MARCH 17, 2009
Nearly eight years after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history, phony documents and fake identities were repeatedly used to fool the State Department into issuing American passports.
The embarrassing security lapse is documented in a Congressional investigative report that details how the government failed a crucial post September 11 security test. Investigators used the identities of a dead man and a 5-year-old boy, among others, to test the government’s supposed boost in passport security since 2001.
The result was a shameful and blaring F! An undercover investigator conducted four tests of the passport issuance system and easily obtained passports each time, leaving officials to conclude that individuals with “even minimal counterfeiting capabilities” can obtain genuine U.S. passports which can be used to travel overseas, open bank accounts and prove U.S. citizenship.
In one case, the investigator got a passport by using the Social Security number of a man who died more than 40 years ago, a false New York birth certificate and a fake Florida driver’s license. In another, passport officials issued the coveted booklet when the Social Security number belonged to a 5-year-old child even though the applicant was 53 years old.
Terrorists or criminals can obviously exploit this major vulnerability in the State Department’s passport issuance process, government investigators conclude. Congress launched the probe after the FBI identified 112 individuals who had fraudulently obtained U.S. passports by using the birth certificates of dead Americans during a three-year period.
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