|For Immediate Release
March 21, 2012
Contact: Jessica Baker, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
Hearing on Secure Identification: The REAL ID Act’s Minimum Standards for Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards
Chairman Smith: Last September marked the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission – which called for secure forms of identification - is still not completely addressed. And it seems that this administration has very little interest in addressing it.
On September 11th, 2001, Americans were attacked by foreign nationals who exploited our laws and lived unnoticed in the United States. Nineteen of the hijackers fraudulently obtained 17 driver’s licenses from Arizona, California and Florida and 13 State–issued IDs from Florida, Virginia and Maryland.
During the planning stages of the attacks, these identification documents were used to rent vehicles, evade law enforcement officials and enroll in flight school. Ultimately the hijackers showed these licenses and identification cards in order to board the airplanes they used to murder over 3,000 innocent Americans.
Because of these loopholes in our laws, the 9/11 Commission recommended that the “federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.”
The Commission went on to state, “Fraud in identification documents is no longer just a problem of theft. At many entry points to vulnerable facilities, including gates for boarding aircraft, sources of identification are the last opportunity to ensure that people are who they say they are and to check whether they are terrorists.”
The Commission was correct. And in 2005, Congress passed and the President signed the REAL ID Act into law. This law addresses this security gap and requires states to meet certain security standards for issuance of drivers’ licenses and identification cards. Despite that action nearly seven years ago, REAL ID has not yet been fully implemented.
The current administration has actually undermined the REAL ID Act whenever possible. They extended the compliance deadline two times – most recently in March of last year. Now states do not have to comply with REAL ID until January 15, 2013 – which is 11 and a half years after the 9/11 attacks. And Secretary Napolitano has consistently supported the repeal of REAL ID instead of compliance with the law.
Many states understand that they need to issue secure forms of identification. They do not want to issue a driver’s license to the next terrorist. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security does not seem to have the resources in place to help ensure that states get the guidance they need in order to comply with REAL ID.
The risk of not implementing REAL ID is great. That’s apparent in the facts that surround the February 2011, arrest of Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari in Texas on a federal charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
According to the arrest affidavit, when the FBI searched Aldawsari’s residence, they found his journal in which he wrote of the need to obtain a forged U.S. birth certificate, multiple drivers’ licenses, and a U.S. Passport. He planned to use those drivers’ licenses to rent several cars, each with a different license, specifically to avoid detection.
This is evidence that terrorists still plan to exploit the weaknesses in our driver’s license issuance processes in order to attack us. If we don’t do everything in our power to fully implement REAL ID, we set ourselves up for another attack. History can only repeat itself if we let it.