The Real ID Act

Been to the DMV lately? That’s your local Department of Motor Vehicles. Maybe you avoided it all together by applying on-line or by mail. But chances are you faced long lines and delays. Well, you might look back on the experience next year and think it was a breeze compared to what the federally mandated Real ID Act will require you to do. Let me explain.

Back in 2005, Congress approved an $82 billion dollar spending bill that incorporated a description of a new security measure dealing with your drivers license. Under the measure, your new drivers’ license — the one you’ll be required to get starting in 2008 — will take a lot of work on your part. And, if you don’t get it done, you can forget about flying on an airplane, opening a bank account, collecting social security and for that matter taking advantage of many government services. You’ll have a heck of a time getting into a federal building too.

The bill was designed to making us safer post-9/11. The hijackers used a loophole to obtain drivers’ licenses, which they then used to gain access through airport security onto airplanes. The best way to prevent that from happening, lawmakers determined, was to make anyone applying for a drivers’ license or a photo ID card prove not only who they are, but also that they are in the United States legally.

Lead sponsor of the bill, Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) raises a point made in the 9/11 commission report — that travel documents are as important to terrorists as explosives. That, he says, is why Congress passed the Real ID Act.

What does that mean for you and me? Well, for one thing we’ll no longer be able to apply for a drivers license or photo ID card renewal on-line or by mail. Everyone, even folks who have drivers’ licenses that aren’t expired (with some exceptions that fall under a grandfather clause), will have to make an appointment and head to the DMV in 2008. When you get there, you’ll need more than your smile for the cheesy photo too. Birth certificates, proof of address and citizenship, photo ID, and Social Security cards are just some of what you might be asked to present to the DMV clerk — the one probably not returning that smile — because they will be required to confirm each and every bit of that information before issuing you a new “Real ID”…a process that could take weeks.

The Department of Homeland Security is in charge of the Real ID program — ensuring we all meet the new federal ID standards. To do so, each Real ID will be encoded on a strip in the back with a lot of our personal information. That is where the debate begins, and right now it’s hit about a dozen states hard.

Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Vermont and a handful of other states are either passing resolutions or proposing them to reject federally required Real ID cards. That has legislators who proposed the measure speaking out — blaming those states for putting our safety in a precarious position. But the dissenting states say it’s too costly, and puts our privacy on the line. They argue that the bill turns DMV employees into de facto federal immigration and naturalization agents.

I’ve never been to a bar that runs a scanner on a drivers’ license, but I’m told that when a bar does that, they can digitally store your personal information…much more detail than they need to determine if you are old enough to be in their establishment.

At a minimum: name, birth date, sex, ID number, a digital photograph, address, will be included and “scannable” on Real ID cards. Homeland Security may also add additional requirements — such as a fingerprint or retinal scan — they won’t issue their specifications for the Real ID for several months.

So what do you think? Good idea or disaster? Is it worth the money to implement and enforce? Are you willing to experience more inconvenience at the DMV? Or must our privacy be protected….at any price?

E-mail me at Plus, you can much more on this story on FOX News Live this weekend at 2pm ET. And we’ll also read some of your e-mail responses live on the air.

Here's what FOX Fans are saying about The Real ID Act:

“A driver's license is state issued, and many states have more stringent requirements than other states. On the other hand, all states rely on the federal government to bail them out of severe disasters (i.e., terrorism, etc.). Having said that, DMVs should be encouraged and required to implement their own safeguards and requirements to allow a citizen to obtain a driver license. In any event, I'm sure there will always be some enterprising young man to find another loophole, whether it be disseminating fake documents or counterfeit licenses. We don't need another ID; we need safeguards within our own states” — Ronald (Vacaville, CA)

“Can you say 1984? I knew that you could. I have not heard of this until now and I try very hard to keep up on what's being done to us. Big Brother is really going to be watching, isn't he?” — Tim (Burnsville, MN)

“I think it is a horrible idea. Not to mention the extra money it will cost us to renew our ID. I just renewed mine less than a year ago and I would have to go through that all again, NO THANKS. I really don't like the idea of someone able to swipe my ID and will be able to keep my info. I really think it will end up being a disaster — how will the government make sure everyone will get one?” — Devina ()

