It’s hard to believe even people who support invasive government programs (neocons, Ralph Nader, Darth Vader) would want the Department of Motor Vehicles making any more inroads into their lives than the already-annoying drivers’ license renewal requirements. But the infamous REAL ID program is coming, and we’re all about to get to know the friendly folks at the DMV a lot better.
Besides being inconvenient and disturbing to many Americans, a federally mandated data collection system holds some real dangers, and some groups will be more at risk than others, Reason reports. At the forefront are certain religious groups and victims of domestic violence. Unless you’re living in 1692 Salem, it’s difficult to buy the Amish claim that REAL ID is the mark of the beast. But the article makes a good case for the deleterious effects the program will have on domestic abuse victims.
For example, in the past, a woman trying to escape her shotgun-wielding, meth-smoking ex could, as a last resort, move to another state and find anonymity. This won’t be the case much longer, after the nationwide REAL ID rollout begins in May. All DMV databases will be linked. If Psycho Hank knows a cop, a clerk at the DMV, or anybody with a state or federal computer with the proper access, he can find the object of his violent, unrequited affection whether she moves to Alabama or Alaska. And there’s always the case of the stolen state-employee laptop containing confidential information, which seems to make a biannual appearance in the headlines of newspapers around the country. In this scenario, a thief won’t just have access to a few thousand Social Security numbers, as in the good old days, but a potential entry point into the personal information of the entire country.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the system will be closely guarded and the cards themselves will be needed only when going into a federal building, getting on an airplane, or entering a nuclear power plant. This would sound minimally invasive, in light of all the other crap we put up with in our post-9/11 lives, but for two key points. First, DHS being DHS, there is a loophole the size of the Grand Canyon that allows for basically unlimited expansion of the program. Second, REAL ID cards are actually going to see the light of day a lot more than DHS would have us believe, considering they will be replacing traditional drivers’ licenses.
The identification system we have in place offers adequate security; it is the people overseeing the system who leave us open to the threat of 30 terrorists obtaining IDs and hopping on planes. Rather than expanding government control over American citizens, legislators should allocate funds for more training for DMV employees at a fraction of the price to tax payers. The bottom line is this program is overreaching, expensive, and a real pain in the ass. Perhaps an implanted computer chip or serial-number tattoo might be next. Hey, when it comes to domestic security, it’s whatever’s most convenient for Big Brother, right?