation.
Chertoff, as he revealed final details of the REAL ID Act, said that in instances where a particular state doesn't seek a waiver, its residents will have to use a passport or a newly created federal passport card if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.
The American Civil Liberties Union has fiercely objected to the effort, particularly the sharing of personal data among government agencies. The DHS and other officials say the only way to ensure an ID is safe is to check it against secure government data; critics such as the ACLU say that creates a system that is more likely to be infiltrated and have its personal data pilfered.
In its written objection to the law, the ACLU claims REAL ID amounts to the "first-ever national identity card system," which "would irreparably damage the fabric of American life."
Do you have your papers?
An interesting potential political knot: in my Southern Baptist church when I was young, we were taught that the "666" that everyone would have to wear on their forehead or right hand in Revelation was, in all likelihood, a symbol for a national proof of identification, first a card and then a microchip embedded under the skin, that also contained their bank/credit card information. The implication was that good Christians would rather die than comply with such a law.