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Oklahoma should NOT comply with Real ID
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NORMAN, Okla. – Critics of Real ID opponents wonder what all the fuss is about over the 2005 legislation that “standardizes,” or rather centralizes the information from, ID cards for the entire nation. Oklahoma’s stubborn refusal to hop on board the Real ID bandwagon is forcing the Federal government to threaten dire consequences, or so we’re told. 

The use of passports, of all things, will be the penalty for Real ID refusal if Oklahoma hasn’t mustered the pusillanimity to comply by October 2016. Tulsa World recently ran an editorial imploring Oklahoma legislators to just comply with Real ID already. 

The author makes light of the concerns of Real ID opponents, refusing to go any further than referring to “privacy concerns.” The passport requirement is apparently too much arm-twisting for the author to bear, and so therefore we must comply. 

But why should we? Intimidation isn’t an argument. 

The Federal government hasn’t made their case convincingly, but it doesn’t want to take no for an answer. No one believes that terrorism is as big a threat as the political class wishes us to, or that some fancy identification card would do anything to protect against an event like what happened in Paris. 

If there aren’t many reasonable arguments for Real ID, what of the arguments against it? That was provided comprehensively on Nov. 18 of this year in the form of testimony from Kaye Beach, Howard Houchen, and former state representative Charles Key, at a hearing at the Oklahoma state capitol which Ms. Beach has transcribed almost in its entirety at her blog, Axiom Amuse

Charles Key, who authored the 2007 legislation prohibiting Real ID in Oklahoma, is quoted as having reminded those in attendance that “the legislation passed without one dissenting vote.” That Statute, which can be read in its entirety here, was quoted in part by Key:

“The Legislature finds that the enactment into law by the United States Congress of the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, Public Law Number 109-13, is inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Oklahoma, will cause approximately Eight Million Dollars ($8,000,000.00) in added expense and inconvenience to our state, and was adopted by the United States Congress in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

From Axiom Amuse: “(Howard) Houchen says biometric ID is “a data grab” and explains that the UK sought to implement a national biometric identity system in 2006 and scrapped in 2011.  He says that according to many members of Parliament the effort was nothing more than a costly folly, noting that in addition to the system providing no increase in security that could justify the cost, it was also rejected as an unwelcome intrusion into people’s personal liberty.  According to Houchen, other countries are having issues with their biometric identification programs as well including Israel, whose program is voluntary.”

The testimony of Ms. Beach focused more on the dangers of handing over the biometric data of each citizen to the Federal government to be kept in one big database that can and will be accessed by every U.S. state. The biometric data she refers to is a high-resolution photograph of the I.D. holder that can then be used to remotely identify that person in public without that person’s knowledge. 

She then referenced the research of Laura Donahue, professor of law at Georgetown University, who has written extensively on “the growing number of federal programs that are developing their ability to use remote biometric ID”. 

Quoting Ms. Beach: “Professor Donahue’s research backs up materials distributed by the FBI in 2010 that showed facial recognition technology being used by authorities to identify, investigate and track individuals in public.  This sort of surveillance, while not pervasive yet, is more than just a theoretical risk.  It is being done.”

Ms. Beach listed the most widely-publicized official purposes that Real ID will be used for: entering certain federal buildings, boarding a commercial airliner, entering a nuclear facility. BUT, there is a fourth official purpose that has received almost no attention whatsoever. 

This fourth is “any other purpose established by the Secretary of Homeland Security”. What the hell is that supposed to mean? 

Vague language on the part of government never works in the favor of the citizenry, so it’s safe to assume that its means anything at all. Why does Congress continuously allow such broad phrases like “any other purpose” to get constantly get past them? Why not make that single sentence the sum total of the language of the Real ID Act? 

So, in some quasi-theoretical, near-future world, where biometric identification is ubiquitous, how exactly would this information be used by our government, exactly? Would it really prevent terrorism?

Would we really be safer from all the scary people that our government constantly reminds us are out there? How easily could our biometric information be stolen, and how easily could we then be tracked by someone who doesn’t have our safety in mind? 

Anonymity is a far safer haven from danger than absolute surveillance, as is easily realized once given a moment’s thought. 

Is Real ID a national ID card? Your Real ID-compliant state driver’s license may look the same, but the information will now be stored in a Federal database, and shared among the various departments of the Federal government and among the states. 

CATO’s Jim Harper, who has a wonderful collection of articles on the dangers of Real ID, had this to say in an October editorial:

“The effort to break down state authority and herd Americans into a national ID continues because of a steady funding stream in the annual DHS appropriations bills. Congress puts tens of millions of dollars annually into REAL ID. These federal funds send DHS officials out to dissemble about the program to state elected leaders, and a grant fund encourages motor vehicle bureaucrats to push mission creep in their states when they should be streamlining the simple, basic mission of licensing people to drive cars.”

Initial cost estimates for Oklahoma’s compliance are $8 million to set it up, and $23 million every year for at least five years.  Oklahoma will bear the entire cost. 

Real ID is a relic of the War on Terror hysteria that hit a peak shortly after 9/11, a madness that has since dissipated for the most part. Rationality has returned, replacing the “do something!” attitude of many Americans, and, rather than complying with Real ID, Oklahoma should stand firm against it. 

Power grabs during times of panic are common with government, but when the panic has passed, the public should refuse to pretend overreaching measures such as Real ID are a necessity. Yes, the federal government might make good on its threat to require passports of the citizens of non-compliant states, but so what? 

Taking the time to obtain a passport is a small inconvenience, and would be more than worth the trouble if the reward is watching the Federal government throw a tantrum because it didn’t get the power grab it wanted. Real ID is too expensive, too intrusive, and too ineffective to justify its existence, much like the Department of Homeland Security itself. 

The Federal government is not suffering from a lack of data regarding the activities of everyone in the U.S. but rather an overabundance, and a woeful inability to interpret that data. And does anyone seriously believe that the Federal government would be satisfied with Real ID once fully implemented? 

What is Real ID a stepping stone to, and would that be something that even current Real ID defenders feel like supporting? If Oklahoma cracks under the paltry threat of requiring passports for flying, the Federal government will rightly understand that Oklahoma is its doormat and will proceed to use us as one. And maybe we’ll deserve it.  

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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