What is the REAL ID Act of 2005 and why did Congress pass it?
Last month marked the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists boarded U.S. commercial airliners with murderous intent to hijack the planes and kill as many innocent people as possible. In the aftermath of the horrific attacks, Congress overhauled federal law enforcement, transportation, and intelligence regimes under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It authorized the 9/11 Commission to identify gaps in national security and to make specific recommendations to protect the homeland.
One of its recommendations included closing a loophole exploited by the terrorists who took advantage of state-issued driver’s licenses to carry out their murderous mission. They used unverified driver’s licenses to take flight lessons and board the planes on the morning of September 11. In fact, 18 of the 19 hijackers had acquired some form of fraudulent ID, including 30 driver’s licenses from various states. Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 to plug this loophole, protect the traveling public, and improve national security. REAL ID requires state Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) to verify the identification of an individual before issuing a driver’s license compliant with the federal law. That was 14 years ago.
Back in 2011, I called upon the Obama administration to expedite implementation of the law when then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano approved a 20-month delay. Since then, I have continued beating the oversight drum to ensure the federal government upholds its number one priority: to protect the homeland and national security. From border patrol agents, to sky marshals, food safety and customs inspectors, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, the federal government employs legions of people around-the-clock to keep Americans safe. Lawmakers have a responsibility to keep check so that tax dollars aren’t squandered and federal agencies faithfully carry out the law in service to the American people.
When is the deadline for air travelers to have a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license?
Starting October 1, 2020, passengers who use their driver’s license for travel within the United States will need the REAL ID “gold star” located at the top of the card to show at TSA checkpoints for commercial flights. Travelers still may use other qualifying documents, such as a passport or military identification. TSA does not require children under age 18 to provide identification when traveling with an adult within the United States.
Note that a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license is not needed as a form of identification for purposes of driving, renting a vehicle, writing a check, etc. Iowans may obtain the REAL ID-compliant driver’s license from your local driver’s license service center with approved proof of identity. At a minimum, individuals must provide documentation showing one’s full legal name; date of birth; Social Security number (Social Security card, W-2, or pay stub); two proofs of address of principle residence (such as a utility bill or employment or school document); and, lawful status (such as certified copy of U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, employment authorization document).
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, there’s no extra cost for the REAL ID when renewing a license. However, a $10 fee is charged for a REAL ID if it’s not up for renewal.
It is understandable many people will consider it a hassle to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, especially for those whose license doesn’t expire before next October. Remember, Congress took this specific recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to protect Americans. For the safety and security of America’s aviation system and air travelers, the hassle is worth the inconvenience and the trip to the DMV if the enhanced identification system helps keep would-be terrorists from boarding domestic flights.
REAL ID is another tool for federal authorities and law enforcement to fight fraud and thwart terrorism. It is not a national identification card. REAL ID sets minimum screening standards to ensure those who apply to obtain a government-issued ID are who they claim to be.