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The 9/11 hijackers had a total of 17 licenses and 20 U.S. or state- issued identification cards.  (Source: 9/11 Commision)

By Amanda Bowman

Would you hand a .50-caliber sharpshooter rifle, a weapon that can take down a low-flying commercial airliner, to a total stranger? How about the keys to the White House, the New York Stock Exchange or Chicago’s Sears Towers?

Special-interest groups are pushing Gov. Spitzer to do pretty much that, rallying as recently as Saturday to try to force his hand.

At issue is the most powerful document in America – one that gives holders access to guns, high-profile terror targets, money from overseas and the appearance of legitimacy at security checkpoints: a driver’s license.


During his campaign, Spitzer promised to review critical safeguards put in place after 9/11 to keep terrorists from getting driver’s licenses and using them again to kill our citizens.

That card in our wallets is far more than its name implies; it’s America’s de facto identity card – a powerful weapon in the wrong hands and a proven terrorist tool.

Al Qaeda used state-issued driver’s licenses to plan and execute its attacks. The 9/11 cell got a number of them from states with weak licensing laws and used them to attend flight schools, rent cars and safe houses, get $100,000 in operating cash wired from confederates abroad, and, ultimately, to board the airplanes that day. Licenses were the key tool that allowed them to operate on our soil freely and unnoticed.

Had the 9/11 terrorists used foreign passports to do all those things, they’d almost certainly have been flagged at the time for greater scrutiny. They definitely would be today.

The 9/11 Commission recognized the serious threat posed by driver’s licenses in the wrong hands, and, in its report, called for smarter, tougher standards for state-issued licenses.

Fortunately, New York was ahead of the game. Even before the 9/11 Commission began meeting, the Empire State began improving its licensing requirements and became a national model for common-sense security reforms in this area.

Understandable: New York learned up close and personal what that little laminated card can really do.

Spitzer said during his campaign last year that he would change Department of Motor Vehicles licensing policy if he became governor – but did not specify what the special interests are now demanding.

If Spitzer were to give in to those demands, any terrorist who slips across our border, from Canada or Mexico, would be able to get a New York driver’s license and be off to the races. He could gather all the tools necessary to carry out another terrorist attack at the drop of a hat.

Try buying a .50-caliber rifle in this country with a Saudi passport.

New York’s common-sense licensing requirements have brought enormous peripheral benefits to New Yorkers as well. For example, the reforms triggered the discovery of more than 100,000 stolen Social Security numbers – the key to identity theft. Also exposed were fraudulent voters, convicted drunken drivers applying for licenses under fake names and deadbeat dads trying to assume new identities. For those reasons alone, the security reforms should remain.

Encouraging talk has come from Spitzer’s press office in recent days. Although he reportedly is under enormous pressure, the governor reportedly is reconsidering his position, the mark of a truly thoughtful leader.

New Yorkers all hope that Spitzer turns out to be a strong, effective and proactive governor. But on driver’s-license security, the best we can hope is that he do nothing.

Identification Documents of the 9/11 Hijackers:
(Source 9/11 Staff Monograph on 9/11 and Terrorist Travel, Chapter 2, pg 31-32)

Mohamed Atta:
FL DL, 05/02/01
Marwan al Shehhi:
FL DL, 04/12/01
FL DL duplicate, 6/19/01
Khalid al Mihdhar
CA DL, 04/05/00
USA ID card, 07/10/01
VA ID card, 08/01/01
Nawaf al Hazmi
CA DL, 04/05/00
FL DL, 06/25/01
USA ID card, 07/10/01
VA ID card, 08/02/01
Hani Hanjour
AZ DL, 11/29/91
FL ID card, 04/15/96
VA ID card, 08/01/01
Failed VA DL test, 08/02/01
MD ID card, 09/05/01
Ziad Jarrah
FL DL, 05/02/01
FL DL duplicate 5/24/01
VA ID card, 08/29/01
Satam al Suqami
No DL or ID card
Waleed al Shehri
FL DL, 05/04/01
FL DL duplicate with different address, 05/05/01
Ahmed al Ghamdi
USA ID card, 07/2001
VA ID card, 08/02/2001
Majed Moqed
USA ID card, 07/2001
VA ID card, 08/02/2001
Hamza al Ghamdi
FL ID card, 06/26/01
FL DL, 07/02/01
FL DL duplicate issued 08/27/01
Mohand al Shehri
FL ID card, 07/02/01
Ahmed al Nami
FL DL, 06/29/01
Wail al Shehri
FL DL, 07/03/01
Ahmed al Haznawi
FL DL, 07/10/00
FL DL duplicate issued 09/07/01
Fayez Banihammad
FL ID, 07/10/01
Saeed al Ghamdi
FL ID card, 07/10/01
Salem al Hazmi
USA ID card, 07/01/01
VA ID card, 08/02/01
Abdul Aziz al Omari
USA ID card, 07/10/2001
VA ID card, 08/02/2001

Frank Gaffney, Jr.
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