The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced that it will again delay the deadline for states to tighten security requirements for driver's licenses. The current deadline for states to become materially compliant with REAL ID is May 11, 2011. DHS has pushed that date back an additional 21 months to January 15, 2013. This is the third delay for implementation of REAL ID.
Enacted in response to a 9/11 Commission recommendation, REAL ID will help prevent terrorists from obtaining valid driver's licenses and identification cards once it is fully implemented. Many states are making excellent progress toward REAL ID compliance because they know it is important.
In response to the Administration's announcement, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, Homeland Security Chairman Peter King and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "A state-issued driver's license or identification card is a path to our roads, federal buildings and airplanes. The 9/11 terrorists acquired over 30 driver's licenses. The terrorists then used these identification documents to blend into American society and board commercial flights on that September morning, killing over 3,000 innocent Americans.
"Nearly a decade has passed since 9/11 yet we continue to face the same vulnerabilities. Six years ago, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which established national guidelines for the issuance of identification documents to prevent terrorists from obtaining drivers' licenses. But the Administration has again delayed its implementation.
"The timing for such a delay is worse than ever. Just last week, authorities disrupted a terrorist plot in Texas. According to the affidavit, the terror suspect wrote in his journal that to avoid detection, he would need multiple drivers' licenses and a forged U.S. birth certificate. The Administration should not prolong REAL ID implementation. By doing so, they disregard the law of the land. Delaying REAL ID unnecessarily places Americans' lives at risk and threatens national security."
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.): "In July of 2004, the bipartisan and independent 9/11 Commission issued a report warning that "for terrorists, travel documents are as important as weapons.' That's why Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, acted quickly to pass REAL ID, recognizing the legitimate risk to national security created by allowing terrorists to use fake information to obtain driver's licenses and state-issued identification cards. Almost six years later, recent events have reminded us that America is still vulnerable to that risk. In light of the Texas terror plot, it's inconceivable that the Obama Administration would further delay the implementation of REAL ID and not address this glaring vulnerability for another 21 months. We have a situation where we know we can take meaningful action to make the American people safer, yet for some reason, the President wants to delay that action. I can't for the life of me understand why."
Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.): "Securing drivers licenses is a key 9/11 Commission recommendation. It is unacceptable that the Obama Administration has done everything possible to delay and scale back the implementation of REAL ID. Last week's terror arrest in Texas demonstrates that the Department of Homeland Security needs to dedicate time and resources to working with states to be compliant with the law."
Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.): "REAL ID implements a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. It is disappointing to me that the Obama Administration has chosen to put Americans at risk by having another delay in implementing REAL ID -- even after a terrorist attempt was thwarted in Texas last week in which the potential terrorist cited the importance of having multiple drivers' licenses to better avoid detection. Keeping Americans safe must be our number one priority and the Obama Administration should be helping states implement REAL ID, not permitting another setback."