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Licensed Terrorists

Monday, Dec. 26, 2005 12:10 AM

A group called The Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, in their fight to make sure terrorists are unable to secure such documents, proposed this billboard, showing men wearing keffiyahs, or the traditional Arab head scarf.

Photo by Associated Press

The problem with this billboard is not merely one of racism, but of the group's understanding of security (despite one board member leading a public policy group on security issues). The group has since announced that they will replace the offending issues with a photo of Mohammed Atta, because, apparently, all terrorists can be identified by racial profiling.

Basically, there's this underlying perception that terrorists must be using fraudulent identification. Therefore, by tightening up the requirements to obtain a driver's license, you will significantly foil terrorists and terrorism. Right?

And, naturally, if terrorists wanted to board a plane and hijack it as they did on 9/11, they would have to present a form of photo identification, such as a driver's license, and thus, preventing them from obtaining a driver's license under fraudulent circumstances would make a repeat of 9/11 impossible. Right?


Because the group has made the assumption that someone with a valid driver's license cannot be a terrorist.

And there are significantly more opportunities where people aren't screened through their driver's license. Even checking into a hotel, a clerk is only looking to make sure the name on the credit card matches the name on the driver's license.

Interestingly enough, the group suggests that cross-checking applicants against a Federal terrorist watch-list would also improve security. In other words, we'll stop terrorists because we know they're terrorists.

There's just a little too much circular reasoning going on here to make the group's proposal an effective measure.

The real problem with a driver's license is that it has become a default form of identification, tasked with everything from verifying your credit cards to your airline tickets. The only function it can reliably perform is to verify that you, the person shown in the photo, are recognized to operate a motor vehicle in the state of issue.

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