Dec 02 2008

As DHS Secretary, Napolitano Should Halt REAL ID System

The New York Times has a story today about Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano’s nomination as Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security. The story states that in this new position, Napolitano would have to lead the REAL ID program, a national identification scheme that DHS is attempting to foist on the states. As governor of Arizona, Napolitano signed legislation to join 10 other states in rejecting this national ID program.

The substantial civil liberty problems inherent in this scheme to create a national database of the country’s driver’s license and state ID cardholders won’t disappear if Napolitano replaces Michael Chertoff as the head of DHS. Napolitano should stick to her beliefs and reject this system. As governor, Napolitano focused on the high cost of implementing this national ID system to the states, and these costs will remain substantial if the new administration implements the system created under Chertoff.

In The Identity Project’s recommendations to the Obama transition team, we urged the repeal of REAL ID. Besides the civil liberty problems, REAL ID also has security problems. Those of us who have been following the REAL ID issue, as well as other identification-based security programs, know that there is no sure way for an individual to prove his or her identity based merely on documents that can be easily forged. Therefore, REAL ID would create a system that people would trust even though they shouldn’t — because criminals and terrorists can spend the time and money necessary to forge these “trusted” ID cards.

REAL ID is a fundamentally flawed national ID system for which there is no fix. It must be repealed, and Napolitano should halt the implementation when she takes office.