Fake IDs Problem On Backburner

drivers license drivers' license driver's license identification ID card
The illegal sale of counterfeit documents is still thriving in the streets of Los Angeles.

"There have been some improvements, but we still have a long way to go," say Sgt. Christopher Bonzor, of the Huntington Park Police Department.

And counterfeit experts say it's just as easy today to buy a bogus ID as it was six months ago, when, as CBS News Correspondent Sandra Hughes reports, we sent our producer undercover to buy a fake driver's license and use it to board a plane.

We flew out of five different airports and never once was the $105 fake document questioned.

Airline employees still give only cursory glances to IDs and only a few airports have installed high tech equipment to detect fakes.

"We still have people traveling through the airports displaying identification that for all intended purposes could be counterfeit," says Bonzor.

And counterfeit rings are becoming more sophisticated. Authorities traced a ring to El Salvador where they were making cash and California licenses. After our report, Los Angeles authorities pledged a counterfeit crackdown, but so far, they've only made misdemeanor arrests. They haven't busted one document mill.

But the government has cracked down on airport employees using fake Ids, launching a nationwide effort that resulted in almost 200 arrests.

"The employees that we looked at all had high-level badges called sata badges. That gave them access to the most secure area of the airports," says Debra Yang, a U.S. attorney.

But what about the flying public? What is to prevent a terrorist from buying fake identification, eluding authorities and boarding a plane?

"It's not a question of it's going to happen it's when it's going to happen," says Bonzor.

The Transportation Security Administration admits with all its other security priorities, they are still almost a year away from even addressing the fake ID problem.

"We're not there yet," says Adm. James Loy, undersecretary of the TSA. "We can do better, and we have set in motion means of helping make that happen."

John Nevill's company manufacturers a machine that can detect fake driver's licenses from any state with an encoded magnetic strip.

Despite the machine's proven ability, neither the TSA nor the major airlines seem interested right now.

Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wants to see such technology in every American airport.

After watching CBS reports, she introduced two counterfeit document bills to stiffen penalties for counterfeiters and better train airport employees. Neither has become law yet.

"For some reason, individuals in charge of travel, in charge of airports are just not grasping the seriousness of this," says Bonzor.

And until they do, counterfeit experts warn terrorists still have access to America's skies.