“If the federal government was making a real effort to secure the physical borders with Canada and Mexico, then I'd feel a little better about a more stringent internal ID card. I'm fairly conservative, but I am angry with this inward assault on our freedom, liberty, and yes, anonymity” — Russ (Puyallup, WA)

“The Feds already have way too much information as it is. If they had just acted on the information they had at the time, we could have avoided the 9/11 disaster. I strongly resent the fact that they are using their blunder to invade my privacy and curtail my freedom. I'd don't care to be 'tracked.' Things have gone from bad to worse since the attack on the WTC and rather than feeling safer, I feel more frightened than ever and it's not of any foreign enemy!” — Glen

“This is just another example of 'bureaucracy gone mad.' They always say it's for our protection and security, but at the end of the day, it leaves everyone frustrated through excessive delays in confirming documentation. It turns average citizens into 'would-be criminals' in the eyes of the bureaucratic system.” — Annabelle

“Real ID is the way to go. When my kids were under the drinking age, they were able to easily obtain fake driver's licenses. If we have good technology to make a secure ID, let's use it. It protects the good guys and identifies the cheats, illegals and worse. But, the downsides are waiting in line or getting personal documents we should all already have. I don't understand how some people can make simple tasks into roadblocks” — Milt

“What I would like to know is whether or not we'll be required to have a state driver's license in addition to the real ID, or will the real ID serve as a state driver's license and national ID? If so, then will the real ID be good in any state?” — Gary

“I will not get a national ID card, it's a invasion of my privacy. Someone should protect our Bill of Rights, not just our land in the name of national security. Our country's leaders need to stop being the world's police and worry about our own problems.” — Matt

“We already have a national ID. It is called a passport. We need to have every U.S. citizen obtain a passport and use it for travel. Other legal residents in the U.S. need a special ID card to provide they are authorized to live in the US. Drivers license can still be used for additional ID.” — David

“Sounds like an other effort to control more than to protect. What I hope is a sincere concern and effort to protect the people of the USA. But, it probably will be used by politicians and others who look to control our lives, even down the smallest details as to where I buy gas, food as well as being able to keep track of all my action on a regular basis. Not good — it sounds like big brother or at worst the 'mark of the beast.' — Ed (El Paso, TX)

“What's next? Tattooed numbers on our arms like Auschwitz?” — Shirley (Colorado)

“Disastrous idea … I guess you can say that big government and businesses already have access to all our personal information, but where do we stop? Are we giving the government too much control over our lives? Whatever happened to privacy? ” — John (Tampa, FL)

“It's like the line from Jurassic Park, 'just because we can, doesn't mean we should.' The national ID card is NOT a good idea.” — Ken

“I think the National ID is a good idea as long as it is foolproof. What happens to those that don't qualify for it? We need some way to weed out those that belong here and those that don't.” — A. (Nebraska)

“What's wrong with a national ID card? It wouldn't take the place of a driver's license, since you would still use your driver license for identification to get into a bar. But for things like boarding a plane, employment, opening a bank account, proving to courts and law enforcement — why not have a national ID card? I wouldn't have them issued at diver licenses bureaus, but rather at federal agencies, where you go to get a passport. If it was up to me, I'd make it so one would have to show a national ID to get a driver's license. This just adds a layer to the security process and makes it harder to steal identities. Having fingerprints on the card national ID card is a good idea, but not the retina scan. The scan should be on file with the government and used a control layer for comparison to verify that cards are valid. This would go a long way in helping secure the country and telling who is here illegally.” — Terry

“I have visions of the old war movies where Hitler's Storm Troopers stopped citizens and demanded, 'papers'? What's next? A number tattooed on our arm?” — Richard (Manchaca, TX)

Read the shout outs to the troops

Jamie Colby joined FOX News Channel (FNC) in July 2003 and currently serves as a news correspondent and anchor of "FOX News Live" on Saturdays and Sundays (2 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET). She anchored coverage of the passing of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI from Rome. You can read her complete bio here.