What does it mean for me?
Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards.
What's going to be stored on this ID card?
At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, and a "common machine-readable technology" that Homeland Security will decide on. The card must also sport "physical security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes." Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.
You said the ID card will be electronically readable. What does that mean?
The Real ID Act says federally accepted ID cards must be "machine readable," and lets Homeland Security determine the details. That could end up being a magnetic strip, enhanced bar code, or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. In the past, Homeland Security has indicated it likes the concept of RFID chips. The State Department is already going to be embedding RFID devices in passports, and Homeland Security wants to issue RFID-outfitted IDs to foreign visitors who enter the country at the Mexican and Canadian borders. The agency plans to start a yearlong test of the technology in July at checkpoints in Arizona, New York and Washington state.
Will state DMVs share this information?
Yes. In exchange for federal cash, states must agree to link up their databases. Specifically, the Real ID Act says it hopes to "provide electronic access by a state to information contained in the motor vehicle databases of all other states."
Oh. So, that's scary.
And it's already been passed by the House and the Senate, and Bush has said he supports it...
'Cause, you know, it's so consistent with those Republican principles of small government and limited federal power.
I want to immigrate to 1998. I know some of my Republican friends will tell me about the moral problems of the Clinton administration, but I can't see how Bush and Delay and Cheney and Co. have actually improved any of the situations they've objected to. My Republican friends have been betrayed.
And I'm getting tired of being an advocate for the Devil, with my Democratic friends.