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In many of the eight locations, investigators were initially turned away by motor vehicle employees who initially spotted problems with the applicants' documents. But the fake paperwork was never confiscated and law enforcement officials were never notified. So the agents merely left the motor vehicle office, addressed the problems, and re-applied -- often on the same day -- with success.

In Virginia, the first state tested, an undercover agent was at first turned away because the birth date on the fake birth certificate didn't match the birthday associated with the fraudulent social security number. The clerk handed the paperwork back to the agent and "apologized for being unable to assist him," according to the report.

Six days later, the same agent went to another motor vehicle office with a new set of paperwork, making sure the birthdays matched. He got the license. Getting a Maryland license proved a bit trickier, but agents were able to beat the system there on their third DMV visit. On first attempt, the DMV clerk noticed the fake birth certificate did not include a state or county seal, and the texture of the paper was suspicious. But again, the fake documents were returned to the agent -- in direct violation of a Maryland DMV policy which tells workers there to confiscate such documents and send a Teletype within 15 minutes alerting all state offices of the suspicious transaction, the GAO report says.

A week later, agents were turned down again by a Maryland DMV because employees there said the agent didn't have the required documents to establish Maryland residency. On third visit, armed with a utility bill, the agent got a license.

Given heightened security concerns since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, said he was surprised by the lack of vigilance by motor vehicle agencies. I think most surprising, is that ... people are pretty casual at department of motor vehicles," Baucus, the committee's top Democrat, said. "I expected after 9-11 that people would be a little more vigilant and understand that driver's licenses are pretty important."