Fifteen years after states were directed to share motor vehicle information in a national database, only nine states have done so, making it nearly impossible to identify hundreds of thousands of stolen vehicles, reports the Boston Globe. The total includes a small but steady number that end up as car bombs in Iraq. FBI officials believe the database could help break up far-flung terrorist networks, which are using vehicles stolen and smuggled from the U.S.
Bought and sold on the international black market, cars and trucks help fund criminal operations and can be turned into the terrorist weapon of choice against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians: vehicles packed with explosives. The National Motor Vehicle Title Information System was created in 1992 to thwart motor vehicle thefts, but it remains a patchwork repository at best. The Justice Department is mounting a campaign to get the database fully online. It is urging insurance companies, auto manufacturers, and others to report information and is offering federal grants up to $50,000 to motor vehicle departments to help defray their start-up costs. More than one million vehicles are stolen each year; only 35 percent of them are ever recovered.