Scanners: ID-entifying Security Cracks

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Coaxing your “family friend” or older sibling to pass down a license is almost a rite of passage for many American teenagers. This small photo ID is the gateway to freedom for many high schoolers and college freshman. You can finally get into that club you’ve been hearing about — or better yet, you don’t need anyone buying you a six-pack from the local liquor store. What could be better, right? Well, maybe at the moment of consumption, life is good — but what are the repercussions?

In New York City, ID scanners just recently became as permanent in nightclubs as the velvet rope, according to New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn. In February, Quinn and members of the City Council passed legislation to address safety concerns surrounding New York City nightlife. In addition to installing more security cameras at club entrances and strengthening safety training for cabaret employees, the bill proposes requiring ID scanners at all club entrances. The proposal came on the heels of the deaths of two New York City club goers; Immette St. Guillen, a woman allegedly murdered by a bar bouncer in February 2006 and Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old raped and murdered after leaving a club in July 2006.

The Big Apple isn’t the only city trying to increase safety with new ID technology. A liquor store in Kearney, Neb. almost lost its liquor license when officials discovered it had sold alcohol to a minor, who later died in a car accident. In an effort to stop liquor sales to teenagers and rebuild its reputation, this small town liquor store took a giant step that should serve as a model for the rest of the country — it joined the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) pilot program to test and validate a new system authenticating driver’s licenses using ID scanners. As a result of the program, the store could identify a fake ID and ensure everyone buying gin and tonics was going to enjoy it — legally.

ID security is about more than just validating a driver’s license for the purpose of discerning who's legally 21 and who just obtained a good fake. As you probably know, (and you’re already ahead if you read the ‘Lis on Law’ ID fraud column!) ID security is a major point of interest to Americans concerned not only with ID theft, but also with terrorism. As we all know, 9/11 exposed gaping holes in our national defense system. We learned that four out of the five hijackers who crashed into the Pentagon had fraudulent ID cards obtained in Virginia. The 9/11 attacks spotlighted the inherent risks in our not-so-perfect identification system. Just two years ago, the FBI intercepted a package containing half a dozen fake ID documents — all in different names, but with the same picture — bundled together with a stash of deadly chemicals and instructions on how to convert them into poisonous gases.

Those risks have always been present, but we are living in a post 9/11 world with fears that go beyond a fake ID, that allows you to down your favorite draft beer. ID theft and fraud is on the rise — and it’s no coincidence that the increase directly correlates with modern digital imaging and the increased use of the Internet for content sharing. It’s time to install a system that reduces this risk.

In May 2005, Congress passed The REAL ID Act, a federal anti-terrorist bill that established standards for drivers’ licenses and other state-issued ID’s. The law set out to:

1) Strengthen the physical security of cards, making them less prone to counterfeiting
2) Set tougher requirements to prove valid identity when applying for an ID
3) Require states to retain and share information about each applicant, and
4) Require non-U.S. citizens to obtain a temporary ID that expires when the visitor’s lawful stay ends.

The Act allows states three years to get up to speed with all its provisions. States can opt out of this federal measure — but that means their IDs wouldn’t be accepted for identification purposes — hindering access to everything from airplanes to national parks. Critics say the Act gives Homeland Security free reign over the design of state ID cards and drivers' licenses. With this unfettered control, the federal government will have access to biometric information such as fingerprints and DNA data. Supporters of the Act say it follows the 9/11 commission recommendations and is necessary to combat terrorism.

Currently, verifying ID’s typically occurs through visual inspection, which isn’t reliable enough. The Internet only adds to these problems providing easy access to users intent on making a quick dollar selling fake IDs. Machine verification at the point of inspection is the way to ensure our true identity — and security. NHTSA’s pilot program is a positive step. Beth Neth, Director of Nebraska DMV, sees the pilot program as a “win/win” situation.” Retailers want a way to prove card authentication and the DMV wants a system that doesn’t expose a great deal of personal information to the card reader. As more states consider implementing this system, fake IDs will become easier to detect and increasingly more difficult to obtain for illegal use.

Who knew that Kearney, Neb. could teach the rest of the country a thing or two about national security?



Lis Answers your Questions!

