[Guest commentary by Rep. Chris Tuck, Majority Leader in the Alaska House of Representatives, published in the Alaska Dispatch News, Fairbanks News-Miner, Juneau Empire, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, and Alaska Journal of Commerce]
I am disappointed that the Administration of [Alaska Governor] Walker has given in to the fear tactics and misinformation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration by putting forth legislation to make Alaska implement the Federal REAL ID Act and pay for it ourselves. It is my duty to set the record straight and make sure people have the facts they need to defend their rights.
The Department of Administration has been reporting that if we do not agree to comply with REAL ID we will not be allowed to use our state IDs to get through TSA checkpoints or to get on base. In reality there is no existing or proposed federal law or regulation requiring ID to travel at all.
A recent reply to a four-year-old Freedom of Information Act request to the DHS has shown that 77,000 people per year fly without ID, and only 2 percent who try are ever turned away. Not only that, it is the Pentagon and individual base commanders who decide what ID is required to get on base.
The Department of Homeland Security does not have authority over the Pentagon. That is why the DHS instead uses fear tactics and misinformation to try and force REAL ID on the states.
As background, the REAL ID Act was never debated by Congress, but rather was hidden in a 2005 emergency appropriations bill. It is barely six pages long, but it opens the door for the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, and outside private organizations to control the identification cards we need to exercise our inalienable rights of work, travel, gun ownership, and privacy. But only if we give them that power by putting REAL ID into our state laws.
Alaskans are being told that under the governor’s bill, they will be allowed to choose between a REAL ID and a regular ID, but this is inherently false. Under the REAL ID Act, noncompliant IDs must marked “NOT FOR OFFICIAL PURPOSES.”
The old ID will be gone forever, and if you can’t come up with the required paperwork to get a REAL ID, you will be stuck with a bogus ID.
Regardless of which ID you get, your personal data will be entered into a private nationwide database where you will no longer be able to obtain any information about it or have any control over it.
The REAL ID Act requires each state to “provide electronic access to all other States to information contained in the motor vehicle database of the State.” For years it was impossible for states to comply with this requirement until a private organization, the American Association of Automobile Administrators, or AAMVA, and a private company in Midlothian, Va., named Clerus Solutions created a private national database called SPEXS to satisfy this mandate.
Since then DHS has left it to AAMVA to set the standards for the national database.
Surprise, surprise. Clerus Solutions is made up of former AAMVA executives. The founder and chairman of the Board of Clerus Solutions actually helped Congress write the REAL ID Act. He and the president and CEO, the senior vice president, and the senior business analyst all were top executives at AAMVA before forming Clerus Solutions and the SPEXS database.
In January of 2017, without permission from the Legislature, the Department of Administration uploaded almost every Alaskan’s personal ID data including much of our Social Security information to the SPEXS Database.
The Social Security Administration expressly warns against using social security information in this manner, and the REAL ID Act does not specifically require that such information be shared, but the Administration has defended the practice because it is an AAMVA requirement.
AAMVA and its subcontractors are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or any other state or federal public information laws. There is no way to correct mistakes or obtain information about the data they have compiled on you. In addition, they can change the data requirements and the states must give it to them or lose REAL ID compliance.
Neither DHS nor the TSA will appear before any of our committees or truthfully answer any of our questions about the REAL ID Act. It is almost pointless to try because they can expand or change the requirements of the REAL ID Act at any time by publishing them to the Federal Register, which they have done numerous times.
Rest assured, I would not be standing up to DHS and the TSA like this if we did not have a much better alternative available to us. For $55 anyone who can get a REAL ID can get a passport card. 65 percent of Alaskans already have a passport or passport card.
A passport card is actually better than a REAL ID because it will get you access to everywhere a REAL ID will and more. A passport card can be obtained through a post office and only requires two pieces of documentation, whereas a REAL ID requires four pieces of documentation and a personal visit to a DMV, which many communities don’t even have, and a passport card is protected by federal public records and privacy laws.
If you or someone you love has ever been wronged by the TSA, you know it is a bad idea to hand over control of our identity cards to the DHS and private organizations. Please join me in calling upon Gov. Walker to withdraw his legislation and instead sue the federal government to defend our state and federal constitutional rights to travel freely, to have privacy, and to manage our own affairs.