bureaucracybusters

REAL ID DOESN’T MAKE FOR REAL SECURITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Self-Help, Social commentary on April 29, 2019 at 12:04 am

More than two million Californians got a rude Christmas gift in 2018. 

The Department of Homeland Security informed the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that the driver’s licenses and identity cards it had issued were worthless.    

The DMV had been issuing ID cards and driver’s licenses that didn’t comply with the Federal Government’s standards. So if you’ve received such a card, you won’t be allowed to board an airplane or enter a Federal Building after October, 2020.

The Federal Government is requiring all states to upgrade to the so-called Real ID cards, which are supposedly harder to forge. The “enhancements” were ordered into place after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

In 2005, Congress passed the Real ID Act as a counter-terrorism measure. Its goal was to set security standards for government-issued IDs.

The Act started to be introduced in late 2013. Now in the last phase of its implementation, its enforcers have decided that licenses issued by some states don’t contain enough identifying information to pass muster with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

One of those states is California.

The others:

  • Alaska
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • Montana 
  • New Jersey
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island 

So where did the California DMV go wrong? 

Instead of requiring two documents to prove residency, the DMV was only asking for one document from Real ID applicants. The department would then mail the ID card to the applicant’s address, which they believed constituted a second method of verifying the person’s residency.

And how are residents of states like California supposed to cope? 

The Federal Government is advising them to get a passport.

And this, in turn, carries an illogic all its own.

As one soon-to-be affected traveler outlined: “To get a passport I’ll first need to get a certified copy of my birth certificate. And to get a copy of my birth certificate I need only to submit a copy of my driver’s license.

“A copy, no face-to-face, is-that-really you?  So a New York driver’s license isn’t good enough for flying but it is good enough to get a birth certificate, which gets me a passport, which allows me to fly.”

Related image

Sample state ID card that’s acceptable under the Real ID Act

So much of what passes for security is actually security theater.  It doesn’t actually make us safer, but it makes us feel safer.  

And it makes us feel the government is keeping us safe, even when it isn’t.

For example: In the months after 9/11, National Guard troops were stationed in American airports. They certainly looked impressive.  

But passengers would have felt far less reassured had they known the assault rifles they carried had no bullets.

Or take the checking of photo IDs that has become routine to enter State and Federal office buildings.

What exactly does this tell the security guard?

If you’re John Dillinger or Osama bin Laden, it tells him: “This is a very wanted man.”  

But if you’re John Q. Public, who’s not notorious as a bank robber or terrorist, showing him your ID tells him nothing.

But people watching the guard performing this ritual assume: “The security guard must know what he’s looking for. So we have to be safer for his checking those IDs.”

In fact, most security guards have little training and even less experience. Many of them don’t carry firearms and lack self-defense skills.

According to Salary.com: The median annual Security Guard salary is $29,204, as of July 29, 2016, with a range usually between $25,857 and $33,522.  

Repeated showings of security theater can be seen every weekday at any Federal Building.

To enter, you must show a driver’s license or State ID card.

Then you must remove

  • Your belt;
  • Your shoes;
  • Your watch;
  • Your wallet;
  • All other objects from your pants pockets;
  • Any jacket you’re wearing;
  • Any cell phone you’re carrying.

All of these must be placed in one or more large plastic containers, which are run through an x-ray scanner.

Finally, assuming you avoid setting off any alarm system, you’re allowed to enter.

If you want to report a crime to a field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), here’s the procedure.

You take an elevator to the floor its offices are on. You tell a secretary why you want to speak with an agent. She requires you to pass her your driver’s license or State ID card. Then she makes a xerox of this and hands the card back.

Then you must list, on a single-page form, your:

  • Name;
  • Address;
  • Phone number;
  • Social Security umber;
  • The reason you want to speak to an agent.

You can refuse to fill out the form. But then the secretary will refuse to let you speak with an agent.

The FBI has always encouraged Americans to report anything they consider a threat to national security or a violation of Federal law.

But this demand for so much private information is almost certain to sharply decrease the number of people willing to report knowledge of a crime.

At a time when Federal law enforcement agencies need all the cooperation they can get, this is not a matter to be taken lightly.

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