1) My sister is the co-creator of the cartoon Handy Manny. Just wondering does she have a lawsuit here?— SR

Dear SR, because this seems to be an isolated incident and Comcast has taken full responsibility for the incident and apologized to all concerned, there probably isn’t much basis for a substantial lawsuit ... but that can change if this happens again. And kudos to your sister for her creative work! — Best, Lis

Sources: Comcast spokesman Fred DeAndrea confirmed that the programming error occurred around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

He declined to provide the duration of the porn broadcast but described the incident as an "isolated issue in a local New Jersey facility."

A Disney Channel spokeswoman said the company has asked Comcast for assurances that appropriate measures were taken to prevent such situations in the future. (Charleston Daily Mail. Charleston, W.V May 3, 2007)

Sources: Comcast spokesman Fred De'Andrea issued a statement regarding the incident:

At around 9:30 EDT this morning we had an isolated issue in a local New Jersey Facility. We immediately detected the issue and it was corrected promptly...We apologize to any customer who experienced an issue this morning. We are continuing to investigate the root cause of the incident.

Comcast officials also point out this had nothing to do with the Disney Channel.

2) Why do we have laws that I don't understand? How can illegals have babies in the U.S., and then that child becomes a citizen? — Susan

Dear Susan, The answer to this one is in the Constitution ... here you go:

Amendment XIV: Section 1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. — Best, Lis

3 ) I am a 51-year-old U.S. citizen. I am going through a divorce settlement case in Virginia Beach that has lasted 10 years. My lawyer and the judge have pulled every stroke in the book to prevent me from finishing the matter and ending it. I need you help and advice. Google my name, and you will get a flavor about what is happening to me. I want to expose what is going on in Virginia Beach because it sure is not justice. I escaped from a regime in the 1978 Iranian revolution and I used to work for the Queen of Iran. Please help me. — Shala

Dear Shala, I did look at your case, and it looks like one of the messier divorces of all time! The court of appeals recently reaffirmed your original divorce agreement, so now maybe you can put this all behind you. — Best, Lis

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4) Hi Lis, I am looking forward to reading "The 51% Minority." I admire you for the courage that is displayed every time I see you on FOX trying to explain basic common sense and courtesy to some of the male guests. They often seem to regard us as second-class citizens. I watch FOX for perspective, even though I don't feel the male anchors are anything more than ideologues, as opposed to commentators. On another matter, I am at 60-years-young experiencing the age-old hurdle of age discrimination. I am out in the market trying to get a management job, and despite my experience, I don't even get a courtesy call back. So as we go through life, we get the double whammy of the hardships of being a working women. Just wanted to let you know and again thanks for your courage in standing up for human rights and common sense. — JoAnna (Sacramento, CA)

Dear JoAnna, Thank you ... your comments made my day. Now on to age discrimination: we have laws on the books, such as the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against people over 40 because of age. But these cases are hard to win because many courts require plaintiffs to prove that the boss had a conscious bias, as opposed to work performance issues etc. Not impossible, but difficult to prove. — Best, Lis

5) Hi, I have an unpaid wage that I'm trying to claim from my employer in the amount of close to $15k. NY Labor department said they only process wages that are not more than $600/week and private attorneys said the amount is too small to cover the legal expenses so I'm lost on where I can go to file my claim. I just thought of asking you to maybe point me to the correct people/department/entity where I can file my claim. I appreciate all the help that you can give me on this. — Elmer

Dear Elmer, This is a tough one because your claim involves too much money for NY Labor and not enough money to make it worthwhile for private attorneys. You may be able to recoup up to $5k of your amount by taking your case to small claims court. (New York Small Claims Court in the New York City area is $5k. In counties other than New York City, the maximum amount is $3k.) You will not need to hire a lawyer for a small claims court case. — Best, Lis

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The information contained in this Web site feature entitled “LIS ON LAW,” is provided as a service to visitors of, and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney client relationship. FOX NEWS NETWORK, LLC makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site feature and its associated sites. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of your own counsel.

• E-mail Lis With Your Legal Questions!

Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. She is currently a professor of law at the New York Law School. Wiehl received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College in 1983 and received her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland in 1985. In addition, she earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1987. Lis is also the author of The 51% Minority — How Women Still Are Not Equal and What You Can Do About It. (Watch the Video) To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.