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Can DHS Force Real ID?

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By Allan Holmes August 27, 2007

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Much was made of Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff's comment last week that residents of states that fail to follow the Real ID Act's requirement to issue more secure driver's licenses will be required to show a passport to gain entry into state parks, to board airplanes, or to enter any federal building. According to a CNN article:

"This is not a mandate," Chertoff said. "A state doesn't have to do this, but if the state doesn't have -- at the end of the day, at the end of the deadline -- Real ID-compliant licenses then the state cannot expect that those licenses will be accepted for federal purposes."

Just how serious DHS is about requiring these residents to show passports, or how much power the department has to make it happen, is highly questionable, points out security expert Bruce Schneier. In his blog last week, Schneier wrote that Chertoff's threat is "a lot of bluster." Schneier explained, "The federal government just can't say that citizens of -- for example -- Georgia (which passed a bill in May authorizing the Governor to delay implementation of REAL ID) can't walk into a federal courthouse without a passport. Or can't board an airplane without a passport -- imagine the lobbying by Delta Airlines here. They just can't."

Seventeen states have passed legislation opposing the law and other states are considering similar bills. Washington, Vermont and Arizona have already found some common ground.

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