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Public hearings and conferences: A nanoscience conference at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., is scheduled to begin May 19, eight days after Real ID takes effect. Attending conference seminars such as "Electrical Nanoprobes" and "Applications of Synchrotron-Based Microprobe and Imaging Techniques to Studies of Human Disease" means having to show photo ID, which could be problematic for researchers from non-Real ID states. In addition, some government hearings open to the public are held in federal buildings that require photo ID.
Concerts: Virtuoso pianist James Giles performed in a concert open to the public last November at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, which requires photo ID for admission. Concerts organized by the Argonne arts council in the future could be affected. "The department is currently reviewing our existing security policies to make the necessary changes to implement the DHS Rule on Real ID Act compliance," said Joann Wardrip, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, which oversees the Brookhaven and Argonne laboratories.
Military academies and bases: The picturesque U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis requires picture ID to enter the grounds. "Currently there is no official DOD policy on the Real ID," said Ed Zeigler, director of public affairs for the Headquarters Naval District. "If and when official Real ID policy is established, we may be required to implement some changes." The Pentagon, which requires photo ID on tours, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
From Homeland Security, an unyielding defense
From Homeland Security's perspective, the rules are clear: Real ID was signed on May 11, 2005, by President Bush, and federal agencies have had nearly three years to comply. The vote in Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of the law, part of a broader government spending and tsunami relief bill that was approved unanimously by the Senate and by a vote of 368 to 58 in the House of Representatives.
Real ID's edict is unambiguous. It says that "three years after the date of the enactment of this division, a federal agency may not accept, for any official purpose, a driver's license or identification card issued by a state to any person unless the state is meeting the requirements of this section." The definition of official purposes includes "accessing federal facilities."
Since its enactment, the Bush administration has been aggressively defending Real ID, noting that many of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, were able to fraudulently obtain U.S. driver's licenses. Because Real ID links state DMV databases, establishes a standard bar code that can be digitally scanned, and mandates that original documents such as birth certificates be verified, DHS officials claim the benefits extend beyond antiterror and ID fraud cases.
DHS recently suggested that Real ID could be expanded into a requirement that pharmacies check ID before selling drugs with pseudoephedrine such as Sudafed. It "could have other benefits as well, such as reducing unlawful employment, voter fraud, and underage drinking," Richard Barth, Homeland Security assistant secretary, told Congress (click for PDF) last year. Barth added: "Any state or territory that does not comply increases the risk for the rest of the nation."
That unyielding rhetoric has not endeared Real ID to state governments, many of which have been critical of the law because of its privacy impact, sovereignty implications, and a total price tag estimated at more than $14 billion. To ease their concerns, Homeland Security last month extended the final compliance deadline to December 2017, but only states that agree to embrace Real ID and are able to demonstrate their progress qualify.
The May 11 date on which Real ID takes effect has sown confusion even among federal government agencies. Some claim they will not comply, despite the fact that the law's requirements apply to "federal facilities."
"Main Treasury will continue to accept a government-issued photo ID from visitors wishing to access the building. There will be no change in the IDs that are accepted for visitors," Treasury spokeswoman Eileen Gilligan said in an e-mail message. When asked whether non-Real ID driver's licenses and state identification cards will be accepted after the May deadline, Gilligan replied: "All government-issued photo IDs will be accepted."
Questions about access to the U.S. Capitol building also led to mixed messages. "Entry into the Capitol will be unaffected," said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, a public information officer with the U.S. Capitol Police. ID is required when entering the building for visitors not part of an organized tour.
But Homeland Security appears to believe otherwise. "We're working with other government branches, to include Capitol and U.S. Supreme Court, to ensure applicable enforcement of the law," said DHS representative Kudwa.
Because official business takes place in the Capitol building--some politicians have offices there and it is home to some committee hearings--critics of Real ID believe the law could violate Americans' First Amendment right to petition their government. "That's where you might start to see constitutional challenges," said Harper, the Cato Institute analyst.
Restricting access to courthouses is another area that touches on constitutional concerns. Federal courts can set their own rules, and many require identification: That category includes courthouses in Washington, D.C., Washington state, Texas, Delaware, and Louisiana. It also includes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
"The USMS and the courts continue to work together to address any issues that may arise as it relates to the act," said Nikki Credic, a representative of the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C.
In Maine, a state that has flatly rejected Real ID and appears to have no intention of ever complying, federal officials said they did not know how jurors or people attending naturalization ceremonies would be admitted to the courthouse. Witnesses in trials and parties to lawsuits, including criminal defendants out on bail, would also be affected.
"Obviously we are aware of the situation and we've been communicating with the folks at our headquarters in Virginia as to what our alternatives and options are for other solutions to people coming in," said John Clark, chief deputy marshal of the federal courthouse in Portland, Maine. "Right now I don't have a very specific answer for you."
Federal officials in Montana--whose governor has dubbed Real ID (PDF)--a "major threat" to the privacy and constitutional rights of state residents--also are unsure about details. "We're just waiting to see how things play out, to know where the chips fall so we can establish our strategy on how to make this thing work," said Rod Ostermiller, the chief deputy for the federal courthouse in Billings, Mont. "It's just like everything else, there's going to be some growing pains, no doubt about it."
Federal regulations creating a uniform national ID card--called Real ID--take effect on May 11. If your state hasn't agreed in principle to upgrade its driver's licenses to be Real ID-compliant, you could have trouble traveling by air and taking advantage of some government services.
A CNET News.com survey shows that just over half of the states have signed up, while some have flatly refused to participate, typically citing costs or sovereignty worries. Privacy is another concern, with a mandatory barcode on Real ID cards lacking encryption or legal prohibitions against misuse, and mandatory linking of states' motor vehicle databases.
Monday: Real ID could mean real travel headaches
In just over four months, millions of law-abiding Americans could face new hassles when traveling on commercial flights if they hold driver's licenses or ID cards issued by states that haven't agreed to comply with Real ID. Homeland Security is already predicting "delays" and "enhanced security screening" procedures for those Americans in the non-Real ID line at the airport.
Tuesday: Federal buildings become Real ID zones
Everyone from visitors to the U.S. Capitol building to jurors being called to duty in federal courthouses could be affected by Real ID's requirement that noncompliant driver's licenses may not be used to access "federal facilities." Homeland Security says it "cannot predict" how many Americans in non-Real ID states will be inconvenienced.
Wednesday: Religious minorities face Real ID crackdown
Some U.S. states have long allowed citizens with religious objections to avoid having their photograph on driver's licenses. The Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and some Muslim women fall into this category. But licenses without photographs don't comply with Real ID, a rule that could invite a legal challenge.
Thursday: FAQ: How will Real ID affect you?
What are the privacy implications? What happens next? This list of frequently asked questions tries to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the controversial law.
Editors: Michelle Meyers, Desiree Everts
Design: Shaun Charity
Production: Daniel Judd
Survey: Anne Broache
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