Military identification cards and the equipment used to create them have been stolen from the Army's personnel office at Fort Meade, investigators and military sources said yesterday.
The equipment could create bogus cards that would be approved by the gatehouses of military bases around the world. In the past, blank ID cards stolen from military bases have been used in rings that cashed stolen checks at military bases.
The missing equipment includes a mug-shot camera, a box of 200 blank ID cards, a laminating machine and a device that imprints a three-dimensional hologram on the laminated card -- all that's needed to create an ID that could give the user access to unrestricted areas of military installations.
The theft occurred this month at the Army base off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which is home to the National Security Agency and other, smaller government and Army tenants.
Word of the missing identification cards and equipment comes on the heels of the recent theft of 50,000 rounds of ammunition from the top-secret NSA. Members of NSA's police force are suspected in that theft.
Sources said the two thefts are not connected.
The Army's Criminal Investigation Command in Washington confirmed yesterday that it is "investigating the recent theft of equipment used to process military identification cards," said Ken Miller, a spokesman for the command, better known as the CID.
Investigators at the base said they could provide no further details. "I'm not at liberty to discuss that," said Lonny Anderson, head of the CID at Fort Meade.
Miller said local law enforcement is assisting the Army in its investigation and that other military bases will be alerted to the thefts.
The FBI said it is not involved in investigating the theft or the missing ammunition, which led to the resignation last week of two members of the NSA's police force.
"We still have no investigation, and we don't anticipate having an investigation," said FBI spokesman Larry Foust.
Word of the missing ID cards and equipment spread to other military installations in the region, including the Naval Academy and Aberdeen Proving Ground, where some officials expressed concern about military IDs ending up in the wrong hands.
"There's a lot of implications," said a military investigator, who asked not to be identified. "If someone could make their own ID cards, they could obviously access a lot of places they shouldn't."
In the past, the theft of military badges has caused anxiety at installations fearful of unauthorized visitors.
In 1985, a sailor was convicted of trying to sell 575 stolen blank military ID cards to undercover Navy agents for $500,000. In 1989, 1,400 cards were stolen from a New Jersey Air Force base. In 1991, 187 blank cards and ID-making equipment were stolen from Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.
A bulletin at that time warned of "the great potential for entry on any military installation in the world for any purpose."
In 1996, a Long Island man with a fake Army ID gained repeated access to an Air National Guard base and persuaded officials to give him a helicopter tour of Long Island.
Stolen military IDs have been used to cash stolen checks or to write bad checks. One of the IDs stolen from Fort McCoy in 1991 was used to write $30,000 in bad checks.
In 1994, two underage Air Force Academy cadets forged military IDs to gain access to local nightspots.
Fort Meade is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of those who stole the equipment from Fort Meade. Investigators ask anyone with information to call the CID office at Fort Meade: 301-677-6872.
Pub Date: 5/16/98