This alarming GAO finding flies in the face of homeland security goals; a number of the September 11 airline hijackers used illicitly obtained state driver’s licenses to help carry out their crimes.
Sadly, the GAO report is just another in a series of highly disturbing investigations in which people used bogus driver’s licenses to purchase firearms as well as use phony law enforcement credentials to enter government buildings while armed. For details on the results of these investigations, log on to www.gao.gov.
Worldwide, and surely in most large cities in the United States, sham IDs such as fake birth certificates and passports are commonly sold and easily purchased. In addition, with the advent of advanced technology such as document scanners, digital photography and powerful computers at low cost, the ability to “home manufacture” counterfeit identification documents has become virtually ubiquitous.
Buy or Make ItEven if a person is not proficient in computer technology, he or she can just as well obtain sham ID with a few clicks on the Web. Anyone can find dozens, if not hundreds, of Web sites claiming to sell so-called novelty replicas of various official credentials including driver’s licenses, immigration documents, Social Security cards, birth certificates, college degrees and even military and law enforcement identification.
Law enforcement does make arrests. For example, in late 2002, federal prosecutors charged eight men for their alleged involvement in an international conspiracy to sell and obtain phony identification documents sold on the Internet. Five convicted felons, including a child molester, allegedly sought bogus, but authentic looking documents, with assumed names from the Web sites. More information on federal agency action at www.justice.gov.
If this was not outrageous enough, in certain states, corrupt motor vehicle office employees have accepted bribes to issue legitimate driver’s licenses and state identification cards to those who would not be otherwise eligible to obtain such documents.
Who purchases fake IDs? The market is vast and increasing. Everyone from underage drinkers and illegal immigrants to felons and identity thieves drive the demand for phony identification. Today, we can add one more potential user of bogus identification – the terrorist.
My Final ThoughtsThe idea that fake IDs are merely a way for teenagers to drink is no longer valid. Bogus identification is a direct threat to our national security. Bogus IDs are a direct and genuine challenge to our homeland security that we must face head-on, and hopefully defeat.
Sidebar: What Needs to Be DoneSophisticated identification authentication equipment needs to be installed at ports of entry. Local law enforcement officers, most likely to have contact with phony identification, should also receive advanced instruction on how to detect bogus documents.
In addition, enhanced security safeguards should be integrated into official government documents, especially state issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. Like it or not, the driver’s license has become a de facto national identification card.
Still, no matter how secure driver’s licenses become, and no matter how many holograms, barcodes, computer chips and encryptions they have, if the underlying documents used to obtain licenses are fraudulent, there are large loopholes in the IDs.