The New Hampshire legislature is about to reject the Federal Real ID Act, which was passed to "close the kinds of loopholes that allowed the 9/11 hijackers to get valid ID cards," according to its principal sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). New Hampshire would become the first of possibly many states to refuse to implement the law, and given New Hampshire's history and character, that's not surprising:
"The war on our civil liberties is actually begun," New Hampshire state Rep. Neal M. Kurk (R) told his colleagues recently, borrowing from Henry's famous "Liberty or Death" speech to condemn the license plan and the U.S. government in place of the British crown. He continued: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?"
...Emboldened by that success, groups opposed to Real ID staged a rally in late April in front of the statehouse where, according to a report in the Concord Monitor, some wore "666" on their foreheads—indicating their belief that a national system of rules for driver's licenses is a step toward the "mark of the beast" prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
I'm not sure about the last part, but I am sure that Real ID doesn't actually solve the security problems it's meant to solve. Security expert Bruce Schneier weighs in:
The REAL ID Act requires driver's licenses to include a "common machine-readable technology." This will, of course, make identity theft easier. Assume that this information will be collected by bars and other businesses, and that it will be resold to companies like ChoicePoint and Acxiom. It actually doesn't matter how well the states and federal government protect the data on driver's licenses, as there will be parallel commercial databases with the same information.
Even worse, the same specification for RFID chips embedded in passports includes details about embedding RFID chips in driver's licenses. I expect the federal government will require states to do this, with all of the associated security problems (e.g., surreptitious access).
REAL ID requires that driver's licenses contain actual addresses, and no post office boxes. There are no exceptions made for judges or police -- even undercover police officers. This seems like a major unnecessary security risk.
REAL ID also prohibits states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal aliens. This makes no sense, and will only result in these illegal aliens driving without licenses -- which isn't going to help anyone's security. (This is an interesting insecurity, and is a direct result of trying to take a document that is a specific permission to drive an automobile, and turning it into a general identification device.)
REAL ID is expensive. It's an unfunded mandate: the federal government is forcing the states to spend their own money to comply with the act. I've seen estimates that the cost to the states of complying with REAL ID will be $120 million. That's $120 million that can't be spent on actual security.
And the wackiest thing is that none of this is required.
So while I think the protests in New Hampshire might have been a little over the top, I agree that REAL ID is a bad idea. That said, I believe New Hampshire's action might cause yet another Federalism problem on top of all the other splits between the states we've seen during this Administration (995 days, 3 hours left).
Update: The Electronic Privacy Information Center has a brief brief article and long list of links about REAL ID.