It’s taking awhile — and yet another deadline extension from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — but officials say Oklahoma eventually will be Real ID compliant.
Do you remember Real ID?
It’s something the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. decided was needed after discovering that the 19 hijackers involved had obtained 30 driver’s licenses and state-issued IDs among them. One of them had four IDs from three states. Five others had duplicates of the same ID.
So, in 2005, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed legislation requiring new ID verification standards and procedures for people flying on commercial airlines, entering certain federal buildings and facilities, or traveling from countries for which a passport is not required. Millions of dollars in federal grants were authorized to help states comply.
In theory, state compliance was voluntary, but opting out promised massive headaches.
Now, 14 years later, Oklahoma is one of four states yet to comply. Officials say the state will be compliant by next spring, but there is one small complication: Oklahoma’s current deadline extension expires on Oct. 10.
Without an extension, Oklahoma’s current driver’s licenses and IDs will no longer be accepted for such things as boarding domestic air flights, entering federal buildings and installations, and traveling to neighboring countries.
As a practical matter, there is every reason to think Oklahoma’s new extension request will be granted. Homeland Security, while not commenting directly about Oklahoma, suggested that the remaining noncompliant states are safe as long as they continue good faith efforts to implement Real ID.
“The majority of states have already been determined to be fully compliant by DHS, and all the remaining states have committed to becoming compliant by October 2020,” said DHS spokesperson McLaurine Klingler. “The remaining noncompliant states are working closely with DHS to share their plans and schedules for implementing the Act. All the states granted extensions to the compliance deadline by DHS are participating in periodic program reviews with DHS and are making timely progress towards meeting the REAL ID requirements.”
And Oklahoma insists that it is making progress.
This comes as a great relief to many Oklahomans, but it may also leave them trying to remember what all the fuss and bother was about in the first place. After all, an entire generation has grown to adulthood since 9/11, and most discussion of Real ID during that time has been about what a hassle it is and whether it is Big Brother come to call.
The basic premise sounded simple enough — make people prove they are who they say they are before they can get into position to hijack planes or blow up buildings. The 2005 law set more than 30 criteria for compliance, including the examination, scanning and storage of verifying documents such as birth certificates.
In other words, applying for a Real ID card would be much like applying for a U.S. passport.
“The theory behind Real ID was not a bad one,” said Kim Carter, a former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent who is now director of the state Office of Homeland Security. “A lot of states were really loose with their verification.”
As an OSBI agent, Carter said, he investigated a black market ID scheme in Oklahoma that he reported to federal investigators after 9/11. He said nothing developed from the case on the terrorism end but that it illustrated the sort of market that existed for fraudulent and fake identification.
“If you can get a driver’s license in Texas, you can go to Texas and get one (using the Oklahoma license),” he said. “Then you can go to another state and get one.”
The idea behind Real ID was to make obtaining state-issued identification through fraudulent means more difficult.
But the idea of a “national ID card,” as it was being described, alarmed a lot of Americans. So did the reports that authorities would be gathering things such as DNA and retinal scans and that the radio frequency ID chip in the cards could be used to track the population.
Some said the chips were the “mark of the beast,” a biblical reference to the Antichrist.
No place was more concerned about Real ID than Oklahoma. In 2007, it enacted a law forbidding not only implementation but even official discussions of implementation. That law was not repealed until 2017, when Homeland Security finally withheld approval of a deadline extension.
Expense has also been a factor. At a time when Oklahoma was cutting state agencies as much as 40%, it was under pressure to spend millions of dollars on the technology needed to implement Real ID.
The Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for that implementation, said this week it isn’t sure what the final cost will be, but in 2016 the estimate was $13 million. Because Oklahoma waited so long to formally adopt Real ID, it missed out on the federal grants available earlier.
Somewhat ironically, Oklahoma’s current driver’s licenses meet almost all Real ID requirements. The big exception is emplacement of the technological network, which some people still view as overly intrusive.
Under the law Oklahoma ultimately adopted, those people — and those who just don’t want to go through the inconvenience of applying for compliant identification — will be able to continue getting driver’s licenses and ID cards similar to the ones issued now. The cards just won’t get them through federal security checkpoints at airports and other places.
After 15 years, the hope is that fewer terrorists and general bad guys will get through, too.
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