REAL ID Rant

My state’s senators (that’s Montana, by the way) rather reasonably think that the REAL ID Act is a load of crap that won’t do a heck of a lot to protect Americans from anything but will limit the amount of personal freedom people have from government oversight.

So this week, along with senators from several other states, Montana’s senators sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, asking the agency to drop the May 11 deadline for states to comply with the act.

“It is our position that this deadline is both arbitrary and ineffective and imposes unnecessary burdens on all parties without enhancing our national security … Furthermore, the department has not taken the steps necessary to implement this deadline effectively. We therefore respectfully request you exempt all 50 States from the May 11, 2008, deadline.”

DHS essentially told them “tough cookies, do as the law says.”

What irks me is this: if Montana doesn’t comply with REAL ID, then my state driver’s license won’t be good enough to take me anywhere outside of Montana; it won’t be considered adequate identification according to federal rules.

If the agency does not lift the deadline, the senators said Chertoff needs to tell them why state residents could face secondary screening and what that additional screenings would entail, if anyone would be prevented from boarding airplanes, and other questions.

The agency said Montanans could travel with a passport to avoid scrutiny.

Great, my federal government recommends that if I want to travel anywhere by air, within my own country, I should pay more than $100 and wait many, many months for a passport (which is supposed to be for international travel). Grr.

Lawmaker moves against the anonymous Internet

According to CNET, a lawmaker in Kentucky is pushing a bill that would require people to post only their real names to Web sites, lest the owners of the sites face legal repercussions.

Of course, this has a lot of people up in arms. The Internet has always been a haven for anonymous writing. Why would anyone want to limit that? Legal accountability, most likely, and a generation that dislikes the easy libel that the Internet often allows.

Why would we not want this kind of accountability? First of all, because the legislation would be worthless and impossible to enforce on locally, let alone a worldwide. Secondly, to maintain the discourse of a democratic society, there must exist an outlet for anonymous bitching. If all words can be traced to their source, and that source held accountable for all those words, the freedom of speech goes out the window.

Bank drops lawsuit against Wikileaks

The bank Julius Bear moved to withdraw its lawsuit against the whistle-blower Web site Wikileaks.

The bank said Wikileaks had displayed stolen, confidential bank documents on its site. A judge in California ordered the site taken off the Internet — meaning, as I understand it, that its name was removed from DNS registrars.

The New York Times reported that the same judge withdrew his order, “saying that he was worried about its First Amendment implications and that he thought it might not be possible to prevent viewing of the documents once they had been posted on the web anyway.”

Experts interviewed by the Times believe that this marks the end of the bank’s legal actions against Wikileaks, at least in the United States.

Now, this is a good thing. I understand that the bank was eager to protect its documents, but they went about it in the wrong way, ensuring that more attention would be drawn to the documents.

Also, another random comment: It’s pretty naive for a judge to think he can order a Web site removed from the Internet. Is such a thing even possible without physically deleting the files from the server where they are stored?