Yesterday, the federal agency granted Montana an extension, even though state officials didn't ask for one and insist they will not adhere to the Real ID law.
Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told The Associated Press that DHS "painted themselves in a corner."
A fourth state, New Hampshire, has asked to be exempted, but Homeland Security officials have not found that letter legally acceptable, so the Granite State has not received an extension.
Here's a bizarre twist:
Yet hours after Chertoff sent those letters yesterday, DHS Assistant Secretary Stewart Baker wrote to the attorney general of Montana, saying that even though the state was explicitly not seeking an extension, it would be granted one anyway. Baker reasoned the state's new license security measures already met many of the Real ID requirements anyway.
"I can only provide the relief you are seeking by treating your letter as a request for an extension," Baker wrote.
Schweitzer, Montana's Democratic governor, said his state had not backed down.
"We sent them a horse. If they choose to call it a zebra, that is their business," said Schweitzer.
So New Hampshire's request for an extension is denied, but Montana gets an extension without asking for one. As long as my State of New Hampshire driver's license gets me on a plane in Manchester, I don't really care. REAL ID is unnecessary, wasteful, and potentially very harmful. After this week's revelations at the State Department, you'd think Senator Obama would be a bit more outspoken on this issue.
I'm thankful we have a number of strong voices looking to repeal this law, led by our own Senator Sununu.