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What is REAL ID?

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The Federal Government Has Issued a New MAndate to Bring About a National ID Database Through the REAL ID Act of 2005

Recently the federal government has issued a mandate requiring all states to adopt a new Drivers License / Identification policy called the REAL ID act of 2005. The ID's will be easy to recognize by a Gold Star logo as seen in this example below.

These ID's contain, or will very shortly, an RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) Chip which is embedded into the ID itself and can transmit your data wirelessly to any RFID reader or scanner without even handing over your card. This new mandate has many citizens up in arms about the implecations, and for good reason. Let's examine the REAL ID act and find out what it is exactly.

The Department of Homeland Security says this about REAL ID.

What is REAL ID?

REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the states and the Federal Government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification. REAL ID implements a 9/11 Commission recommendation urging the federal government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver's licenses.”

DHS is implementing REAL ID through a period of phased enforcement over the next several years. In particular, the date for implementing the prohibition on boarding aircraft travel will be set after an evaluation of earlier phases and will not occur sooner than 2016.

What does the REAL ID Act require?

The REAL ID Act of 2005:

  • Establishes minimum standards for the production and issuance of state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and authorizes grants to assist states in implementing the requirements;
  • Prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for official uses driver’s licenses and identity cards from states unless the Department of Homeland Security determines that the state meets the standards. Official uses are defined as accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding federally-regulated commercial aircraft.

Which states, territories, and tribes are affected?

The REAL ID Act covers 56 jurisdictions, including the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The current list of states from which a Federal agency may accept driver’s licenses for an official purpose is found at REAL ID Enforcement In Brief.

Is REAL ID a national identification card?

No. REAL ID is not a national identification card. States and territories will continue to issue driver’s licenses and identification cards, and there is no Federal database of driver information. Each jurisdiction will issue its own unique license and maintain its own records.

Does REAL ID mean that I must use a driver’s license for official purpose?

No. Each agency determines whether identification documents are needed for the purpose it oversees and, if applicable, which documents are acceptable. REAL ID only applies if a person is presenting a driver’s license or state-issued identification card for official purposes.

For what uses will I need to show a driver’s license?

For the first two years of enforcement, REAL ID primarily affects persons seeking to access Federal facilities where identification is required to be presented.

So What's The Real Story?

The DMV actually is pretty forthcoming on their site about the REAL ID. Check this out.

People throughout the country might see some big changes happening to their driver’s licenses and state IDs. As of February 2013, 19 states have demonstrated compliance with the REAL ID Act, a piece of legislature that imposes much stricter measures on how people can obtain a driver’s license, and sets more thorough standards as to what will be displayed on them. Called the new “national ID,” the REAL ID Act has gained some traction in light of recent events like the Boston Marathon bombings.

But what exactly is the REAL ID Act, and how will it affect drivers across the nation?

The History of REAL ID

After 9/11, the federal government began to look at ways to increase security surrounding state identification cards and driver’s licenses, in an attempt to prevent further terrorism and/or unlawful entry into and out of the country.

In 2005, the House of Representatives passed a bill into law called the REAL ID Act. This Act would set certain federal standards upon all driver’s licenses, which are currently regulated by each individual state. After being passed into law, the bill was tabled until 2007, when it was announced that the federal enforcement of the act would be postponed for a period of two years. However, many state governments were slow to support this act, feeling that it not only infringed upon states’ rights handed to them by the 10th Amendment, but also created unnecessary cost to taxpayers in order to implement the change. It wasn’t until this year that the federal government announced that all states would need to be in compliance with the REAL ID Act by the end of 2017.

How IDs Will Be Affected

The REAL ID Act sets forth new federally mandated requirements for all state driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set standards not entirely dissimilar from the requirements already in place for most states throughout the country. On each ID, the following information must be present:

  • Full legal name
  • Residential address
  • Birth date
  • Gender
  • Driver’s license/identification card number
  • Digital front-facing photograph
  • Signature

Driver’s licenses and IDs must now also include a common barcode and security devices to prevent any tampering with or counterfeiting of the card, and must display a star in the upper right-hand corner, signifying that your identification has been approved by the TSA and your identity has been verified. There are also new requirements put in place to obtain an ID or license; all applicants must present the following documents during the application process:

  • A photo ID, or non-photo ID that contains the applicant’s full legal name and birth date
  • Valid birth certificate
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of legal U.S. citizenship, OR proof of lawful admittance into or temporary residence within the U.S.

Lastly, each state must also agree to share its database of licensed citizens and drivers with all other states, including every piece of data on the cards themselves (name, address, birth date, etc.), along with all driving records and driver histories of everyone licensed to drive in the state.

The Pros and Cons of REAL ID

Proponents of the REAL ID Act cite its advantages to national security. These measures ensure that non-citizens are unable to obtain a state-issued ID or driver’s license, and also prevent anyone without one from boarding aircraft or entering high-security locations. Similarly, these IDs would place the United States in the company of nearly 100 other countries in the world (including most European countries) that have some form of a national ID card.

Cost, Freedom, and Privacy Concerns

However, many states oppose the implementation of the REAL ID Act based upon the estimated cost. The Act is a unfunded mandate, meaning that while the requirement is federally issued, the entire cost of recreating and re-issuing millions of licenses and ID cards would fall solely upon the states – without any financial assistance from the federal government. States are therefore required to raise their licensing fees in order to make up the added cost… putting an extra financial burden upon the licensee, who may simply be attempting to transfer one valid license into the REAL ID format.

Once the Act is fully implemented, residents without the new mandated ID will also be barred from boarding airplanes, entering nuclear facilities, and performing any other actions that require “official” federal identification. Citizens will need to provide a valid U.S. passport or permanent residency card in place of the new ID.

Another major concern is the idea of personal information being gathered and stored into what some are calling a “national database.” In order for the DHS and TSA to validate a citizen’s identity, they need to collect and store the information that otherwise would be solely kept by individual states. Many are worried about the “Big Brother”-esque implications this may have to personal privacy.

Major Effects Upon Immigrants

Immigrants and foreign nationals working in the United States are similarly worried about how the REAL ID Act may affect their abilities to live and work within the country. As the requirements for obtaining a new ID card are much more stringent than what some states may currently employ, foreigners without legal proof of entry into the country or without a Social Security number will be barred from obtaining a driver’s license, limiting their means of travel throughout country by a huge margin and possibly forcing them to return to their home country to renew their ID. Then again, supporters of the REAL ID Act cite this as an example of the system working properly, as it ensures that the only people working and traveling within the U.S. are those that the government has officially allowed to be here.

What is your opinion of the REAL ID Act? Will these new measures help to curb the threat of terrorism within our borders? Or are the added costs and stricter security measures just one more hindrance of states’ and citizens’ freedom? Let us know in the comments below!

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

The first line of defense, while it is still legal in the United States is to deactivate the RFID Chip. This is surprisingly easy to do. Have you ever microwaved a CD or DVD before? It's much like that.

  1. Insert your ID into the microwave on a plate that you don't mind staining with a burn mark.
  2. Set the Microwave to 10 Seconds and press START.
  3. It will take between 5 and 10 seconds to complete the process. You will see (if your id contains the RFID Chip) a flash of light. This is the RFID blowing up. Don't worry, you won't kill your microwave or blow the house up.
  4. As soon as you see the flash of light, stop the microwave so you don't melt your ID. That's all there is to it. You just deactivated the RFID Spy Chip in your identifcation card.

Below is a video from the Corbett Report with more info and a demonstration of microwaving your ID.



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