Napolitano, Chertoff sign
agreement to create secure ID
Published: 12.07.2007 - See Source - Tucson Citizen
A deal between Arizona and the federal government Thursday will mean new and more secure state driver's licenses, including one for use as ID at border crossings as early as next year.
Arizona becomes the fourth state to sign up for a federal program intended to offer an enhanced version of a driver's licenses as secure as a passport for the purpose of crossing the U.S. border under tighter, post-Sept. 11 security measures. Gov. Janet Napolitano said Arizona's standard license eventually would comply with the program, known as Real ID, which is designed to make it harder for would-be terrorists to get a license.
Unlike Arizona's enhanced license, a Real ID license would not be sufficient proof of identity to enter the U.S. Both types of Arizona licenses will be available only to U.S. citizens.
Napolitano and other governors have expressed concerns the Real ID program would cost states too much and said Thursday she hoped Congress would provide money. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who signed an agreement with Napolitano on Thursday, said the effort to stiffen identification standards is essential to making the country safer in the wake of the 2001 attacks.
"In the hands of terrorists and criminals, fraudulent documentation, phony identification are really weapons that enable people to carry out acts of violence and destruction," Chertoff said.
He added that several other states, including Texas, California and Michigan, were in negotiations for similar agreements and that the requirements for Real ID would be finalized in about six weeks.
Congress passed the Real ID law in 2005; states have until 2013 to develop and put it in place. The effort has been attacked in many states as too expensive and a threat to privacy because it would create a giant database of private information. It is unclear how much of a priority the program will be when the next president takes office in 2009. The government has struck deals so far only with New York, Washington state and Vermont.