TSA Moves Closer to Rejecting Some State Driver’s Licenses for Travel

As soon as next year, a driver’s license may no longer be enough for airline passengers to clear security in some states, if the Department of Homeland Security has its way.

Federal officials said they would soon determine whether Transportation Security Administration agents would start enforcing a 10-year-old law that required states to comply with a set of federal standards when issuing driver’s licenses.

The issue is quickly intensifying, and the debate over identification and privacy has grown after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and California.

But some states have bitterly opposed these requirements out of privacy concerns, and more than a dozen have passed laws barring their motor vehicle departments from complying with the law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The new standards require more stringent proof of identity and will eventually allow users’ information to be shared more easily in a national database.

Privacy experts, civil liberty organizations and libertarian groups fear the law would create something like a national identification card.

Federal and state officials have been arguing for years about the merits of the law, called the Real ID Act, which was enacted by Congress in 2005 on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Its proponents argue that it is a necessary tool to reduce identity theft and fraud, and enhance the nation’s security.

The federal government cannot force states to adopt these identification standards, but it can gain compliance in other ways. In October, it began requiring that visitors to military bases, nuclear plants and federal facilities produce a driver’s license from a state that complies with the law, or show another form of government ID, like a passport.

But the biggest leverage the government has over the states is commercial air travel.

The Department of Homeland Security said it would provide a schedule by the end of this year for when airport screeners would start accepting only driver’s licenses that complied with federal standards. It said that 120 days’ notice would be given before starting to enforce the law at airports.

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