Many times since I moved to Maine in 2001, I have had regrets about the decision to do so. But I am proud that my State has stood up to the Feds to take a strong stance against “Real ID:, the National ID Card program.
Maine’s Governor, John Baldacci, is behind this revolt. At first the arguments against implementing this nationwide program here in Maine were about the incredibly high costs to Maine’s taxpayers to make it happen. Maine is already trying to figure out how to deal with a $200 million budget shortfall, so adding an additional $200 million just isn’t feasible.
But if you look further into the reasons behind Maine’s request for an extension (extensions already granted to other states like New Hampshire and Montana) you can see some of the real reasons why Baldacci and other state leaders are against this program.
The REAL ID Act is a national ID card “program” that was passed by Congress back in 2005. It’s intention is to convert drivers licenses into national ID cards. There was no debate in Congress whatsoever on REAL ID because it was tacked onto a must-pass appropriations bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A typical tactic in politics, and one that I find abhorrent.
Real ID has nothing to do with the Patriot Act. The idea came from the Sept. 11 Commission. The Commission recognized that the Sept. 11 hijackers amassed over 30 licenses and ID cards which they used to move about the country, board airplanes, transfer money, rent cars, etc. The commission recommended that state driver’s licenses be made secure. That was all they recommended; that driver’s licenses be secure. They did NOT say we needed a national identification database.
In February 2008, Maine legislature voted almost unanimously for a resolution calling on the federal government to repeal the Real ID Act. The legislature recognized what was really going on. This Act is the equivalent of having “papers” as seen in all of those movies that took place in Europe during World War II. “Your Papers, Please” is not a term that will sit well with freedom-loving Americans. A national ID card is against everything Americans believe in. Only a few states (the smart ones who stick up for their constituents the way they should) are saying “NO” to REAL ID.
It is not that John Baldacci, or any other Maine legislator, does not want Maine to be secure, and it is not that they don’t want to stop the practice of giving out driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. But is a National ID Card the right answer?
Do you trust the government to have a database that contains information on every citizen? Through this program the government will be able to know where you are right now, where you’ve been, where you are going, where you spent money, who you speak to on your telephone and your cell phone, what groceries you buy, what movies you see, what magazines you read, what roads you drive on, etc, etc, etc.
Even to law abiding citizens, this is a bit scary. I’m not so afraid of being “caught” because I’m not doing anything wrong or doing anything I have to justify. But the government can use this information to build a case against someone; a case that has no merit, simply because the feds made assumptions and inferred scenarios from the data at their disposal.
Let’s say you were doing some gardening and bought fertilizer. You had dinner at a new Mediterranean restaurant because you heard it was awesome. You go home and watch the news. The news is telling a story about conflict in the middle east and you don’t really understand the whole story. So you go on the Internet and look up maps of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, or Iran, so you can put the whole thing in context.
The government now has enough information to arrest you for suspision of terrorist activities. And as you know, because this would fall under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security (or the Patriot Act), you have almost no rights and can be held indefinitely. They could even ship you off to Guantanamo where you will never get representation.
Now, that may sound like a bit of a stretch, but it could happen. This is a free country and our freedom was guaranteed to us by the founding fathers through two documents called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This is what people like Governor John Baldacci of Maine, Maine Legislators, and sadly only a few other state governments around the country understand, and are trying to enforce.
Creating a secure system for issuing documents of identification does not, and should not, mean that we surrender our rights to privacy and our freedom as Americans. But some elected officials, who are supposed to represent “us”, felt that sneaking a bill through Congress that will store every piece of information about you in a national database through a magnetic strip on the back of your driver’s license is the right way to go.
I have a passport so this is not an issue for me. It is an issue for those who don’t have a passport and rely solely on their driver’s license for identification. But I hope that Maine, Montana, South Carolina, and New Hampshire stick to their guns and keep up the fight against this plan. I don’t believe that the decision makers around the country really looked at what the implications of this program are. Once again, the right wing factions of this great country of ours used fear to get their agenda completed. When you use fear to control a situation, is that really any different from terrorism itself?