Thursday, April 18, 2013
Washington state needs to get out of the spy business.
State government is not designed — nor should it be — to run a clandestine program to aid the CIA and other agencies in obtaining real driver’s licenses using fake information.
The Kitsap Sun newspaper reported on Monday the CIA has received 228 fake Washington state driver’s licenses.
Now that word is out that Washington state provides fake IDs to the CIA, it’s a good bet that Washingtonians in foreign countries are going to be targeted. This could create more than a hassle, it could put them in danger.
Wisely, the state Legislature looks as if it will rein in the program.
The fake ID program, which to this point has been run through the Department of Licensing without legislative approval, is the subject of legislation to establish boundaries and accountability.
The program was originally adopted in 2007 to aid law enforcement. It, however, has morphed into a fake ID service used by many state and federal agencies. The Sun reported the CIA had the largest number of fake IDs with 288. The U.S. Defense Department was second with 198.
Proposed legislation that gives legislative approval to the program if it is limited to undercover law enforcement officers was approved by the House 88-8. It now goes to the Senate.
Continuing this program in any form seems dubious. What started as a good idea in 2007 clearly spun out of control.
Having said that, it seems allowing proof-positive ID for undercover cops might be appropriate in rare circumstances.
It has to be made crystal clear the CIA and other federal agencies are not allowed access to the program.
The restrictions imposed by the legislation are reasonable if, and only if, there is careful oversight from outside the Department of Licensing. A system must also be in place to make sure the fake ID is returned and destroyed.
Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden, wasn’t satisfied what has been approved to this point has sufficient safeguards. The Department of Licensing has failed to turn over sufficient information about how the program currently operates, he said.
“While I’m a big fan of trusting, I’m a bigger fan of verifying,” Overstreet said.
The Senate would be wise to consider Overstreet’s concerns as it looks at the proposal. The uses for this program must be drawn narrowly.