Tester: REAL ID a symptom of too much power in Executive Branch

Senator thumps national ID program during forum at Cato Institute

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today took another tough swing at REAL ID, calling the controversial and expensive program "a symptom of a bigger problem of too much power in the Executive Branch."

The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington, D.C., asked Tester to share his views on REAL ID, and to explain why he has helped lead Senate opposition to it.  Tester delivered an excerpt of his remarks during a Cato forum this afternoon.

Tester has long opposed the REAL ID program because it invades privacy, it's too expensive for individual states, and because it will put sensitive information about law-abiding Montanans into a national database.

"In the three years since REAL ID was enacted, it has had all kinds of unintended consequences, and no benefit whatsoever when it comes to making this country more secure," Tester said in his speech today.  "It's being implemented in a way that makes ordinary folks cringe."

Tester noted that REAL ID became law with no hearings, no debate and no amendments.  He added that since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have seen a "steady erosion" of their privacy rights.

"When our rights get trampled upon, the terrorists win," Tester said.  "First came the Patriot Act, which gave the FBI extraordinary new powers to snoop on the private lives of all Americans.  Then came REAL ID, followed by revelations of the President's secret domestic wiretapping program. At their core, these efforts share a common origin—the arrogant and wrong-headed belief that the federal government knows best."

Tester said REAL ID stems from what he calls an "imperial presidency."

"Unfortunately, REAL ID is only a symptom of a bigger problem of too much power in the executive branch," said Tester in his prepared remarks.  "I'm not making a personal, political attack on the President or Vice President.  In fact, many aspects of the imperial presidency cam from both Democrats and Republicans long before the current administration.  I'm just saying we need to restore some sanity to our system of government."

Tester has cosponsored legislation to repeal the program and replace it with a law that allows states more flexibility in creating their own ID programs.  Montana already has spent millions to make the state's drivers' licenses more secure.

Tester's full remarks to the Cato Institute, as prepared for delivery.