of Steve McCraw, Assistant Director of The Office of Intelligence,
the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security,
and Claims on Consular ID Cards
June 26, 2003
ID Cards in a Post-9/11 World"
Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson-Lee, and Members of the
Subcommittee, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is pleased
to have the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss
the important issue of consular ID cards. The Department of
Justice and the FBI have been charged by the President, with
the support of Congress, to protect the American people from
the continuing threats of terrorism and the crimes associated
therewith. It is in the context of our post-9/11 world that
we present our views and concerns to the Subcommittee today.
the past two years, we have all seen a dramatically increased
effort to promote and utilize consular ID cards as forms of
identification for foreign nationals who are present in the
United States. The Government of Mexico has been particularly
aggressive in marketing the use of its consular ID card, the
Matricula Consular. As a result of the extensive efforts to
promote the use of the Matricula Consular, a number of other
foreign countries are now considering the issuance of their
own consular ID cards. The crucial element in the acceptance
of any consular ID card is the ability to verify the actual
true identity of the bearer of the card. In today's post-9/11
world, this element is all the more important because, in
order to protect the American people, we must be able to determine
whether an individual is who he purports to be. This is essential
in our mission to identify potential terrorists, locate their
means of financial support, and prevent acts of terrorism
Mexico's Matricula Consular is currently the predominant consular
ID card in existence, I will focus my comments today on this
particular card. It is believed that consular ID cards are
primarily being utilized by illegal aliens in the United States.
Foreign nationals who are present in the U.S. legally have
the ability to use various alternative forms of identification
"most notably a passport" for the purposes of opening
bank accounts, gaining access to federal facilities, boarding
airplanes, and obtaining a state driver's license. In addition,
foreign nationals who are present in the United States, either
legally or illegally, have the ability to obtain a passport
from their own country's embassy or consular office.
Government has done an extensive amount of research on the
Matricula Consular, to assess its viability as a reliable
means of identification. The Department of Justice and the
FBI have concluded that the Matricula Consular is not a reliable
form of identification, due to the non-existence of any means
of verifying the true identity of the card holder. The following
are the primary problems with the Matricula Consular that
allow criminals to fraudulently obtain the cards:
the Government of Mexico has no centralized database to coordinate
the issuance of consular ID cards. This allows multiple cards
to be issued under the same name, the same address, or with
the same photograph.
the Government of Mexico has no interconnected databases to
provide intra-consular communication to be able to verify
who has or has not applied for or received a consular ID card.
the Government of Mexico issues the card to anyone who can
produce a Mexican birth certificate and one other form of
identity, including documents of very low reliability. Mexican
birth certificates are easy to forge and they are a major
item on the product list of the fraudulent document trade
currently flourishing across the country and around the world.
A September 2002 bust of a document production operation in
Washington state illustrated the size of this trade. A huge
cache of fake Mexican birth certificates was discovered. It
is our belief that the primary reason a market for these birth
certificates exists is the demand for fraudulently-obtained
Matricula Consular cards.
in some locations, when an individual seeking a Matricula
Consular is unable to produce any documents whatsoever, he
will still be issued a Matricula Consular by the Mexican consular
official, if he fills out a questionnaire and satisfies the
official that he is who he purports to be.
to being vulnerable to fraud, the Matricula Consular is also
vulnerable to forgery. There have been several generations
of the card; and even the newest version can be easily replicated,
despite its security features. It is our estimate that more
than 90 percent of Matricula Consular cards now in circulation
are earlier versions of the card, which are little more than
simple laminated cards without any security features.
result of these problems, there are two major criminal threats
posed by the cards, and one potential terrorist threat.
criminal threat stems from the fact that the Matricula Consular
can be a perfect breeder document for establishing a false
identity. It is our understanding that as many as 13 states
currently accept the Matricula Consular for the purpose of
obtaining a drivers' license. Once in possession of a driver's
license, a criminal is well on his way to using the false
identity to facilitate a variety of crimes, from money laundering
to check fraud. And of course, the false identity serves to
conceal a criminal who is already being sought by law enforcement.
Individuals have been arrested with multiple Matricula Consular
cards in their possession, each with the same photograph,
but with a different name. Matching these false Matriculas
are false driver's licenses, also found in the criminals'
possession. Such false identities are particularly useful
to facilitate the crime of money laundering, as the criminal
is able to establish one or more bank accounts under completely
fictitious names. Accounts based upon such fraudulent premises
greatly hamper money-laundering investigations once the criminal
activity is discovered. As the Subcommittee is well aware,
the FBI is particularly concerned about fraudulent financial
transactions in the post 9/11 environment, given the fact
that foreign terrorists often rely on money transferred from
within the United States.
criminal threat is that of alien smuggling, a crime that has
resulted in many deaths within the past year. Federal officials
have arrested alien smugglers who have had as many as seven
different Matricula Consular cards in their possession. The
cards not only conceal the identity of the smuggler, they
also serve as a magnet for the victims who are enticed to
entrust their lives to the smugglers, believing that the Matricula
Consular that awaits them will entitle them to all sorts of
benefits within the United States.
criminal threats are significant, but it is the terrorist
threat presented by the Matricula Consular that is most worrisome.
Federal officials have discovered individuals from many different
countries in possession of the Matricula Consular card. Most
of these individuals are citizens of other Central or South
American countries. However, at least one individual of Middle
Eastern descent has also been arrested in possession of the
Matricula Consular card. The ability of foreign nationals
to use the Matricula Consular to create a well-documented,
but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an
opportunity for terrorists to move freely within the United
States without triggering name-based watch lists that are
disseminated to local police officers. It also allows them
to board planes without revealing their true identity. All
of these threats are in addition to the transfer of terrorist
funds, mentioned earlier.
it is important to note that the White House Homeland Security
Council is currently chairing an interagency working group
that is developing recommendations on Federal policy for Federal
acceptance of these cards as well as guidance to state and
local governmental agencies on acceptance. The interagency
group is examining policy for acceptance of all consular identification
cards. They are also specifically examining counterfeit and
fraud concerns with the Mexican consular identification card
that would impact its acceptance for identification purposes.
The Department of Justice is an active participant in that
of 9/11 forever changed our world. As unpleasant as it may
be, we must face the realities of our current world as they
relate to protecting the people of the United States. This
requires continual vigilance, particularly when it comes to
being able to detect and deter those who might abuse the system
to directly cause harm, or those who might aid and abet the
financing of terrorist operations. Thank you.