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If France Owned Our Drivers Licenses

A few weeks ago it was reported here that Digimarc had sold its Identity Systems business to L1 (formerly Viisage) for $263 million (cash and stock). Soon after that deal was announced and received tentative approval however, French defense electronics maker Safran had submitted a rival, unsolicited bid for Digimarc, raising the ante to $300 million (all cash).

The fact that Safran is owned partially by the French government has reaised security concerns in a number of circles, and especially in Congress. Raising CIFUS concerns, Members of Congress wrote recently to Secretary Paulson of the Department of the Treasury.

"As a major link in the nation's critical infrastructure for identity management and military support, it is our understanding Digimarc plays an important role in our national security," the Congressfolks wrote. "Digimarc provides services that enable the production of more than 60 million personal identification documents, including two-thirds of all U.S. driver's licenses. We are concerned foreign acquisition of Digimarc will leave the ownership and control of this critical U.S. infrastructure company in the hands of a foreign sovereign investor."

The question must be asked. Is our Nation's security being put in play and up for bid? Or is this, as the article suggests, "Franco-phobia, alive and well." Either way, L1's bid has been increased to $310 million.