Thursday, 18 October, 2001

9/11 Hijackers Were Virginia Residents?

On All Things Considered this evening, NPR's Robert Siegel reported on the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles' very liberal policy for obtaining driver's licenses or state identification cards.  Prior to September 11, all you needed in order to obtain a state identification card was a notarized statement from a Virginia resident saying that you are a resident.  Two of the September 11 hijackers took advantage of this by getting an illegal immigrant who had a state ID to sign for them.  The very next day, those two members used their new state IDs to vouch for some of their cohorts.  Seven of the hijackers obtained Virginia state identification cards in this way.

The kicker is that this fraudulent abuse of the Virginia DMV's policy was well known since at least 1998.  There were advertisements in immigrant newspapers up and down the East Coast from unscrupulous lawyers and others who would charge immigrants for notary fees, transportation to and from Virginia, and other services associated with obtaining identification in this way.  This story, from the August 31 Washington Post describes how one Notary was convicted of immigration fraud and money laundering for abusing the system.  State law enforcement agencies had been trying for years to have the policy changed, but were unsuccessful.  A report written in May of this year said, in part "We don't know who we're giving identification to.  We may be giving identification to international terrorists."

The policy was changed after September 11, when the FBI backtracked the terrorists to Virginia.  It looks like airport security wasn't the only thing lacking.