A bipartisan quartet of senators has called on the Chinese government to investigate companies in that nation that are producing high-quality counterfeit American driver's licenses, saying the practice is a serious national security threat to the United States.
In a Monday letter to Zhang Yesui, China's ambassador to the United States, the senators urged his government to "take immediate action against these companies."
The senators said they worry terrorists will use these fake IDs to circumvent the nation's security apparatus to launch attacks.
"Counterfeit identification documents violate our nation's laws and undermine the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement to keep our communities safe," they wrote. "These companies are profiting from the facilitation of crimes committed in the United States, and provide no legitimate service."
The letter's authors are the four senators from Illinois and Iowa; respectively, Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Richard J. Durbin, and Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Tom Harkin.
Mr. Kirk's office said late Tuesday afternoon it hadn't received a response from Chinese officials regarding the letter.
The companies possess templates for the driver's licenses of more than 20 states — many of which will be the standard for years to come, the senators said. In 2010, U.S. Customs and Border Protection at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport seized more than 1,700 counterfeit driver's licenses.
The senators called out one company — ID Chief — as being one of the largest producers of counterfeit IDs. The company charges $200 for a U.S. driver's license and a duplicate copy, according to its website and fully admits the cards are fake. Prices are lower for orders made in bulk.
The company boasts on its website in English that "students from across the world get ready for traveling and having fun in your favorite restaurants and bars with your new ID!" Many of its cards feature standard security measures found on U.S. driver's licenses, including holograms and UV backlighting.
Brian Zimmer, president of the nonpartisan Coalition for a Secure Driver's License, a nonprofit research group in Washington, said the Chinese fake ID industry in recent years has expanded exponentially and that its manufacturing techniques have become more sophisticated and high tech. He said that a terrorist who recently blew up a tourist bus in Bulgaria this summer used a fake Michigan driver's license.
"The risks inherent in exporting thousands of fake driver's licenses should be self-evident to Chinese security officials," he said.
Mr. Zimmer also said the companies are producing immigration and work-permit documents for customers intending to use them for illegal purposes.
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