Early this year Congress passed a bill allowing the federal government to issue national ID cards to the public; if signed by the President the bill will take effect in 2008.
The Real ID Act is part of an $82 billion military spending bill and allows the government to replace current state-issued ID cards with national ones. Its supporters, mainly republicans, say the IDs are necessary for the war on terror, expecting them to thwart terrorists and illegal aliens from moving about the country.
If President Bush signs the bill, as expected since his administration has already released an official endorsement, anyone in the United States will have to obtain a new ID card in order to work, travel by airplane, collect Social Security or take advantage of nearly any other government service.
The new IDs will be issued by state DMVs and will include each person’s name, address, birthdate, sex, a digital photograph and some form of machine-readable technology that is yet to be decided on, as well as some security features to prevent counterfeiting or duplication.
Over the past few weeks, student-news has been full of posts attempting to get the word out about the Real ID Act. Senior Tanzania Anderson has organized a group of “concerned Mills women” to fight the act.
“Our group has decided to use what’s left of the semester to educate ourselves on the Real ID Act, that way we can launch an aggressive information campaign in the spring. We just have the feeling that if we rally people’s interest right now, it may die down as a result of the [winter break],” said Anderson.
The group meets every Wednesday in the Solidarity Lounge to talk about the act and what they can do to fight it. The students involved feel that the act totally ignores states’ rights and could be potentially dangerous to the individuals who have the IDs because of the risk of identity theft. Students on many college campuses are forming groups and Web sites to fight the act through petitions and protests.
Other detractors of the act say that it will remove all power from the states with regards to identification. They are also concerned that the IDs will allow for a linking of government databases to spy on citizens and that the security devices may make it possible for more identity theft as members of the private sector could hack into the government databases and steal personal information. This would be possible because of government plans to link all the states’ databases to one larger database, making one target instead of 50, said CNETnews.com.
Interest in national IDs was renewed in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York. In response, Larry Ellison, head of the software company Oracle, said he would donate the technology and money needed to issue national ID cards. But in fall 2004 Department of Homeland Security Head Tom Ridge denied any plans of instating a national ID.
The House of Representatives passed the bill by a relatively close margin of 261-161, before it was called a military spending bill. The act was expected to run into trouble in the Senate, but once it was added to the 2005 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Defense by republicans in Congress, the bill passed.
“It doesn’t sound great. I have my license and my social security card, I think that’s enough,” said second-year graduate student Brooke Menard.
In the past, Americans have rejected the idea of national ID cards; in 1976 the Federal Advisory Committee on False Identification rejected the idea of a national identifier. Social Security numbers were instated in 1936 only as an account number in the Social Security system, and the system has grown dramatically since then. The Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations all rejected plans to make Social Security numbers a national identifier, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“I think that if we get the word out, people will be opposed to it. If it does happen, I’m going to protest by not getting one,” said senior Alyssa Contreras.