Specious claim that 9/11 killers had 63 driver's licenses has been used for reform efforts.
- Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 23:34:56 -0800
From: dorindamoreno <dorindamoreno@...>
Subject: Taking license with hijacker ID rumor: Specious claim that
9/11 killers had 63 driver's licenses has been used for reform efforts.
Long Beach Press Telegram
Taking license with hijacker ID rumor
Specious claim that 9/11 killers had 63 driver's licenses has been used
for reform efforts.
By Lisa Friedman
From our National Bureau
Monday, December 27, 2004 - WASHINGTON -- It's the biggest urban legend
of the immigration debate, repeated as gospel at town-hall meetings, on
Sunday talk shows and even on the floor of the House of
That the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had 63
driver's licenses among them is just not true. The origin of the false
information remains murky, but the number has taken on a life of its
own, fueling reams of Internet chatter and adopted as a talking point
those who say driver's licenses are not just an immigration issue but a
matter of national security.
According to the FBI and others, political aides have suspected the
number was problematic since October, when several staffers began
inquiring about the claim.
Yet House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner and other
champions of national driver's license standards like Reps. Elton
Gallegly, R-Thousand Oaks, and Gary Miller, R-Brea, continued to
the phantom number as recently as December.
In fact, according to the 9-11 commission, the hijackers had a total of
13 licenses, two of which were duplicates. The terrorists also had two
U.S. or state-issued identification cards. Several licenses were
obtained in Virginia through a loophole that has since been closed.
"I don't know where the 63 number came from. It did not come from our
report," said Al Felzenberg, spokesman for the bipartisan commission,
now known as the 9-11 Public Discourse Project.
"If there's other research, we'd like to know."
With the driver's license debate poised to take center stage in
next year, the fallacy of the 63 licenses could again become part of
rhetorical drumbeat. While some immigration reform advocates have
distanced themselves from the number, none has renounced it.
"We don't have any reason to really question it," said Sensenbrenner's
spokesman, Jeff Lungren.
Jack Martin, special projects director at the Federation for American
Immigration Reform, said he was not aware that the 9-11 commission has
issued fact sheets correcting the misinformation and did not
the figure was wrong.
"If it's established that's not a correct number, basically it will not
change our argument that we need to tighten up the driver's license
issuing process," he said.
He added the advocacy group has no plans to stop using the number
"unless there's something that comes forward indicating that was based
upon faulty information."
Exactly what information the "63 licenses" was based upon remains
unclear, even to those who cite it. The statistic appears, however, to
have originated at least a year before the 9-11 commission issued its
definitive report in July 2004 on the attacks.
Va. loophole closed
The commission found that each of the hijackers had proper immigration
documents and legal licenses. However, seven of them used false
statements of residency to acquire legitimate IDs from Virginia.
The state has since amended the legal loophole.
The search for the exaggerated number's genesis leads from Capitol Hill
to a Pittsburgh security conference to the former head of the
Department of Motor Vehicles before the trail goes cold. And media
ethicists say the echo chamber that fed the fallacy points to a
disturbing, Internet-age trend of journalism by cut-and-paste.
Lungren and other political aides said they felt comfortable using the
"63" number because it was quoted in an April 2004 Customs and Border
Protection Today newsletter as well as a 2002 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Laurel Smith, managing editor of the border patrol newsletter, said the
agency used the unattributed statistic based on press releases issued
members of Congress as well as the Post-Gazette.
That story, about a computer security workshop in Pittsburgh, quoted
then-director of Carnegie Mellon University's security lab, Robert
Thibadeau, saying "the 19 terrorists on September 11 were holding 63
state driver's licenses for identification."
Thibadeau said in an interview he learned the number at an earlier
workshop and was merely trying to ascertain whether anyone else had
The previous source, identified as former California Department of
Vehicles Director Barry Goleman, acknowledged citing the "63 licenses"
figure but said he too obtained it from published reports that he can
longer specifically recall.
Opponents of the national driver's license standard say they are angry
at the ease with which the false statistic gained currency.
"It's so frustrating and so maddening to listen to what they've been
getting away with saying," said Michelle Waslin, an immigration policy
expert with the National Council of La Raza.
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The news is to be reported not to sway opinion. No more melodrama of constant entertainment trivia on news time. The founding fathers knew that government is always corrupt, that is why they gave us civil liberties. The people must lead to survive corrupt governments. Read the constitution. (In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this includes information for research and educational purposes.) Al Soto (c) 2004
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