Leahy gets in spat during hearing

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(Host) Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy got into a spat yesterday at a hearing considering tougher standards on drivers’ licenses.

VPR’s Jodi Breisler reports from Capitol Hill.

(Breisler) The REAL ID Act of 2005 requires states to apply stricter scrutiny when giving out identification cards. The goal was to make it tougher for criminals and terrorists to get fake identification. Many states have complained it is too expensive and hard to comply.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy left REAL ID supporter Janice Kephart visibly upset after a bout of sharp and sarcastic disagreements – this one about the IDs of September 11th hijackers.

(Kephart) “They have said at least 7 of them obtained fraudulently, so the rest of that sentence needs to be there.”

(Leahy) “Well, thank you for telling me what I should say Ms. Kephart. That is an amazing help, and I can’t thank you enough. Because I don’t have the experience that you have after 32 years in the Senate dealing with these matters.”

(Breisler) Leahy is co-sponsoring legislation to pull the REAL ID identification requirements before their enactment date of 2009.

Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont Allen Gilbert testified REAL ID would cost the state around eight million dollars.

(Gilbert) “Some of our state senators want to raise license fees and to call the increase ‘A Congressional REAL-ID tax.”

(Breisler) Overall REAL ID will cost states $23 billion. It would also require states to keep more information on file electronically – like birth certificates.

While this may help law enforcement, it worries security experts like Bruce Schneier.

(Schneier) “The more things a single ID is used for, the greater risk we are. And if you think it’s no fun when some criminal impersonates you to your bank, wait til some terrorist mis-impersonates to the TSA.”

(Breisler) Many state legislatures, like Vermont’s, don’t think REAL ID should go into effect.

A Joint House Resolution has been introduced in the Vermont General Assembly asking Congress to reconsider the REAL ID Act. The ACLU’s Gilbert says it’s a fitting response.

(Gilbert) “The cost, the implementation, the risk of identity theft – these things worry Vermonters. Vermonters are not convinced that REAL ID is a
program will make Americans safer.”

(Breisler) Under current law, residents of states who do not comply with the REAL ID Act won’t be able to use their state IDs to get on planes and go in federal buildings.

There are separate House and Senate bills to overturn the national identification requirements.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Jodi Breisler on Capitol Hill.

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