Bush Administration’s Real ID Regulations Still Too Burdensome

A systematic analysis of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) final regulations for the Real ID Act reveals that the regulations still address only 9 percent of the problems with the act that have been identified, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

“The government has tried to peddle these regulations as lifting the burdens that Real ID imposes on the states and the population,” said Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU’s Technology and Liberty Program. “But the close, issue-by-issue analysis of the regulations we carried out for this scorecard reveals that Real ID’s problems remain unresolved.”

The ACLU’s analysis of the DHS regulations is based on a list of 56 problems that have been commonly identified with the Real ID law by a variety of parties, including privacy activists, domestic violence victims, anti-government conservatives, religious leaders and DMV administrators. Of the 56 problems, the regulations successfully addressed or “passed” 6 (11 percent), scored an incomplete on 12 (21 percent), and failed 38 (68 percent).

“DHS has dumped the hardest problems on the states, the next administration, and the individual citizen,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “If this is their best shot, it shows how unsalvageable RealID is.”

“When DHS issued proposed regulations in March, they passed 9 percent,” said ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani. “Despite the outpouring of public feedback they received – an astounding 21,000-plus comments from the public – and 9 additional months of work, their passing score has barely budged and their incompletes have risen only slightly. It’s as if Secretary Chertoff covered his ears and pretended he couldn’t hear the public’s protests. Since legitimate complaints were ignored willfully by DHS, it is now clear that Congress needs to step in and fix what DHS will not.”

The scorecard was a response to Homeland Security’s long-awaited release of final regulations on Friday implementing the 2005 Real ID Act, which would federalize state driver’s licenses and create the nation’s first-ever de facto national identity card system. Extensive delays in issuing these regulations have exacerbated state complaints, 17 of which have rebelled by passing anti-Real ID legislation.

Early indications are that the new regulations are not being embraced in the states; just this week the Virginia legislature is holding a hearing on a bill opting the state out of Real ID, and a new bill is expected to be introduced in West Virginia in short order. In conjunction with its scorecard, the ACLU also released a white paper today challenging DHS for “grossly underestimating” the costs of Real ID.

ACLU Scorecard on DHS Final Real ID Regulations