by Tracie Potts
NBC News

The next time you renew your driver's license, the DMV may call the Pentagon to make sure you're really who you say you are.

The federal government has announced details of its "Real ID" program aimed at keeping terrorists and illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses.

Critics argue this "Real ID" is a real nightmare.

There's been a lot of controversy since Congress passed the "Real ID" law three years ago.

Facing a May deadline, and criticism about the cost, the government has decided to phase it in over the next decade.

Your license won't look much different, but beginning next year the way you get it will change.

Present a birth certificate, military ID, Social Security card or visa and the DMV will be required by the federal government to make sure those documents are real.
"This kind of ID gives us a tremendous tool for preventing dangerous people from getting on airplanes," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The 9-11 hijackers had valid licenses.

The government says "Real ID" will also keep licenses away from illegal immigrants and help prevent identity theft.

The new cards will have at least three embedded security features, and to keep track of people who try and fail to get one, workers will now take your picture first.

"We're not gonna let someone come in again and again and again and try to beat the system," Chertoff said.

The American Civil Liberties Union isn't happy with the program.

"It's going to be both a privacy and a logistical nightmare," warned the ACLU's Barry Steinhardt.

The ACLU predicts long lines and red tape for people whose birth certificates, for example,
don't precisely match the name on their social security cards.

Also, beginning this May, if your state refuses to participate you can no longer use your license to get on a plane.

The program won't be fully implemented until 2014, and another three years later for drivers over 50.

"If this is so important, if this is so essential for our national security, why are you putting off its application for the majority of Americans for ten years?," Steinhardt asked.

The ACLU argues it can't really be done.