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Pennsylvania Driver Licenses Now Have Added Safety And Security Features

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PennDOT adds safety features to licenses. What does your state do to provided added security?

Tory N. Parrish – Pittsburgh Tribune Review - Ashley Mikulan's job as an interior designer requires her to notice small details, but she didn't notice the subtle security feature in her new driver's license on Friday.

The feature is a black and white hologram, with "PA" inside an encircled keystone, whose colors reverse when the license is moved 90 degrees. PennDOT introduced the feature in December to thwart license counterfeiting related to terrorism, identify theft, suspended drivers and alcohol purchases by underage consumers.

"I think it's good that we are secure with everything … 'cause I'd rather be safe than have another 9/11," said Mikulan, 24, of Allison Park outside a Driver's License Center in McCandless.

A controversial federal law, Real ID of 2005, requires states to add security features to make driver's licenses more difficult to counterfeit. They must eventually share their motor vehicle databases. The deadline for states to implement 18 benchmarks is Jan. 15, 2013, but Pennsylvania won't be among them.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law last month to block the state's compliance, making it the largest of 16 states, including New Hampshire and Montana, that have passed laws or nonbinding resolutions opposing Real ID, which critics charge would create what amounts to a national ID card. PennDOT is moving to increase security, and the cost to become Real ID-compliant would have been excessive at $140 million, elected officials and others said.

The measure infringes on civil liberties, critics contend.

"Terrorists do not print their plans on their ID cards. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were, in fact, here under legal status on immigration laws," said Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which campaigned hard against Pennsylvania adopting Real ID.

Under the law, residents from states that don't comply with Real ID won't be able to use their state-issued driver's licenses to board commercial planes and enter federal buildings and nuclear facilities.

There are 8.5 million licensed drivers in the state, according to PennDOT.

They would have to use other forms of identification, such as military identification cards or passports, or go through secondary security screenings, said Molly Ramsdell, a director at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Washington.

Some critics say all that is unlikely.

"Can you imagine shutting out a state the size of Pennsylvania?" from airline travel, asked state Rep. Richard A. Geist, R-Altoona, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Many states have improved the security of their driver's licenses and procedures, said Michael Hummel, associate professor of leadership and security studies in the Department of Justice, Law & Society at California University of Pennsylvania.

"I believe that the states are more capable of taking care of the security in their own backyards than the federal government can be," he said.

Security features in place on Pennsylvania licenses include black magnetic strips and bar codes, according to PennDOT, and it has added others, partly in response to a grand jury report, released by then-Attorney General Corbett in 2009, which found serious lapses in PennDOT security policies following an investigation of fraudulent driver's licenses issued in Philadelphia.

"We have implemented further enhancements to our processes and products, which for security reasons, we are not able to discuss," PennDOT said in a prepared statement.

The state meets 14 of the 18 security standards under Real ID, according to the Washington-based nonprofit, the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License. The organization is critical of Pennsylvania for not doing more.

One standard Pennsylvania does not meet involves taking photos of each applicant at the beginning of the driver's license process whether the person obtains a license or not, so facial recognition software can be used to help detect fraud, said Christian Gleim, spokesman for the coalition.

PennDOT is working toward implementing that step, the agency said.

Read more from the Pittsburgh Tribune at http://triblive.com/state/1905201-74/security-driver-penndot-pennsylvania-license-state-licenses-real-states-law