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“Our Partnership”: New Regs for REAL ID

His views on “our Federalism” aside, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff’ might have stepped out of a vintage World War II movie with January’s edict on REAL ID. For the vast majority of Americans who have never heard of it, REAL ID is the national ID card which Congress included in the post 9-11 legislation aimed at combating overseas terrorists. The program has now taken on a life of its own among the States who will have to bear the burden of its financial and logistical costs. Washington has neither the interest nor frankly, the money.

After waiting 3 years to promulgate regulations implementing Congress’ 2005 mandate, DHS has now given them 3 months to comply. There are numerous bells and whistles enabling state legislatures to extend, but the bottom line for non-compliance is clear: “Zere vill be consequences!” And that goes equally well for the millions of Americans headed home to visit Aunt Molly who will be stopped at the ticket counter because they can only produce a state-issued driver’s license.

Does a National ID card enhance America’s ability to identify would-be terrorists before they blow up a bridge or infiltrate a primary school? Or does it represent another intrusion into areas managed (mostly competently) by state and local officials? And, who should foot the bill—which has been variously estimated at $3.9 billion, $11 billion, and $23.1 billion?

What do you think?