Activist: DHS considering outsourcing work for ID law

Department chief ordered plan to hire a private sector data aggregator for license and ID card checks, privacy advocate claims.

The Homeland Security Department plans to outsource to a private firm the implementation of a federal law mandating nationwide standards for identification cards, according to a privacy activist who claims to have obtained portions of draft regulations circulated last week.

Homeland Security sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget proposed regulations for the so-called REAL ID Act. The department recommends that a private data aggregator be responsible for key elements of the law's implementation, according to a document posted by Bill Scannell, a spokesman for the Identity Project.

OMB is allowed 90 days to review the draft regulations.

Civil libertarians have cited concerns that REAL ID effectively creates a national ID system. Scannell did not say if Homeland Security recommended a particular vendor, but he claimed that Secretary Michael Chertoff personally ordered a plan to hire a private data aggregator for license and ID card checks.

Homeland Security is granting the right to control our identity to private industry," Scannell wrote on the Web site "It will be Identity-Mart Inc."

A Homeland Security spokesman declined to comment on the issue.

Some states already are moving to reject REAL ID. A bill authored by Montana state Rep. Brady Wiseman would direct the state's Justice Department not to implement the law. The proposal has been referred to the state House Judiciary Committee.

According to Wiseman's bill, REAL ID is "inimical to the security of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people, and was adopted by the U.S. Congress in violation of the principles of federalism contained in the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

A study released last year by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association estimated that REAL ID will cost states at least $11 billion over the next six years to comply.

Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and John Sununu, R-N.H., introduced legislation at the end of last year to repeal REAL ID. Their bill would have reinstated language from a 2004 intelligence law establishing a rulemaking process for the development of federal standards for driver's licenses and ID cards. Akaka and Sununu, are expected to re-file that proposal in the 110th Congress.

Wiseman's bill would make Montana the first state to opt out of REAL ID. A measure to reject the law almost succeeded in New Hampshire last spring, but it died in the state Senate.

Supporters of that bill cited various concerns about REAL ID, particularly about whether New Hampshire would be forced to return pilot funding it had received to comply with the law. There also was resistance from civil libertarians who argued it would threaten the privacy of New Hampshire residents.

Anti-REAL ID bills are expected in several other states in 2007. State lawmakers approved a resolution at NCSL's annual conference last summer demanding funding from the federal government to comply with the law.

Wiseman said he would be opposed to REAL ID regardless of how much money it will cost states to comply. "No amount of funding is going to make compliance okay for me," he said. "This isn't about money."