The need to have a secure driver’s license has never been more dire. In a day and age when licenses (and state-issued ID cards) operate as this Nation’s most widely accepted and requested type of identification, it is crucial that we take steps to implement some kind of standards on our licenses, and it is equally important that each state abide by the same set of standards, given that one state’s license is accepted in every other state across the Union.
The 9/11 hijackers knew well that having a license in this country was the key to operating just under the radar screen, which is why they sought as few as 38 licenses (official number) and state-issued IDs between them, and as many as 63 (unconfirmed number). Not only did those licenses allow them to board airplanes that fateful morning, but more importantly, they allowed the hijackers to operate inside our borders plotting, scheming and executing important parts of their attacks for months and years before the September 11th.
The 9/11 Commission specifically recommended that the federal government establish a set of uniform standards for the states to follow in driver license issuance, and that is where the REAL ID Act came from. In short, it requires state DMVs to: (among other things)
- establish an applicant is legally present;
- tie license expiration to visa expiration;
- include a biometric identifier (to be determined by the Department of Homeland Security);
- check the validity of all social security numbers with the Social Security Administration;
- provide all other state DMVs with access to each others records to ensure multiple licensing from state to state is not occurring.
Many people argue that the 9/11 hijackers were here legally and would still have gotten licenses anyway, even if REAL ID had been in place. But it’s not true that they were all here legally, many of them came to and left the country several times under different visas but kept their various driver licenses throughout. And specific provisions set forth under the driver license section of the REAL ID Act would have addressed this very issue first of all by tying visa expiration to license expiration, and secondly each state DMV would have been made aware when each of the hijackers attempted to obtain multiple licenses.
The REAL ID Act is certainly not going to stop terrorism – to suggest otherwise is irresponsible. But what it will do, is disrupt terrorist travel by making the terrorists who are here already and have licenses easier to track, and by denying terrorists the most common, widely recognized form if ID available in this country and thus the ability to blend in and get to work plotting more attacks, without fear of being noticed or uncovered.
Imagine what might have happened if Mohammed Atta and his henchmen were forced to produce their Saudi passports – instead of their driver licenses – when enrolling in flight school.