MIAMI (CBS4) – It sounds a bit like grade school. Get a “gold star” on your Florida Driver’s License and you’ll be allowed to board an airplane.
No “gold star” and you could be out of luck.READ MORE: FIU President Mark Rosenberg Resigns, Cites Health Issues
It’s all part of the new federal “REAL ID” Act of 2005.
The “REAL ID” Act was passed by the US Congress five years ago and now is in effect here in Florida.
The “gold star” concept was designed to combat terrorism in wake of 9-11 when those who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were able to get multiple driver’s licenses in multiple states despite the fact they weren’t citizens.
It’s a concept designed to beef up identity security and make sure government officials know exactly who you are by your id.
But as CBS4 I-Team investigator Stephen Stock discovered, what’s really being beefed up are the profits of private companies in the Identity Management Industry who are benefiting from this huge new federal program.
Pembroke Pines resident Oscar Perez showed his frustration at a Florida DMV office when he went to renew his driver’s license.
“Never! Never, ever, ever, ever!” said Perez when asked if he ever had to go through so many official hoops and protocols to get a new license.
Perez said he couldn’t ever remember being asked for an original, verifiable Social Security card in order to get a simple driver’s license.
Alex Hernandez of Miami had the same gripe.
“Over the phone I was just told maybe a couple of bills, something with my name, my address (would be good enough to get a license),” said Hernandez. “(I was told) that should be it. Now apparently they want that plus the (original) Social (Security card) as well.”
Providing an authentic Social Security card is just one of a list of new requirements for what’s become known as the new national ID program named “REAL ID.”
To learn more about REAL ID and its requirements for Florida residents go to click here or call 1-850-617-3995.
Florida is one of 11 states that embraced the program. Fifteen states in all have adopted REAL ID.
Earlier this year, Florida became one of the first states in the country to comply with the stringent rules of the Federal “REAL ID Act of 2005.”
Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner sponsored the original REAL ID legislation and recently spoke to the CBS4 I-Team in his Washington, D.C. office about the law.
“The 9/11 Commission found that the hijackers were gaming the driver’s license system,” said Congressman Sensenbrenner.
“The states that refuse to cooperate are going to end up forcing their residents to get a form of federally approved ID (such as a passport),” said the Republican from Wisconsin’s 5th District.
Under the law, beginning in 2014, people without a gold star on a driver’s license or I.D. card will not be allowed to board a commercial airplane, enter a federal building such as a courthouse or enter any nuclear facility.
Under the law, only a passport which can cost more than $100 will be acceptable substitute for a driver’s license or I.D. with a gold star.
The theory behind REAL ID: establish a more rigorous and robust national identification program.
“First of all we set up a system where a state DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles) would have to check against other state databases to make sure that the applicant for a driver’s license did not have a valid driver’s license from another state,” said US Representative Sensenbrenner. “And secondly, they (the federal legislators) restricted driver’s license to only people who are legally present in the United States.”
Florida’s US Senator Bill Nelson said he supports the concept of REAL ID.
“And so this is an attempt at standardizing all 50 states driver’s licenses,” said Senator Nelson.
But Florida’s Senior Senator acknowledges REAL ID’s personal privacy concerns.
“That (REAL ID) will help when you’re checking somebody’s ID to see if they are who they say they are,” said the Democrat from Central Florida.
There’s just one problem.
Citing both costs and privacy concerns, more than half of the states in the country refuse to implement the REAL ID Act.
Legislatures in 27 seven states have already passed laws or resolutions against REAL ID.
Eight more states have done nothing to implement its passage.
One of those critics is the American Civil Liberties Union.
“It (REAL ID) becomes like a permission slip from school,” said Chris Calabrese, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU in Washington, D.C.
“Where things you used to be able to do as a free American, vote, work, now suddenly you’ve got to get permission from the government to do those things through a National ID card,” said Calabrese.READ MORE: Armed Robbery In Medley Leads Investigators To Human Trafficking Arrests
Under the program anyone with a “REAL ID” would have had to provide original papers, such as a birth certificate, certified marriage certificate, or other certified copies of identification papers which are then scanned into a database.
REAL ID cards will also contain biometric photographs that can be read by facial recognition software.
