HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Enhanced security measures included in Montana's new driver's licenses are not meant to comply with federal standards that threaten to create an "Orwellian national ID system," Attorney General Tim Fox said Thursday.
Fox told reporters it is a coincidence that the security upgrades included in the new licenses and identification cards announced by his department Wednesday bring the state closer to conformity with the federal Real ID Act.
"Americans have always resisted an Orwellian national ID system," Fox said. "Montanans have good reason to oppose what could easily become a de facto national information database and a national identification system."
The Republican attorney general appeared with U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, to call for the repeal of the federal Real ID Act. Daines said he plans to introduce a bill next week to repeal the 2005 law.
"We're going to draw a hard line here and not stand down to the federal government's overreach," Daines said.
The Real ID Act was passed to prevent terrorism and identity theft by improving the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Montana and several other states oppose requirements in the law that include storing images of documents that driver's license applicants present as proof of their identity, such as birth certificates. State officials say that information could be breached and could be used to track law-abiding U.S. citizens.
They also oppose the U.S. government unilaterally setting standards in an area traditionally handled by the states.
Homeland Security officials insist Real ID does not create a national identification card and that there is no federal database of driver information.
The Montana Legislature in 2007 voted unanimously not to comply with the federal law. Failing to follow the standards could result in Montana driver's licenses not being accepted to board commercial aircraft or enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants.
Montana has been granted two extensions to comply with the law, and the current one expires in October. The last extension approved by Homeland Security officials noted that Montana meets 33 requirements of the Real ID Act but does not meet eight others.
A spokesman for Gov. Steve Bullock did not immediately return a call for comment on whether the state would seek another extension later this year.
The state's new driver's licenses and identification cards' security enhancements include ultraviolet ink, a laser perforation, a two-dimensional barcode and a drawing of Glacier National Park that uses lines and colors that are difficult to reproduce.
All of those upgrades are Real ID-compliant, but they don't include additional markings required by the federal law or text that notes a person's citizenship status, Motor Vehicle Division administrator Sarah Garcia said.
The state also does not retain images of identity documents used by driver's license applicants, Garcia said.
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