Feds debunk belief that hijackers had N.J. licenses

Sunday, January 5, 2003

The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- A persistent belief that two of the Sept. 11 hijackers carried New Jersey driver's licenses has proven false, a congressman says.

The FBI has confirmed that none of the hijackers possessed New Jersey identification, real or counterfeit, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the House Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security.

The day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Maine Gov. Angus S. King Jr. said two of the airline hijackers apparently used New Jersey driver's licenses when they flew to Boston from Portland.

The report has been cited by Gov. James E. McGreevey and his administration in seeking support for a $200 million overhaul of the state Division of Motor Vehicles.

Republican Senate President John Bennett said in a statement Saturday that the DMV still must be reformed. "Furthermore, public officials must be extremely careful not to use the 9/11 tragedy in any way that lessens its significance," he said.

The disclosure does not affect the case of Mohamed el-Atriss of Paterson, who is charged with selling fake identification to two of the hijackers. Authorities never said the ID cards were driver's licenses or other forms of state-issued identification from New Jersey.

Overhauling the DMV is important to state and national security regardless of whether the hijackers had New Jersey licenses, said Micah Rasmussen, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

One man charged in the Washington-area sniper killings illegally registered a car in New Jersey, Rasmussen noted, and in three months more than 70 people have been arrested at DMV for document fraud. New Jersey is one of four states still using paper licenses.

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