May 31, 2007 By Chad Vander Veen
Since 9/11, high-profile events at venues that hold tens of thousands of spectators have been widely regarded as potential terrorist targets.
The Super Bowl, more than any other such event, seems most ripe for an attack. Given how many people attend -- and how many millions watch it on TV -- a terrorist would be hard-pressed to find a more inviting mark at which to strike.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in early February, the hundreds of law enforcement officials deployed throughout Dolphin Stadium in Miami during Super Bowl XLI were on the highest alert. It would be fair to conclude that on that day, the stadium was one of the most secure facilities in the nation. In addition to the massive police presence, bomb-sniffing dogs were working alongside high-tech tools like facial recognition software.
Certainly no one could infiltrate these safeguards. But someone did -- six someones in fact.
A group of men with fabricated media badges moved more than 2,000 "party packages" into the stadium. The packages contained light-up necklaces and instructions on how to use them. With virtually no hassling from security officials, the men distributed the packages to thousands of specially selected fans. Following the instructions they received, the recipients turned on their necklaces at halftime -- spelling out a secret message seen around the world.
Fortunately for everyone, the scheme was a prank perpetrated by the guys who run Zug.com, a popular comedy Web site. The secret message was largely illegible due to ambient light during halftime, but hidden camera footage of their escapade captured how simple it was for them to gain total stadium access.
Although the stunt didn't directly involve fake drivers' licenses, the incident shows how shockingly easy it is to use a false identity -- even during a high-profile event with extensive security. The Real ID Act proposes to address the fake ID problem by standardizing and enhancing the security features on every citizen's driver's license -- thus preventing people from making and passing off fake drivers' licenses or using phony ones to obtain other counterfeit IDs.
On the flip side, opponents contend the Real ID Act will not prevent security gaps, but will in fact create larger ones.
Since Government Technology's previous article on the matter (Papers Please, November 2005), a lot has changed. And for a growing bipartisan chorus, the Real ID Act is looking like little more than an expensive Band-Aid.
Answers and Questions
In May 2005, the Real ID Act was signed into law after it sailed through the Republican-controlled House to the Senate where it was attached to a supplemental spending bill for hurricane relief and troops in Iraq -- making the bill almost impossible to vote against.
The Real ID Act is an unusual piece of legislation. It allows the federal government to generate specific requirements regarding what a state driver's license must contain, which sets the stage for an epic states' rights battle.
States can choose to abide by these regulations, but if they decline, the federal government can bar their citizens from using facilities like airports and federal courthouses. The Real ID Act prohibits noncompliant license holders from entering any federally controlled building.
On March 1, 2007, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unveiled the long awaited clarification of what exactly a driver's license issued under the Real ID Act must contain.
In concert with the expected news, the DHS announced an extension for the Real ID rollout deadline.
Originally states had to begin rollout in May 2008. But at a Washington, D.C., press conference, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that states could request a new rollout deadline of Dec. 31, 2009.