Senators Feinstein and Kyl Alarmed at Security Failures in U.S. Passport Process
- Four U.S. passports issued with counterfeit documents according to new government report -
Mar 13 2009
Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) expressed alarm about the security of the U.S. passport issuance process in the wake of a new government report released today.
The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found potential terrorists or criminals could steal an American’s identity, and with basic counterfeiting skills, create fraudulent documents to obtain a genuine U.S. passport from the U.S. State Department.
"The GAO’s findings have affirmed our worst fears – that U.S. passports are not secure and have been unlawfully issued by the U.S. State Department," Senator Feinstein said. "These passports can be used to purchase a weapon, fly overseas, or open a fraudulent bank account. This puts our nation in grave danger."
"A U.S. passport is a key to virtually anywhere in the world," Senator Kyl said. "It's very troubling that in the years since the September 11 attacks someone could use fraudulent documents to obtain a U.S. passport."
Senators Feinstein and Kyl requested the report by the GAO to examine whether the U.S. State Department’s passport application process is vulnerable to fraud.
As part of the GAO’s examination, an investigator applied for passports at three United States Postal Service locations and a U.S. Department of State passport office using counterfeit documents and falsely used valid Social Security numbers. The investigator applied for each of the four passports using four different names.
The GAO created counterfeit documents for four fictitious or deceased individuals using off-the-shelf, commercially available hardware, software and materials. Four driver’s licenses and four counterfeit birth certificates were presented as documentation for the passport applications. The Social Security numbers used did not match counterfeit documents presented at the time of the passport applications. State and Postal Service employees did not identify the GAO’s documents as counterfeit.
One passport was obtained using counterfeit documents and the Social Security number of a man who died in 1965. Another passport was obtained using the genuine Social Security number of a 5-year-old child – even though the applicant’s other documents stated that he was 53 years old.
The GAO investigator later purchased an airline ticket under the name used on one of the fraudulent passports. He used the passport as proof of identity to check in to his flight, obtain a boarding pass and pass through the security checkpoint at a major U.S. airport.
The senators will continue their oversight of this matter and are working on legislation to address these security vulnerabilities.