One major Chinese supplier to the U.S. market of fake products apparently has closed down after several U.S. senators wrote to the Chinese ambassador asking for his help in combating the flood of falsified driver's licenses and IDs.
The move follows years of problems with products from China, which have ranged from fake electronics found in thermal weapons sights delivered to the U.S. Army and recycled computer chips to faulty hammock stands, toy castles with parts that could choke children, poisoned kids jewelry, exploding air pumps, oil-filled electric heaters that burn down homes and circular saws with faulty blade guards.
Food products that have created issues have included products tainted with pesticides, carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs. China was found to be raising many of its fish products – intended for the U.S. – in water contaminated with raw sewage and then compensating by using dangerous drugs and chemicals, many of which are banned by the Food and Drug Administration.
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The latest battle is over driver's licenses and the Chinese companies that apparently provide faked documentation to youth in the United States to use to elude age limits for drinking and other activities.
A major threat, however, from the activity is that terrorists could obtain documentation that might deceive many gatekeepers in the United States and give them access to operations or procedures that could be dangerous, according the Coalition for a Secure Driver's License.
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Organization President Brian Zimmer told WND that a terrorist who recently exploded a bomb in Bulgaria, an attack that killed seven, apparently was carrying a Michigan driver's license, giving himself the status of an American tourist.
Ultimately, the document the bomber possessed was destroyed in the bombing, so the card was not examined.
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But Zimmer said that situation is just one of many scenarios in which terror activities could be aided by easy access to fake documents that would fool authorities.
In the most recent case, Zimmer said Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Mark Kirk, R-Ill.; and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote to the Chinese ambassador urging his nation to crack down on companies selling fake driver's licenses.
Find out just what the U.S. government is doing about China's antics in "Bowing to Beijing."
"Counterfeit driver's licenses pose many risks to public safety and national security," Zimmer said. "It is extremely important that the highest levels of the Chinese government be made aware that criminal entrepreneurs operating from their country are undermining the counter terrorism security apparatus of the United States."
Zimmer reported that the letter specifically raised concerns about the website, ID Chief. Although there was no official response from the Chinese, within days of the letter's arrival, the website announced it was closing.
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The site stated: "We are stopping the website and novelty id service. Thank you for your support, we want you to know we provided the very special service, that no other website can do. We just want let you know that if you find different website that looks like ours and has the same products that we sold they will steal your money, or your information, to use it for the bad things. You can know that we have deleted everyone data and there are not any records."
The statement continued: "We also want you to be smart and only use your novelty id for buying beer in movies. We do not like criminals and do not think we are bad people, we just try to help the poor student have some fun. Again thank you for your support and understanding."
"The senators took the right step in addressing directly the Chinese ambassador and seeking his help. It is clear that action soon followed in China leading to an abrupt end to the menace of hundreds of thousands of counterfeit IDs flooding this country," Zimmer said.
He told WND the letter arrived at the Chinese embassy Aug. 7, and by the end of business day Aug. 10, the site had posted its "retirement" notice.
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Zimmer said his organization monitors such sites, and since that day, there has been no activity recorded on the ID Chief site.
He said targeting the ID Chief site was important, because the site had established a business model for success that document-forging companies could follow. It obtained the machinery to print licenses and offered them from 20 states.
The licenses were good enough to pass inspection by almost all routine examiners, such as those in bars, and even passed some higher-tech checks. The fakes contained holograms and markings visible under black light, and other security components used by the official documentation.
Government Accountability Office Director Stephen M. Lord warned this summer that fake IDs from China are increasingly realistic and easy to come by, the coalition reported. Transportation Security Administration officials have told Congress in recent months that they worry about the accuracy of the visual checks currently used to verify the authenticity of IDs at airports and have started piloting machines to read identification documents.
WND has reported extensively on other fake or defective products from China, including electronic components that could endanger U.S. military operations.
According to investigators, a Senate panel tracked some 1,800 cases of suspected counterfeit parts through the supply chain. It found that U.S. defense contractors had purchased many of the critical components from U.S. companies who, in turn, obtained them from Chinese firms but never subjected them to testing before handing them over to the U.S. military as part of their contract.
The Senate unit, whose investigators were denied access to Chinese firms by Chinese authorities, said the evidence "consistently point(s) to China as the epicenter of the global trade in counterfeits."
