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Fake drivers licenses easy to obtain

By Bob Hager and Bob Sullivan, MSNBC and NBC News
http://www.msnbc.com/news/962326.asp?vts=090820031935

Armed with fictitious birth certificates, utility bills, out-of-state licenses and other falsified documents, congressional investigators easily convinced motor vehicle agency employees around the country to issue genuine drivers licenses, a security flaw that could open the door to future terrorist attacks, a government report to be released Tuesday says.

THE REPORT from the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, will be released Tuesday at a Senate hearing on national security. Agents operating undercover in seven states and the District of Columbia, ultimately obtained drivers licenses at every agency where they applied during the investigation, which began in July 2002.

Fake driver's licenses could enable terrorists to board airplanes or open bank accounts without detection, the report suggests.

"As far as driver's license issuing is concerned we're no more safe from terrorists than we were before September the 11th," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which is holding Tuesday's hearings.

"The findings showed me that there isn't a state in the nation geared up to being concerned about fake IDs before giving a driver's license."

Investigators used obviously fake documents which should have been easily identified, Grassley said.

"It's very, very easy to get fake documents," Grassley said. "The documents that were used in the investigation were meant to be clearly fake ... and yet every one of them got a license."

The report comes on the heels of a study released last week by the Federal Trade Commission indicating incidence of identity theft is much higher than government officials had previously believed. An FTC survey estimated that 3.3 million people were victims of full-blown identity theft last year. Another 6.7 million people were hit by credit card fraud and other account takeovers.

Tuesday's hearing could renew debate about a national identity cards, says privacy expert Rob Douglas, who is scheduled to testify at the hearing, and has seen a draft of the report.

"It's horrific how easily they did some of this," he said.