Undercover Feds Able to Easily Obtain Fraudulent Passports

Investigators fooled the State Department five out of seven times in a sting.

ByABC News
March 19, 2010, 1:41 PM

July 29, 2010 — -- A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks brought to light the dangers of fake IDs, federal undercover agents are still able to easily obtain genuine U.S. e-Passports using clearly fraudulent information that should have raised red flags at the State Department.

Gregory Kutz, an investigator for the Government Accountability Office, is set to testify Thursday to a Senate panel about how his team was able to get the State Department this spring to issue five of the seven e-Passports it requested using fraudulent information.

The government failed to detect such basic red flags as a fake driver's license, a 62-year-old using a recently obtained Social Security number, and the name of a dead applicant using faked identification, Kutz plans to tell the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

"State's passport issuance process continues to be vulnerable to fraud," Kutz said in prepared testimony obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Kutz plans to tell senators that State only detected two of the seven fraudulent applications "despite multiple indicators of fraud and identity theft in each application."

The sting marks the second time in two years that Kutz's office has demonstrated e-Passport problems at the State Department. Government officials had promised in 2009 to tighten up their e-Passport issuance process after the GAO obtained four genuine e-Passports through fraudulent means in 2008.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., chairman of the subcommittee, is introducing legislation Thursday to correct some of the vulnerabilities uncovered by GAO in its two security tests.

"The U.S. passport is the gold standard for identification. It certifies an individual's identity and U.S. citizenship, and allows the passport holder to travel in and out of the United States and to foreign countries, obtain further identification documents, and set up bank accounts," Cardin said. "We simply cannot issue U.S. passports in this country on the basis of fraudulent documents. There is too much at stake."