Springfield Journal Register

April 17, 2002

Durbin seeks standards for driverís licenses 


WASHINGTON ó Eight of the 19 terrorists involved in the Sept. 11 attacks were able to obtain driverís licenses in Virginia
because of the stateís loose requirements. Fourteen of the terrorists had licenses from Florida, which at the time required no proof of residency.

Others held licenses or identification cards from more than one state including California, Arizona and Maryland.

The licenses opened doors for them and provided them with cover.

"These foreign terrorists knew that a key to their devious plans was to come to America and blend in with the rest of us until they were ready to take on their murderous mission," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at a hearing he chaired Tuesday.

To thwart would-be terrorists and other criminals, Durbin is proposing legislation to encourage states to develop uniform standards for driversí licenses that would better protect against fraud.

The proposal was widely praised by victims of identity theft as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the
American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators (AAMVA).

But privacy advocates say efforts to standardize statesí driverís license procedures is one step toward a national ID system that
would undermine basic American liberties.

"Individuals looking to undermine the system, whether it is a terrorist, a drunk driver or an identity thief, shop around for licenses in those states that have become the weakest link," said AAMVA vice chair Betty Serian.

Her group has developed a model that states may voluntarily adopt to achieve uniformity. Since Sept. 11, more than 20 states have proposed some legislation to strengthen driverís license procedures. 

But budget constraints have slowed many down, she said.

Opposition comes from diverse groups, ranging from the conservative Free Congress foundation to the American Civil Liberties Union.

"A national ID would not prevent terrorism," said J. Bradley Jansen, deputy director of Free Congress Foundationís Center for
Technology Policy. Criminals would still be able to obtain documents needed to get an ID, and others would be left with a false sense of security, he said.

ACLU Legislative Counsel Katie Corrigan said Durbinís proposal "would be "ineffective, expensive and would represent a serious
threat to core American liberties."

But Durbin said his plan wouldnít take away statesí rights. States would be offered financial incentives to strengthen their systems under his plan.

"I am not seeking a national ID card," Durbin told reporters after a hearing of his Senate Government Affairs subcommittee.

"What we hope to do is to put together in this legislation the basics for establishing identification in each and every state so there is a common thread of reliability," Durbin said.

He also seeks to make cards harder to counterfeit, to provide a limited exchange of information between states and federal
databases for verification purposes and to increase penalties for manufacturing, marketing or using fake licenses.

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