Homeland Security bows to Real ID outcry

March 6, 2011

by Declan McCullagh, CNET

Americans will be able to use their driver’s licenses after May 11 to travel by air after all.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security today postponed the effective date of the Real ID Act until January 15, 2013, a move that avoided causing tremendous disruptions to air travel.

The reason Homeland Security granted the delay is that, apart from some Republican stalwarts in Congress, this law creating a digital nationalized ID is hardly popular, with critics calling it a national ID card. A chart (PDF) updated last month by the National Conference of State Legislatures lists 16 states, including Arizona, Georgia, Oregon, and Washington, with laws forbidding them to comply with Real ID and 8 states, including Colorado, Hawaii, and Illinois, that have enacted resolutions effectively boycotting it.

Once the regulations take full effect, the impact on Americans would be dramatic: Residents of the 24 states mentioned above would not be able to simply use their driver’s license to fly or to enter a federal building such as a courthouse, even for jury duty. U.S. passports or military IDs, however, would remain valid for identification.

Real ID supporters among the House Republican chairs reacted angrily to the news of the delay–the third to date.

“It is disappointing to me that the Obama administration has chosen to put Americans at risk by having another delay in implementing Real ID,” Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) said in a statement. He was joined by three other senior Republicans: House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.). The Federation for American Immigration Reform also denounced the deadline extension.

The Republicans claim that last week’s arrest in Texas of Khalid Aldawsari on charges of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction “underscores the importance” of implementing Real ID immediately. A criminal complaint (PDF) against Aldawsari alleges that he created a “synopsis of important steps” that included obtaining a forged U.S. birth certificate and obtaining a driver’s license. Those documents could be used to rent cars and place explosives. But there’s no evidence he began the process of obtaining fraudulent documents.

To read more, visit:  http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20039568-281.html

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