July 29, 2010

CARDIN INTRODUCES KEY LEGISLATION TO STOP RECURRING PASSPORT FRAUD

New GAO Undercover Investigation Exposes ContinuingVulnerabilities in the U.S. Passport Issuance Process

Washington - U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee today introduced legislation to end the vulnerabilities in the passport issuance process. The legislation, which is cosponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), responds to the latest findings of fraud by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). At the request of Senator Cardin and Senators Kyl, Feinstein, Lieberman and Susan Collins (R-ME), GAO investigators conducted the second undercover investigation in just a year to determine the ease of using fraudulent documents to obtain a genuine U.S. passport.
 
"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. We simply cannot issue U.S. passports in this country on the basis of fraudulent documents. There is too much at stake," said Senator Cardin. 
 
"U.S. passports issued under false identities enable individuals to conceal their movements and activities, potentially facilitating acts of terrorism, espionage and other crimes. The State Department has made some improvements in its ability to detect passport fraud since GAO's 2009 undercover investigation, but much more needs to be done. We have the technology and the information to prevent such fraudulent issuance but there are still gaps in the process that could allow terrorists, spies or other criminals to obtain a genuine U.S. passport from the State Department through fraudulent means. 
 
"Congress can help by giving the State Department all the tools it needs. The Passport Identity Verification Ac t is a common-sense solution that will give the State Department the legal authority it needs to access information contained in federal, state and other databases that can be used to verify the identity of every passport applicant and detect fraud, without extending the time it takes the State Department to approve passports."
 
Senator Cardin introduced his legislation during a Judiciary Terrorism Subcommittee hearing he chaired entitled, " The Passport Issuance Process: Closing the Door to Fraud, Part II." During the hearing, senior officials from the GAO and State Department discussed the results of the latest investigation. At today's hearing, the GAO witness revealed how undercover investigators were able to obtain a number of U.S. passports from different locations throughout the country on the basis of fake drivers' licenses and birth certificates.
 
Witness testimony from today's Subcommittee hearing, including the results of GAO's latest investigation, can be found at http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings .