MAY 16, 2008
The new, highly anticipated government passport cards for road and sea travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean pose a serious threat to national security because they can easily be copied or altered.
Scheduled to be issued by the State Department this summer, the electronic passport cards are about the size of a credit card and include a photo of the user as well as a radio frequency identification chip containing personal data. It will serve as a substitute for a regular passport book for U.S. citizens who travel frequently to the above mentioned destinations.
Security experts say, however, that the new cards are extremely vulnerable to counterfeiting or alteration and therefore pose a serious threat to U.S. security. One former FBI agent who spent nearly two decades countering credit card fraud says there is “no security with these cards.”
A former chief intelligence officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who monitored fraudulent government documents at the agency, points out that the cards are poorly designed. Instead of featuring a counterfeit proof special optical security strip, the government opted for the radio frequency identification chip, which he says is “extremely risky.”
Even members of Congress from both parties have expressed serious concerns about the new cards, addressing the issues in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Noting that the bipartisan September 11 Commission report states that travel documents are as important as weapons for global terrorists, the lawmakers wrote that they need to be confident that the cards cannot be compromised by terrorists, drug smugglers, human traffickers and others who can do us harm.
Although that assurance cannot be made, the State Department will go forward with its plan to begin producing the cards next month and distributing them around July.
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