BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Incredibly, 2016 marked the 15th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and next year, children who had not yet been born on Sept. 11, 2001, will be heading to tag agents across the state to obtain their driver permits and driver licenses. Under current state law, they will be issued a card that does not meet the security requirements of the federal government.
The security requirements are not new. Shortly after the attack, President George W. Bush and Congress enacted Public Law 107-306 creating the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. The “9/11 Commission” composed of five Republicans and five Democrats signified that, by necessity, the country had come together with a unity of purpose to determine how the tragedy had occurred and how to prevent it from recurring.
On July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission released a comprehensive 585-page report detailing every aspect relating to terrorism against the U.S. and its recommendations to make America safer.
Pages 390 and 391 of the Commission’s report are particularly relevant to Oklahomans this year. Those two pages detail a finding that all but one of the 9/11 hijackers had acquired various forms of identification, some by fraud and others through loopholes in the law. Those documents, as stated in the report, assisted the terrorists in boarding commercial flights, renting cars and engaging in other activities that allowed the people of the United States of America to be subjected to unprecedented shock and suffering in our own country.
Congress understood, and in 2005, the Real ID Act was signed by President Bush, establishing basic common sense requirements to prevent terrorists from obtaining state-issued identification and using those documents in a quest to injure Americans and destroy our American way of life.
In reaction, in 2007, Republicans at the Oklahoma Capitol falsely screamed that it would require Oklahoma to enroll in a “national or global biometric identification system” and the Democrats, who apparently didn’t bother to read the federal statue [possibly because they were still shell-shocked from losing the majority], adopted legislation making it illegal to comply with the federal guidelines for creating safe and secure identification documents.
Never in my life would I have believed that Oklahoma would be the “weak link” in opposing terrorism, but our disregard of the need for enhanced security standards on documents such as drivers licenses hampers our ability to assist Homeland Security at entry points to vulnerable facilities, including aircraft boarding gates where “sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.”
Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. It is truly a matter of national concern. and Oklahoma’s childishness on this issue endangers travelers from coast to coast.
The poignancy of this matter is apparent this Christmas season to anyone who has flown commercially since mid-December and seen signage that lists the nine-states, including Oklahoma, whose driver licenses are not secure and not eligible for continued waiver. Hence the countdown is on for the date in January 2018 when Oklahoma licenses will not be accepted for purposes of boarding commercial aircraft. Other dates apply to other activities such as entering federal buildings or military facilities.
Quite frankly, anyone who has actually read the Real ID Act of 2005 can see that the requirements are not onerous and is appalled at the lack of understanding and paranoia that is rampant among its detractors. The Oklahoma Legislature has one last chance this session to remove this impending hardship on our citizens. Unfortunately, the estimated cost of compliance is now 250% higher than it was in 2007. So much for good conservative decisions.
With good state leadership on this issue, one year from now, instead of being grounded, Oklahomans will be told that their new, secure state drivers licenses will allow them to be “free to move around the country” on commercial flights.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House