“What I’m saying is innocent Americans shouldn’t expect that their information is collected by their government,” said Calabrese.
Despite the fact that this is federal law, it is not the Federal Government that will keep this data but individual states. Under the provisions of the REAL ID Act, states are charged with collecting your personal information.
To learn more about REAL ID and its requirements for Florida residents, click here or call 1-850-617-3995.
And, for the most part, those states that have agreed to participate are relying on private companies which specialize in identity management to keep, manage and store these databases.
CBS4 I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese about that.
“Does that (storage and management of data by private companies) raise even more troubling privacy issues?” asked Stock.
“It does,” said Calabrese. “I mean for the private corporations, this is like surveillance on steroids! Because they (the private companies) use it (REAL ID) to make money.”
And we’re talking big money!
The Department of Homeland Security estimates it will eventually cost nearly $10 Billion to implement “REAL ID” nationwide.
The line of private companies lining up to cash in and get some of that public money gets longer all the time.
According to the Senate Office of public records, the numbers of clients lobbying to get business from the US Department of Homeland Security skyrocketed from 15 companies in 2001 to 883 last year (2009).
One of the leading companies that is benefiting from the REAL ID Act is L-1 Identity Solutions, an international created in 2006 by businessman Robert LaPenta, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.
Business records show that one month after President George W. Bush signed the “REAL ID” Act into law, LaPenta established L-1 Identity Solutions.
According to several annual reports for L-1 Identity Solutions, the company has been immensely successful.
This year, Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles alone awarded L-1 Solutions a 5 year contract worth $56.9 Million.
A spokesperson for L-1 Solutions told the I-Team that LaPenta had no comment and the company would not talk about its business involving REAL ID.
But CEO Robert LaPenta had plenty to say to his shareholders last year.
In a letter as part of his 2009 annual report to shareholders, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer LaPenta boasted that L-1 Solutions “produces driver’s licenses for 80% of the US. States representing 75 million drivers.”
LaPenta also stated in his letter to shareholders that “During 2009 our Secure Credentialing business won 19 out of 20 competitive procurements. It booked approximately $289 million of new and extended contracts.”
LaPenta and L-1 Solutions also have a competitive advantage in the form of a former top level DHS and TSA official who sits on L-1’s board of directors, Admiral James Loy.
“We’re suggesting by putting this card in front of someone that we are who we claim to be,” said former US Coast Guard Commandant and Homeland Security Deputy Secretary James Loy. Loy was also the first Director of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA.) Admiral Loy now serves on L-1’s board of directors.
“Our challenge is to make certain that in this public utilization of that data, it is protected and there’s nothing that’s going to happen to violate your personal identity in the due course of meeting this new challenge of establishing a “REAL ID” program,” said Loy of government regulators.
But 6 months after the “REAL ID” Act was signed into law, Loy left the federal government and went into private practice, eventually landing with companies that make money off the REAL ID law.
“There are rules of the game clearly associated with that (leaving and going into private industry),” said Admiral Loy.
However Loy made clear that he refrained from lobbying or being involved in national security matters for two years after leaving government as required by federal regulations and federal law.
Loy admits he’s making money off a program he played a role in helping to create.
“So sure L-1 Identities as they do business with the states that they have the responsibility for the program is making a profit on that,” said Loy. “(L-1 Solutions) is making a profit on that process.”
But Loy reiterated that he waited the appropriate two years after leaving government required by law before using his expertise to help L-1 bid for REAL ID projects.
“That’s absolutely perfectly legitimate,” said Loy. “And if I can help them (L-1 Solutions) do that (understand REAL ID law) and the shareholders of the company are beneficiaries as the result so be it. That’s part of the good American economic way of doing business. That’s capitalism at its best.”
Supporters of this law dismiss the “REAL ID” as a “National ID.”
But according to L-1’s 2007 Investors package literature future plans for the company’s technology suggest using “REAL ID” cards for voting, health care, ground and maritime transportation even possibly buying food and gas.MORE NEWS: Heat's Late Game Rally Not Enough As Hawks Pull Away 110-108
To learn more about REAL ID and its requirements for Florida residents, click here, or call 1-850-617-3995.