Though 2017 has just started, Mainers with travel plans are already thinking of 2018: That’s when a Maine driver’s license will no longer be an acceptable ID to get on a commercial plane. The federal Department of Homeland Security is surely counting on the looming deadline to force Maine into some form of accommodation, but Maine shouldn’t cave to pressure to comply with a law whose purpose is commendable but whose methods are questionable.

Maine is just one of five states that have been deemed noncompliant with the Real ID Act, which requires driver’s licenses and other state-issued IDs to have extra security measures and proof of citizenship. Last fall, Homeland Security told Maine that it wouldn’t get any more time to implement the law.

Maine was the first state in the U.S. to reject compliance with Real ID, in 2007, and the issues that fueled opposition 10 years ago have yet to be credibly addressed. Of particular concern to critics at both ends of the political spectrum was a mandated database of personal information on Maine residents that would be maintained by the state and accessible to government officials nationwide.

Who will have access to this information, and what they’ll use it for, hasn’t been spelled out. The rationale is that it will prevent another 9/11. But although two of the 9/11 attackers did pass through Portland International Jetport, the truth is that Real ID wouldn’t have stopped them.

They had valid tickets and valid IDs from U.S. states. One of the hijackers actually was randomly selected for extra screening, but since he didn’t have any firearms or explosives, he was allowed to board. So was the man he was traveling with. The two went through security a second time in Boston when they changed terminals.

However, the fears stirred by the 9/11 attacks have been a handy pretext for government invasion of privacy. Take, for instance, the federal court order requiring Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the 2015 San Bernardino, California, shootings. The Justice Department dropped its court fight after the FBI was able to extricate the information on its own, but the order normalized the idea of government intrusion into personal data, regardless whether it poses an actual national security threat.

State Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, plans to propose legislation bringing Maine into line with Real ID. We hope that his fellow lawmakers will stand firm and stand up for their constituents’ right to privacy.


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