REAL ID a No-Brainer in Europe

By Janice Kephart on June 11, 2009

Most European countries -- including Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain -- are among those with compulsory national ID card requirements on their citizenry. Non-compulsory national ID cards are issued by Canada, Finland, Iceland, France (previously compulsory), Sweden, and Switzerland. The European Union offers these ID cards as valid EU travel documents in place of a passport. Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and the United Kingdom are the few holdouts in not offering a national ID card. In the United Kingdom, legislation was passed in 2006 to issue national IDs, but with most British citizens already having driver licenses and passports, like in the U.S., British citizens do not see the need for a national ID. However, procurement is already in process to create one, and it should be issued within the next few years. Interestingly, none of these countries has has seen opposition to putting minimum standards in place for driver's licenses like the U.S. special interests continue to do. Our REAL ID law is a no-brainer for most of these countries. Repealing it -- as the not-yet-introduced PASS ID would do (rumor is that Sen. Akaka will drop the bill "very soon") -- seems simply absurd to those who have lived with ID security for years.

The European curiosity over American leadership on this issue, and apparent wishy-washy stance on secure IDs, was made increasingly apparent when Secure TV News, based in the UK and Germany, asked to interview me during the Secure Document World conference in late March. Of all the U.S. government ID programs out there -- at least 15 -- they wanted to know about REAL ID and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's call to repeal it. Here I explain the evolution of the REAL ID law and where I think it may go in this administration. This piece includes a clip from former Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy, Stewart Baker, on the role the U.S. should be playing in setting ID standards.

Sometimes, it is good to know where the U.S. stands in the world on these issues. This clip is a good start.