Official: Critics of driver's license standards are off base

A top official at the Homeland Security Department said that much of the resistance to his agency's plan for nationwide driver's licensing standards is off base.

Last week, the department issued final regulations for states to implement the so-called REAL ID Act. At a Heritage Foundation event Wednesday, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker said the regulations are a reasonable solution to a pressing security issue.

Baker, who has served in many government positions, including as a former general counsel to the National Security Agency said REAL ID is a necessary mechanism for fighting terrorism and identity theft.

The final rules include relaxed state deadlines, particularly for the enrollment of older drivers. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the adjustments made by the department also will substantially reduce the cost of compliance.

Some states have openly rebelled against REAL ID, ignoring the threat that their licenses no longer will be accepted for federal purposes if they are not compliant with the law. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill also are considering bills to repeal the statute altogether.

Baker said the majority of Americans agree with what REAL ID aims to accomplish. He noted that the panel that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks recommended that the nation's licensing system be tightened. The terrorists involved in the attacks were able to obtain driver's licenses from Virginia and other states.

Baker also said REAL ID would help ensure that illegal immigrants do not use fraudulent documents to gain employment, and he said the law would curb identity theft.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute and other groups that oppose REAL ID have said it would erode privacy. They also have criticized the Bush administration for taking so long to issue guidance to states and have accused Homeland Security of essentially passing the buck to future administrations.

Baker said it was inevitable that REAL ID deadlines were going to need to be extended in order to give states enough time to carry out the law without forcing citizens to wait in massive lines to obtain new credentials. But he said that "virtually all responsible states" will sign on to the program and do so during this administration.

"In the long run, we're going to prevail," he said.

ACLU Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani said in a telephone interview that Homeland Security's regulations still do not address many of the law's biggest privacy flaws, particularly with how states are supposed to protect driver information. He also said the agency has guaranteed that future presidents are going to have to deal with the problems it has created.

"The public, instead of listening to what they say, should be watching what they're doing," Sparapani said. "It's clear to anyone who's watching closely that Homeland Security is simply trying to get out from underneath the REAL ID Act and pay lip service to having implemented it."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.