The Government Accountability Office has just completed an investigation that reveals eight years after 9-11, there are still huge gaps in the passport application process.
An investigator used a false identification to obtain a U.S. passport and then used the passport to get an airline boarding pass and go through an airport security checkpoint, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said its undercover investigator conducted four tests of the passport issuance system and "easily" obtained passports every time.
An investigation requested by Dianne Feinstein and Jon Kyl revealed that anyone with "minimal" counterfeiting skills can get passports--and as Kyl put it, can get "a key to anywhere in the world."
A GAO investigator created fake documents using hardware and software available in any store, and used them to obtain a D.C. ID card. On four occasions between July and December 2008, he applied for a passport--and got it each time. Neither the Post Office nor the State Department flagged the documents as fake.
In the "most egregious" case, it says, the investigator used the Social Security number of a man who died in 1965 to obtain a Social Security card. In another case, he used the Social Security number of a 5-year-old child and obtained a passport, even though his counterfeit documents and application indicated he was 53 years old.
The State Department admitted that the report exposed "a major vulnerability" in the passport issuance process. However, it says the problem isn't entirely its fault.
State Department officials said the department's ability to verify the information submitted "is hampered by limitations to its information-sharing and data access with other agencies at the federal and state levels."
Some agencies won't share information because of privacy concerns, or because the State Department is not a law enforcement agency.
Also, the department, like other government agencies, has difficulty verifying birth certificates because there are thousands of acceptable formats for them.
Yeah, that makes me feel a lot safer. One has to wonder how the writers of the Patriot Act didn't think to close it back in 2001.