Staff Columnist

Iowans encouraged to upgrade to 'Real ID,' which is real dumb

Federal mandate chips away privacy in exchange for security

This is a sample license that shows both of the new logos, one for the REAL ID logo, and another for the veteran designation.
This is a sample license that shows both of the new logos, one for the REAL ID logo, and another for the veteran designation.

The federal government is demanding a spot in your wallet.

State transportation officials in Iowa and elsewhere recently launched public relations campaigns encouraging residents to update their driver’s licenses to the federally approved Real ID. The new identification cards comply with national standards meant to fend off terrorism and fraud.

Until now, driver’s licenses have been the responsibility of state governments. As of next October, however, Americans without a Real ID or passport may be unable to fly on domestic commercial flights or visit federal buildings.

Congress passed the Real ID Act in 2005, a purported security measure imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, its implementation was held up by the “Real ID rebellion,” in which Republicans and Democrats in state governments refused to go along with federal overreach.

The resistance eventually fizzled out, and states adopted laws to carry out the new requirements.

In effect, Real ID is a national identification card, which has long been an alarming prospect to privacy advocates on the right and left.

“If fully implemented, the law would facilitate the tracking of data on individuals and bring government into the very center of every citizen’s life,” the American Civil Liberties Union wrote in a brief opposing Real ID implementation.

In addition to required data points on state-issued ID cards, the Real ID Act requires states to share their databases with all other states. That makes our personal information more susceptible to data thieves, and that same information also might be improperly used by law enforcement officials.

If police only use the national ID database for terrorism investigations, hardly anyone would object. But past experience makes clear that new intelligence capabilities will inevitably be used against peaceful immigrants and drug users. In an era of firearm confiscation proposals, you can bet non-violent gun owners also will be victims of the growing surveillance state.

If the data exists, it will eventually be abused.

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Beyond privacy concerns, the Real ID rollout has created the same bureaucratic headaches we expect every time the federal government hands down frivolous mandates to state governments — unexpected expenses for citizens, heavier workloads for state workers and more paperwork for everyone involved.

Kentucky stopped issuing Real IDs this month, citing “significant unforeseen workload and staffing issues.”

People in Illinois have encountered long lines when they try to update their IDs, and some have even been turned away due to a lack of resources, CBS Chicago reported last week.

Even after your visit a government office and request your new card, you might wait several more weeks to receive it in the mail. In Minnesota, the processing time is as long as 50 days, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

Iowa appears to be in a better position than other states — there’s no extra charge for a Real ID, and reported wait times are much shorter here — but Real ID remains a solution in search of a problem. Rather than stopping criminals, it will make suspects out of all Americans.

Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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