December 13, 2016 The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that signs are going up at U.S. airports – including Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport beginning this week to notify travelers that starting in January 2018, the agency will begin to phase out state-issued driver’s license and identification cards for boarding commercial aircraft unless they meet REAL ID standards. The state of Illinois is one of several states granted an extension until October 2020 at TSA checkpoints, but if not fully REAL ID compliant by the deadline of January 2018, residents will not be allowed to access military bases and some other government facilities such as nuclear power plants.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson announced earlier this year that effective January 22, 2018, the TSA will only accept state-issued driver’s licenses or identification cards if they are issued by a REAL ID compliant state or a non-compliant state with an extension. Passports, permanent resident cards, trusted-traveler cards and military IDs are among the alternatives that the TSA will accept. The legislation was passed in the last General Assembly session giving Secretary of State officials the authority to implement Real ID security measures, including document checks and facial recognition, claiming to eliminate fraud and identity theft.
The Real ID Act of 2005 passed on February 10, 2005 by one hundred votes, 261 to 161. Since its inception, both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including several who originally voted in favor of the REAL ID Act, have called to repeal the law. The controversies associated with REAL ID resulted in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security granting several extensions to non compliant states over the last eleven years. Illinois was one of a handful of states to vote against implementing the REAL ID Act. Illinois lawmakers did not want to transition to Real ID compliance because they felt it minimized states’ rights as well as individual privacy. Federal funding for Real ID compliance is only issued to states that agree to link their databases to other states so information between DMVs can be shared. On May 24, 2016, Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White announced the steps Illinois will take to achieve REAL ID compliance. Since July, new licenses and other state ID cards have been mailed to the applicant after they pass several fraud checks. In the meantime, the applicants receive a temporary paper to serve as identification. The classic Federal vs. State supremacy power struggle is detailed in “Identity Crisis: How Identification Is Overused and Misunderstood,” authored by Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the free-market Cato Institute, and a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. In the book, Harper contends that the U.S. national identification card, created by Congress in the REAL ID Act, is a poor way to secure the country or its citizens. “The REAL ID Act represents a transfer of power from individuals to institutions, and that transfer threatens liberty, enables identity fraud, and subjects people to unwanted surveillance, Harper said.”
Critics have referred to the REAL ID Act as a ‘National ID card,’ voicing concerns about the multi billion dollar price tag for state governments. Others worry about the mandate’s privacy and civil liberties implications. The vulnerabilities to ICS computer networks that compromise the personal information of millions of Americans and State secrets occur almost daily. The most recent incident to demonstrate the risks to cyber-security is the CIA‘s report after a secret assessment that determined that Russia intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to help Donald Trump win.
Cynthia Hodges holds a M.A. in Political Science from NEIU in Chicago, Illinois and a Post-Grad Professional Certificate in Disaster and Terrorism Management from University of North Carolina -Chapel Hill. In addition to a successful writing career, Cynthia is in the process of writing a book on the role of private security guards as first responders in the post 9/11 America. "My career has been a balance of security and education, and my passion for Homeland Security while protecting individual's Constitutional rights has grown as a result of the two."