To put the growing problem into perspective, Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said, "We do not want a $12 million missile defense interceptor's reliability compromised by a $2 counterfeit part."
The military aircraft that have been affected include the SH-60B, AH-64 and CH-46 helicopters; and the C-17, C-130J, C-27J and P-8A Poseidon airplanes. Investigators said if the component in the FLIR's Electromagnetic Interference Filter, or EIF, had failed, then the FLIR itself would fail and the SH-60B could not conduct surface warfare missions, which included firing its Hellfire missiles.
A FLIR failure also would compromise the pilot's ability to avoid hazards and identify targets at night, thereby limiting the SH-60B's night mission capability.
WND columnist Phyllis Schlafly wrote last year about fake computer chips that were being purchased by the U.S. military for use in U.S. warplanes, ships and communications networks.
She wrote that malfunctions traced to the chips were being reported as early as 2005. Targeted were computers aboard U.S. F-15 fighter jets at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
Even at that point, officials said at least 15 percent of the spare and replacement chips the Pentagon was buying were counterfeit.
Officials in the National Intelligence Agency and the FBI expressed concern then that the fakes could let the Chinese gain access to secure systems inside the United States.
Schlafly wrote at the time: "The U.S. bought 59,000 counterfeit microchips from China for use in our warships, planes, missile and antimissile systems but fortunately were discovered they are fake in time. How many didn't we catch?"
One Senate investigator even discovered that electronic components had been harvested from "e-waste" and sometimes were sold on public sidewalks and in public markets in China.
There also are whole factories in China with up to 15,000 people employed for the purpose of counterfeiting products.
WND has not been alone in its reporting. DefenseTech also reported on the danger: "You don't have to be a genius to see the safety nightmare presented by fake parts on incredibly complex systems like submarines, fighter jets and tiltrotors."
On a related issue, WND has led the way in reporting on contaminated or defective consumer products coming out of China.
During a one-month period, 17 of 28 products recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission were Chinese imports.
- Hammock stands that are unstable and cause those who use them to fall to the ground in alarming numbers: About 3,000 imported by Algoma Net Co. of Wisconsin and sold in Kohl's, Target and other retail outlets have been called back. There have been at least 28 reports of brackets cracking or breaking and consumers falling to the ground.
- Toy castles that could choke your young child: Some 68,000 Shape Sorting Toy Castles produced by Infantino were recalled after at least four reports of children nearly choking on colored beads that slid off the toy and lodged in their throats.
- Kids jewelry that could poison them: About 20,000 Essentials for Kids Jewelry Sets have been recalled by the CPSC because of toxic levels of lead in the paint – a frequent problem with products from China.
- Magnet toys that could perforate your child's intestines: About 800 Mag Stix Magnetic Building Sets were recalled by the CPSC, which found the plastic sticks can be swallowed or aspirated. The agency found one 8-year-old girl was hospitalized after swallowing loose magnets. Extensive surgery was required to remove the magnets and repair intestinal perforations.
Other products found to have problems were portable baby swings that entrap youngsters, swimming pool ladders that break, faulty baby carriers that result in babies falling out and getting bruised, Easy-Bake Ovens that trap children's fingers in openings, resulting in burns, oscillating tower fans whose faulty wiring results in fires, exploding air pumps, oil-filled electric heaters that burn down homes, notebook computer batteries that burn up computers and circular saws with faulty blade guards.
Found to have been contaminated in recent years are Chinese products ranging from pet food to seafood intended for humans.
A WND study showed the Food and Drug Administration found products intended for human consumption tainted with pesticides, carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs.
Also, the deadly contaminant found in Chinese-made toothpaste – diethylene glycol – is a solvent used in antifreeze that killed 107 Americans when it was introduced in an elixir 70 years ago.
A resurgence in lead-poisoning cases in U.S. children was linked to Chinese imports – toys, makeup, glazed pottery and other products that contain significant amounts of lead and are being recalled by the CPSC on a regular basis.
Imports from China were recalled by the CPSC twice as often as products made everywhere else in the world, including the U.S., showed a WND study of 2007 government reports.
WND reported how China was shipping to the U.S. honey tainted with a potentially life-threatening antibiotic as well as adulterating exports with sugar.