Pass Act: A (Slightly) Different View.

After I posted my first article on the PASS ID Act, I expected a firestorm of criticism from both sides. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was wrong about that. Apparently, cooler heads ARE prevailing on this issue, at least as far as TTAG is concerned. I was contacted by Christian Gliem, the Coordinator of Policy and Communications for an organization called the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License. The non-profit organization (Wikipedia link here) has a stated mission that they wish to “raise public awareness that weak state systems for issuing drivers’ licenses and IDs increase the risk from foreign terrorists and domestic criminals who can fraudulently assume new identities to escape detection by law enforcement.” Seems like something I can get on board with. I did a little background checking of my own, and found that the Coalition looks like exactly what they say they are (a refreshing change from a lot of 501.3c’s, that serve as a non-profit front for some special interest groups). Christian had some interesting things to say about the PASS ID Act, and brought to my attention some facts I’d not heard of, and offered some perspectives on it that I’d overlooked. We’ve since traded emails, and with his permission, I’d like to reprint what he has to say here, for your edification:

I stumbled across your article “PASS Act: Gun Grabbing Plot or Patriot’s Tool,” prepared to read the former’s argument of big brother amassing to restrict our Second Amendment rights. I was pleasantly surprised at the balanced argument you made for the terrorist and crime prevention benefits of better identity verification.

I work for an obscure national crime prevention public charity called the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License. We support the states and the federal government raising standards to verify that you are who you say and to include enough physical security features to make counterfeiting, tampering or alteration of an ID cost prohibited. While we support Public Law 109-13 (REAL ID) and we think that PASS ID needs some tweaking, our main goal is to educate the public and state legislators that better ID security will translate into noticeable reductions in identity fraud, and will benefit public safety by hindering terrorist and criminal actions.

I wanted to address a few points about REAL ID. First, it’s not a national ID, but rather a set of 39 standards that a state should adopt if they want their card to be compliant with federal purposes. There are only three federal purposes: entering a federal building, entering a nuclear facility and boarding an airplane. A state or business may choose to accept whatever ID it likes regardless of REAL ID.

The collection, storage, and protection of personal information will still be in state DMV record systems. The federal government will not have any new access to the information. The federal government has no intention of creating a giant database as the sheer cost, management and security of a 300 million multi-record database is not something the federal government wants to get into. The logic of REAL ID is that if states can get their ID security up to a very minimal standard, there is no reason to even pursue a national ID. As much of a heartache as you have at the DMV, imagine the federal government trying to issue documents.

A REAL ID compliant card is optional for the state. Some states like Montana have decided to opt out of the process. Other states like Utah and Maryland have created two types of cards, a secure “REAL ID compliant card” and what amounts to their previous standard driver’s license. To get a REAL ID compliant card an applicant must provide sufficient documentation that they are who they say. This includes full legal name, birth certificate, Social Security number, documents proving lawful presence in the United States (for citizens this is usually their birth certificate, for legal residence, a green card or long term visa), and proof of state residency. There are no biometrics or RFID chips in compliant cards.

For law enforcement, having confidence that a person presenting an ID is who he says is vital to their survival. Much more common then terrorists, violent criminals fraudulently obtain IDs to hide their identities from law enforcement. Some purchase guns from legitimate gun stores. REAL ID is not about restricting gun ownership or tracking gun holders. As a fellow gun owner, I will continue to protect my right to purchase, use and carry, but I also want to make sure that my identity and my country’s security is protected.

We’d like to thank Christian for taking the time to offer his organization’s point of view on this issue, and for allowing us to share it with TTAG readers. If anyone else would like to offer another view – either counter to the opinions expressed here, or in sync with them, please contact us here at TTAG, and we’ll be happy to give you equal time.