Probably you don’t even know this, because your state kowtows to the federal government, but last week was the deadline for state driver’s licenses to comply with Real ID requirements or stop being valid to board commercial aircraft. What’s Real ID? The Department of Homeland Security says it’s a system of standards to make state-issued identifications harder to forge. The Montana legislature says it’s an unconstitutional infringement on states’ rights, which is the kind of argument that hasn’t been decided in favor of a state since, I dunno, Dredd Scott.
Nevertheless, the great state of Montana made it illegal to comply with Real ID in 2007. We also started making our driver’s licenses a little harder to fake, including the futuristic expedient of not printing everything on that clear top layer you can peel off with an X-acto knife. It’s almost as if Real ID were a good idea, and the problem was that it came from somebody else.
But the real problem, according to the legislature in 2007 and the governor and attorney general now, is privacy. The feds might use Real ID to gather information about our driver’s licenses, even though the DHS explicitly said it wouldn’t do that, and even though there’s no evidence it has. But that hasn’t stopped Governor Bullock and Attorney General Fox from declaring victory over Real ID in a press release after the DHS extended our deadline to comply by one year.
That’s a dubious kind of victory. It’s also a little unseemly for Montana’s executive branch to defy the federal government on this specious privacy issue when the DHS has been proven to invade our privacy in much more real and problematic ways. I don’t remember Bullock standing up to the feds when we learned that the NSA was collating our emails, texts, and phone records. You can read all about these contradictions in this week’s column for the Missoula Independent. I’ll be here at my desk, watching the leaves fall gently on the unmarked van that’s been parked outside my house since Tuesday.