Twelve years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the driver’s license vulnerabilities exploited by the 9/11 hijackers remain unaddressed by many states and the federal government. As noted by USA Today, a new post-9/11 threat has emerged. Foreign vendors sell high quality counterfeit driver’s licenses and identification cards through the internet. For as little as $50 to $300 per license (cheaper in bulk), an individual can submit a photo and any biographical data he or she chooses. The buyer wires or electronically transfers the money to the foreign counterfeiter and then the driver’s license is shipped, often hidden in cheap trinkets.
Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, stated that, “al-Qaeda’s training manual advises that, ‘all documents of the undercover brother, such as identity cards and passports, should be falsified.’ Identity alteration continues to be an operational method followed by terrorists. Fake IDs have been employed for a catalog of crimes including identity theft and fraud. Terrorists can still easily obtain counterfeit IDs to commit attacks like the one on September 11th.”
Consider the following:
- In April 2013, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev killed three and injured more than 260 runners and bystanders by detonating improvised explosives near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Tamerlan’s Amazon.com wish list included four books about how to counterfeit driver’s licenses.
- In November 2012, foreign student Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was convicted in Texas for attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. Aldawsari planned to attack nuclear power plants, reservoirs, dams, and New York City streets during rush hour. His “important steps” included obtaining a forged U.S. birth certificate to apply for a U.S. Passport and then obtain multiple valid driver’s licenses. Aldawsari lacked only a single chemical to complete his explosives before he was arrested by the FBI.
- In July of 2012, a bombing on a tour bus in Bulgaria killed seven. The suspected bombers carried two fraudulent Michigan driver’s licenses manufactured by a printer in Beirut who reportedly supplies IDs for Hezbollah members. Both licenses contain discrepancies that would have been obvious on any inspection.
In its confidential intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press, the FBI and DHS reminded law enforcement of suspicious activity that could indicate a planning for an attack, such as surveillance and questions about security operations. The AP article did not mention any alerts to law enforcement urging vigilance when checking identification.
Brian Zimmer, President of the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License, said “there is very little to stop terrorists, foreign or domestic, from obtaining high quality counterfeit driver’s licenses from a foreign internet vendor and passing through the brief ID check made by airport inspectors. This vulnerability remains a huge hole in airline passenger security. It’s time steps were taken using available technology to close it.”