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State DMVs plan to combat license fraud

Nationalizing driver's license databases raises fears

By Brad Wright
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- State motor vehicle officials are seeking new ways to fight fraudulently obtained driver's licenses, which may have played a key role in the September 11 terrorist attacks

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is exploring a series of security features for operator's licenses, including holograms and embedded computer chips, to help stop identification fraud.

It also is investigating how driver's license databases from various states and law enforcement agencies could be integrated.

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"When you can verify an individual's identity, you're one step closer to preventing fraud, protecting privacy and saving lives," said association board member Betty Serian, Pennsylvania's deputy secretary for safety administration.

At least two men who hijacked the plane that hit the Pentagon are believed to have obtained licenses through documentation fraud.

The two apparently paid an illegal immigrant who had a driver's license $100 to falsify a Virginia motor vehicle document, called a proof of residency waiver, indicating that he knew the two individuals and that he had verified their addresses. The hijackers are believed to have used the fraudulently obtained licenses to board the plane.

The proof of residency waiver is no longer used.

If databases are nationalized, civil libertarians fear the driver's license could become a national identification card.

"If there is a (national) database, then it is a national ID card," said Bob Levy of the Cato Institute, a Washington-based public-policy review group. The national database, used properly, would be less intrusive than if the card were used in conjunction with fingerprint or retina scans, he said.

Association president Linda Lewis said the group has just begun reviewing its options and hopes to reach a decision before the end of the year.

"We are looking at everything, every option that is available to us," she said.


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