NEW YORK – In an effort to further hamper would-be terrorists, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are drafting legislation aimed at preventing criminals from getting real drivers' licenses and identification cards with fake information.
Currently, each state is responsible for issuing drivers' licenses. There is no centralized Department of Motor Vehicles in the United States. Media reports said the Sept. 11 hijackers were able to acquire both real and fake licenses issued in Florida, Virginia, New Jersey, and Arizona.
Following the attacks, a man determined to have links to some of the hijackers had obtained a license in Michigan to haul hazardous materials.
One proposal would make it easier for states to share records from their departments of motor vehicles. Currently, states have no idea if someone was refused a driver's license in another state. Supporters of the measure say that by sharing, state DMVs can stop criminals and terrorists from cheating the system.
"That's exactly what happened with the terrorist attacks. They knew where to go, they knew how to maneuver through our system and they knew what those loopholes were," said Linda Lewis, president and CEO of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrations.
Lewis said states need to share data on a real-time basis and meet the same minimum standards for issuing IDs. Right now, states don't, and that makes it easier for criminals get identification.
"It's fraught with fraud in a lot of areas and we're trying to bring the integrity back," she said.
Giving the government more access to all this personal information has privacy advocates up in arms, however. They fear the legislation would allow the states to disperse personal information recklessly.
"The technology can be used to promote privacy, but it can also be used wrong," said Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Among privacy advocates' primary concerns is the requirement suggested by Moran and already enforced in six states that biometric data like fingerprints and facial recognition be added to identification cards. Twelve more states are considering requiring that data.
Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is introducing a bill requiring biometric data on drivers’ licenses in an effort to get all the states under one standard.
"If we get this legislation through, it is going to be difficult if not impossible to falsify the data on your driver's license," Moran said.
Arizona is also making a rule that would let licenses expire when a foreign resident's visa does. Twelve other states are considering similar measures, and the Office of Homeland Security supports the plan.