SECURITY: Real ID Act passed by Congress

The Senate passed the controversial Real ID Act unanimously yesterday.

The House approved the new legislation by 368-58 last week. The legislation was slipped in with a “Support the Troops” bill designed to increase military spending by $76 billion and up death benefits and life insurance for troops.

US Representative James Sensenbrenner (Republican, Wisconsin) praised the bill’s approval claiming it would, “assist in our war-on-terror efforts to disrupt terrorist operations and help secure our borders.”

States have two years to change their identification cards. They must make state ID cards and driver’s licenses comply with federal government’s standards. The cards must feature anti-counterfeiting measures and include “machine readable elements” (read RFID) approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The legislation is open-ended and gives the DHS the power to make new requirements as they see fit.

Critics of the bill worry that it could be used to track the movement of Americans. Concerns have been raised about that these RFID-equipped cards could eventually track citizens by scanning the ID cards at entry and exit points of buildings. This new legislation also gives the DHS the power to eventually include other information on the cards. Fingerprints, iris scans, and DNA information could all be encoded on the cards.

It remains to be seen if these new “advanced” cards will really protect the US homeland or just create a new black market for ID thefts.