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In an age of intense partisan division, only a really terrible law can bring opposing sides together. The REAL ID Act, signed by President George W. Bush in 2005, holds that dubious distinction.

The law requires any individual applying for a license to verify his or her birth certificate, Social Security number and immigration status with state personnel. Individuals would also be subject to "mandatory facial image capture." Each state would then be required to keep its residents' information, including digital copies of personal documents, in a secure database and make that database accessible to all other states.

Niki Zupanic, public policy director at Montana ACLU, says the law threatens privacy, opens the door to identity theft and places huge financial burdens on states.

"It would be very similar to a national ID card," says Zupanic. "The storing of documents in a database that people all across the country would be able to access is a major concern."

The new law is scheduled to come into effect in increments. The Department of Homeland Security sent out a notification on Jan. 20 announcing the beginning of the first enforcement phase. By 2016, when enforcement is complete, non-compliant license holders may face additional security checks at airports and could be barred from many federal facilities.

There's no shortage of groups opposing the law: The ACLU, National Governors Association and American Conservative Union have all spoken against it. In addition, 15 states are refusing to enact REAL ID, including Montana.

On Jan. 17, Gov. Steve Bullock sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, asking him to allow Montanans to keep their state-issued licenses without penalization.

"In 2007, Montana's legislature voted unanimously to forbid implementation of REAL ID in the State of Montana," wrote Bullock. "All 150 members of the 60th Montana Legislature agreed that REAL ID implementation is 'inimical to the security and well-being of the people of Montana, will cause unneeded expense and inconvenience to those people' ... and raises serious questions of states' rights."

Bullock also mentioned that Montanans are "appropriately concerned with the extensive collection of their personal and private information by the government."

The governor is attentive enough to hear the complaints of his constituents, who enjoy their privacy and wish to protect it. But the federal government, despite its eavesdropping, its satellites, its drones and its databases, doesn't seem to get the message: People are sick of its snooping.


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