Let me give you historical perspective. In 2005, my first legislative session, we told the US Congress they should repeal the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. We didn’t think it was particularly patriotic for neighbors to be spying on neighbors and it wasn’t the American way, and we thought we should repeal the whole dang un-American thing.
Well, we didn’t hear back from them. In fact, they didn’t even send a note back telling us to go to hell. We heard nothing from them.
Later that year, the Montana University School of Journalism and School of Law looked at the Sedition Act of 1916. In Montana and across the country, we called it sedition if you spoke up against WWI, if you were a union organizer or even if you were speaking or reading German–we arrested and convicted people of sedition. Montana sent 79 people to prison during this crazy time. Of course, we suspended habeas corpus, we used secret spies to spy on people, and in all 79 cases, it was found that none of them had committed a crime under current law.
So we invited the descendants of those people who had been sent to prison in Montana, we invited them to Montana, and standing in the Capitol Rotunda–without a dry eye in the house–I’d include my own, I signed a document and pardoned all 79 of those people who were willing to stand up to this country. Who were saying, ‘This is the wrong war for the wrong reason at the wrong time.’ So this isn’t the first time we’ve gotten into these knuckle-headed ideas. Now to add to the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. ACT, Congress passed the Real ID Act, and here’s where it all started:
The federal government said, we need a system where people can’t get on planes and fly them into buildings so they said, the solution would be this Real ID.
Well, when it was pointed out to them that 15 of 17 of the high-jackers would have qualified for this Real ID, then they said, there’s another reason we need this and that’s because of all these illegal immigrants.
Now when it was pointed out to them that people who were legal and illegal immigrants would qualify for this Real ID, they said the other reason we need to have this—not those first tow reason—is because there is so much identity theft right now, this is going to make sure that people wont’ be able to steal your identity.
This has been a solution looking for a problem.
But what it’s doing is it’s giving the federal government the opportunity and the right to track when you get on an airplane, where you are going, when you got there and when you got home; and I haven’t found a 10-year period when the federal government hasn’t violated individual civil liberties. This is information that should not be held by the federal government–because you can’t trust them. They’ve demonstrated that for the past 100 years and I suspect the next 100 years would be the same.
Have you ever walked out on a deck and stubbed your foot on a nail that’s sticking up? I’m the nail that sticks up on the deck. I’m the one who said we wont’ do it in Montana, and we passed a law in 2007 that said we will not implement any provision of the so-called Federal Real ID and I signed that bill.
Later Michael Chertoff, Director of Homeland Security–if that’s what you want to call it, sent a letter to all 50 governors that said “I need a letter by March 31 of this year saying you need an extension to implement the Real ID Act of 2009 and if you don’t send me a letter asking for an extension by March 31, on May 1, the citizens of your state will no longer be able to use a driver’s license from your state to get on an airplane or walk into a federal court house.
So all the governors across the country folded like cheap suits, except a couple of us and sent their letters in. But I said, ‘Hold on a minute there cowboy! Why are you asking for an extension, if you don’t agree we don’t even want this thing? You ought to stand up and we’ll stare them down!” So me, and the governors of North Carolina, Maine, and New Hampshire did not send in our letters.
So I spoke with Chertoff and it became apparent to me that Homeland Security needed all the states worse than we needed them to do this thing. After our discussion, Chertoff asked for me to send a letter summing the conversation, so I sent him a letter saying, “We are not going to ask for an extension because number one, it would violate state law; number two, we already have a secure ID system that’s already more secure than the one you’re proposing; and number three, we don’t think we can trust the federal government with sensitive data.” In response he sent a letter saying that our extension had been accepted!
Well, I don’t know what that means, but I guess what it means is that if you have governors who are willing to stand up to the federal government; when we have bureaucrats who run amok–then you can stop them from taking our civil liberties away.
If you have governors who say, well look, it’d be politically unpopular, I mean what happens if they’re serious and people can ‘t get on to airplanes? Well I can tell you in Montana, people were willing to stand up an say this is the time and place that we will be counted. And there were expecting a leader to stand up to the federal government. And so I was really just doing the bidding of the people of Montana.
Look, since Congress fell off the deep end and passed the PATRIOT ACT and then this Real ID Act, there are some people who have come to their senses, Members of Congress who voted for this kooky idea, are supposed to represent folks back home. Now it’s clear they spend most of their time in DC, drink the water and eat the thick steaks provided by lobbyists, but ultimately they have to go home and run for re-election.
I don’t think the folks in Montana are much different than folks across this country. When the people really delve in and realize the shenanigans these folks are up to, they’re going to say, ‘If you think you’re going to put this on our state, maybe we ought to find someone who represents our interests and send that person to Washington DC.’