The high-profile fight over Real ID seems to be turning into quiet whimpers from the feds.
In 2009, states and privacy advocates were loudly fighting Real ID and hearings on the issues were packed with people appalled by the federal government's plan for a national ID. Now it's as good as dead.
The federal government tried to force states to adopt one-size-fits-all drivers' licenses rules. Since at least 15 states have refused, and the federal government's only solution under the statute is to bar citizens of those states from using their driver's licenses to pass airport security, Real ID is stalled. The government can't allow the air travel pandemoneum that would cause.
That's good news.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana State Sen. Lynda Moss sent letters last week to Congressman James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, reminding him that Montana will not budge on this issue.
"Montana is in no mood at all for another heavy-handed play by the federal government, such as what transpired in 2008 when the homeland security director threatened to prevent Montanans from boarding an airplane unless we complied with the REAL ID act. We refused, and will refuse again," Schweitzer wrote.
The feds seem to have gotten the message.
According to Chris Calabrese in the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, Department of Homeland Security official David Heyman testified to Congress last week that "the security of driver's licenses has been improved in ALL states, even in the 13 states with legislation prohibiting their participation in REAL ID."
Calabrese says it's likely that DHS will soon rule all states compliant, effectively killing Real ID's most egregious provisions. That would mean drivers' licenses won't be used as National ID cards and there will be no national database of drivers' information.
Of course, we can't ever be complacent about these issues. We'll continue to keep an eye on Real ID and work to protect your privacy.