Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin ran as the “limited government” Tea Party guy. He even famously boasted the would tell the EPA to “pound sand.” But it turns out he’s just another federal supremacist without a spine lying to push an unconstitutional national ID system.

Bevin released a YouTube video on Friday to tout a piece of legislation working its way through the Kentucky General Assembly that would make Kentucky compliant with the federal REAL ID Act.

President G.W. Bush signed REAL ID into law in 2005. It essentially coopts the states into creating a national ID system. The federal government has no constitutional authority to mandate a national ID. Of course, constitutional constraints never stopped the feds before.

Pause here for a moment and let this sink in: Bevin – “staunch conservative” – who blustered on national radio about how he would defy the EPA, just released a video urging the state to adopt an unconstitutional national ID system.

In his video, Bevin tried to make REAL ID sound like a harmless little program to standardize driver licenses and ensure only eligible people get them. Who can object to that, right? He attmpted to allay our fears by telling us “22 states have already completed all 37 [REAL ID requirements].”


It’s been 11 years!

Under the law, all 50 states were supposed comply by 2009. But, states rebelled against REAL ID for several reasons, including privacy concerns and the fact that Congress didn’t provide any funding for the mandates it expects states to implement. Some states passed laws expressly prohibiting implementation of the act.

The federal government found coercing unwilling states wasn’t as easy as anticipated. Instead of forcing the issue, the feds issued waiver after waiver after waiver.

“There is an impasse,” Edward Hasbrouck a privacy advocate with the Identity Project told the New York Times. “There has been a standoff for more than a decade now. The feds have limited powers to coerce the states in this case.”

Today, 28 states, including Kentucky, remain out of compliance. The feds have fought tooth-and-nail for more than a decade to get less than half the states to fall in line.

The Department of Homeland Security threatens to keep Americans with non-compliant IDs off airplanes. Bevin used this scare-tactic in his video. In fact, the feds would never risk the political firestorm it would create if it denied millions of American the ability to board airplanes. That’s why they keep issuing last minute waivers. It’s a bullying tactic and we should treat it as such. In fact, Homeland Security backed down from this threat once again last January and issued more waivers.

But Bevin is all gung-ho to jump on board the national ID wagon.

The governor claims, “REAL ID is nothing to be concerned about.” But riddle me this: if Americans have nothing to be concerned about, why have states resisted the program so tenaciously for more than a decade?

Two reasons:

  1. Cost
  2. Privacy concerns

Now you would think the governor of state with a pension system on the brink of collapse would show just a bit concerned about the cost of this unfunded mandate. The feds won’t foot a penny of the bill for implementation of REAL ID requirements.

But the privacy issues surrounding REAL ID pose an even graver threat to Kentuckians. The ACLU summed up privacy concerns surrounding a national ID on its website “RealNightmare.”

Real ID would become a key infrastructure for, and dramatically accelerate, the surveillance society that is already being constructed in the United States.  Once put in place, it would be used more and more for the routine tracking, monitoring, and regulation of individuals’ movements and activities, it would be exploited by the private sector, and it would expose individuals to greater risk of identity theft and other security risks.  Its centralized database would inevitably, over time, become the repository for more and more data on individuals, and would be drawn on for an ever-wider set of purposes.”

In his video, Bevin brushed off privacy concerns with misinformation and outright lies. Bevin claimed, “[Information in the database] is not shared with anybody at a federal level, it is not searchable by people even at the state level. Whether it’s state police or the FBI, they have to have a warrant. They have to have some reason to be able to access that information.”

This is simply not true. Connectivity of all databases makes up a key component of REAL ID.

To meet the requirements of this section, a State shall adopt the following practices in the issuance of drivers’ licenses and identification cards:

12. Provide electronic access to all other States to information contained in the motor vehicle database of the State.”

And if Bevin read the proposed bill working its way through the Kentucky legislature (SB245) he knows that it requires “Establishment of electronic connectivity with any other state’s driver licensing department, federal agency, national or regional association, or business.”

So when he says the information will not be shared with anybody at the federal level, he is either ignorant or lying.

Language in SB245 does limit access to data stored in the state system in accordance with the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. sec. 2721. The warrant requirement Bevin mentions doesn’t exist, and you can read the criteria for yourself and see that it doesn’t limit access nearly as much as Bevin would have you believe. In fact, under the federal law, all kinds of agencies and private businesses can access information in driver license systems for all kinds of reasons.

And once a national data system exists, its use will undoubtedly expand, as every government program does. It is no exaggeration to say REAL ID creates the potential to track your movements across the country.

The governor told another whopper when he claimed REAL ID “doesn’t involve any biometric information.” In fact, the photos required under the federal act must be readable by facial recognition technology. Simply perusing language in SB245 relating to photos makes this clear.

When taking the photograph, the applicant shall be prohibited from wearing sunglasses, veils, scarves, headdresses, or any other attire that obscures or creates shadows upon any features of the applicant’s face…An applicant shall be required to remove eyewear that obstructs the iris or the pupil of the eyes and shall not take any action to obstruct a photograph of his or her facial features. The face shall be visible from the crown to the base of the chin and from ear to ear.”

When Vermont implemented REAL ID, “The state had to add facial-recognition technology to the computers that store photos from driver’s licenses.”

This photo database will undoubtedly be accessible by the FBI. Last fall, the agency rolled out a nationwide facial recognition program. With REAL ID the feds can potentially access stored photographs of virtually every American, along with detailed location data. This creates a scenario Big Brother could only dream of.

Finally, Bevin claimed that REAL ID compliant driver licenses required less information than passports. It remains unclear how he can make that claim, because under the proposed law, the state hasn’t even defined all of the information it will require. In fact, it can demand any information it wants without any legislative oversight. The proposed law authorizes the Department of Transportation to collect “other information the cabinet may require by administrative regulation promulgated under KRS Chapter 13A” before issuing a driver license.

Simply put, the sate can require driver license applicants to supply any information it wants. And of course, the amount of information required and stored will inevitably expand once the system becomes cemented in place.

Bevin should vehemently oppose implementation of REAL ID simply based on its cost, and the clear and overriding privacy concerns. But as a man who ran for governor based on his “constitutional conservative” cred, Bevin should adamantly oppose a national ID system simply based on the constitutional ramifications. Again – the federal government has no authority to create a national identification system. So why is Mr. Constitution pushing this?

When Bevin told the EPA to “pound sand” he pontificated on the power of the states and their proper role in the American system

“One of the most powerful tools any governor has, frankly, regardless of his ideology is the Tenth Amendment, and I happen to be a staunch conservative, I happen to be somebody who believes the powers not given to the federal government are the responsibility of the states and of the people.”

Except, apparently, issuing driver licenses.