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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee Signs Law Allowing Fictitious Driver License Program To Continue

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has signed a law that will allow the state’s fictitious driver license program to continue – but only for undercover law enforcement activities. At the bill signing Inslee backed away from a previous statement that he would apply a broad definition of the term “law enforcement.”

Under the old program, the Central Intelligence Agency obtained 288 of these so-called confidential driver’s licenses from Washington’s Department of Licensing. It’s unclear if going forward the CIA could continue to qualify for the program since it’s not a law enforcement agency.

Governor Inslee says his instruction to the Department of Licensing is to apply a strict interpretation of undercover or covert law enforcement activities. “My feeling is we’re going to follow the law and the law is clear it’s in black and white, we’re going to follow the law.”

Asked if that means national security agencies could still qualify for the licenses, Inslee said only the law would be followed “to the letter.” A spokesman for the Department of Licensing says the agency is working to create an additional layer of oversight to decide who will get these fictitious driver’s licenses in the future.

Inslee also announced that from now on state agency directors will have to give approval before an employee signs a federal non-disclosure agreement. Public records indicate since 2005, Washington Department of Licensing employees have signed six such agreements.

In March the Department of Licensing briefly revealed its relationship with the CIA, but now will neither confirm nor deny a partnership. The U.S. Attorney in Seattle recently wrote a letter to the Department warning that a release of information would violate federal law relating to matters of national security.

On the Web:

SB 5591: Confidential driver licenses - Washington Legislature 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."