Two weeks ago today, the Oregonian published an editorial containing multiple false factual claims exemplifying the “big lies” about the REAL-ID Act being propagated by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and, in many instances, its collaborators at state driver licensing agencies.
We submitted the op-ed below, thinking that it would be the best way for the Oregonian to correct the factual errors in its editorial.
We’ve heard nothing in response, and no correction has been published.
Corrections to editorials are sometimes necessary. We certainly wouldn’t suggest that a newspaper is obligated to publish opinions contrary to its own. But when an editorial contains demonstrably false factual claims, we think the editors have the same ethical obligation to publish a correction as they would if those claims were made in a news story.
Since our commentary hasn’t been published, we’ve asked the Oregonian to publish a correction.
We’re publishing our commentary here, not just as a correction to the Oregonian editorial but as a correction to numerous other uncorrected news stories (we’ve called out the New York Times, among others, for amplifying these same DHS lies in the past) repeating the same DHS lies:
Fact-Checking the REAL-ID Act
Rather than providing Oregonians with the facts about the REAL-ID Act, your January 26th editorial (“Oregonians pay the price for legislators’ Real ID protest“) is based on a series of falsehoods about the Federal law and ID requirements (or the lack thereof) for air travel:
1. “Congress mandated 15 years ago that states adopt stricter standards for issuing driver’s licenses.”
In fact, the REAL-ID Act doesn’’t mandate that states do anything. [REAL-ID Act of 2005] Congress has no authority to commandeer state agencies or state funding to carry out Federal wishes. Instead, the REAL-ID Act is designed to *intimidate* states into “voluntary” compliance by threatening to (illegally) interfere with the rights of residents of those states that don’t choose to participate in the national REAL-ID database.
2. “Oregon… will likely be, the last [state] in the country to come into compliance with the law.”
Telling each victim that all of their counterparts have already capitulated is a common tactic of extortionists. But in fact, Oregon is far from alone. The most significant element of compliance with the REAL-ID Act is that “a State shall… Provide electronic access to all
other States to information contained in the motor vehicle database of the State.”
A national database — aggregated from state records, and outsourced to a nominally private contractor — has been created to enable states to comply with this provision of the REAL-ID Act. [The Identity Project, “How the REAL-ID Act is creating a national ID
database,” February 11, 2016] But fewer than half the states and territories have chosen to participate, and few of the others have obtained state legislative authorization to comply. [AAMVA, “Participating Jurisdictions”] For some states such as California, uploading residents’ drivers’ license data to a private national database would require amending the state constitution. Compliance by all states with the REAL-ID Act is neither imminent nor likely.
3. “Starting Oct. 1, all air travelers must have either a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, a passport or passport card in order to fly in the United States.”
In fact, nothing in the REAL-ID Act or any proposed law or regulation would impose an ID requirement for air travel. The REAL-ID Act pertains only to which ID credentials are accepted in circumstances where ID is required, which currently do not include air travel.
Despite lying press releases, lying signs in airport, and other propaganda to the contrary, the consistent position of the Federal government whenever the issue has been raised in court has been that no law or regulation requires airline passengers to have or show any ID. When airline demands for ID were challenged, the case was dismissed when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found, after in camera review of the secret orders issued by the TSA, that TSA procedures that allow travelers to fly without ID as long as they submit to more intrusive searches. [Gilmore v. Gonzales, 435 F.3d 1125 (2006). John Gilmore,
the plaintiff in this case, was the founder of the Identity Project.] I’ve been in court when TSA witnesses have confirmed this fact in sworn trial testimony: “You can fly without ID. It happens all the time. We have a procedure for that.” [State of New Mexico v. Phillip Mocek (January 20, 2011)] Logs kept by the TSA, released in response to our FOIA requests, show that hundreds of people fly without ID every day. [The Identity Project, “Yes, you can fly without ID,” April 13, 2017]
It should be no surprise to Oregonians, or to residents of any other state, that Federal agencies and officials are making claims with no basis in fact or law. [The Identity Project, “TSA plans to put lying new signs in airports,” April 4, 2019] But it is unfortunate that state officials have chosen to serve as mouthpieces for these lies by the DHS and TSA, and that the Oregonian failed to fact-check them.
Instead of collaborating with Federal threats to restrict Oregonians’ right to travel by common carrier, as the Oregonian d has suggested, state officials should be planning and preparing to defend state residents’ rights against any attempted Federal interference.