Fake papers can get you an American passport – even after 9/11

A report issued by the Congressional Government Accounting Office reveals shocking details of how easily one can get a genuine American passport by applying using falsified documents at a passport office.

A draft of this report was obtained by The Associated Press.

A government investigator, in order to check the security in post-9/11 America, used documents, among others, from a child and a man who died over 40 years ago to obtain a passport – and succeeded in all his attempts.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, security expenses in the US skyrocketed. Passport security was among many that were a particular focus since the suicide terrorists that attacked the WTC and Pentagon used fraudulent driver’s licenses to board the planes.

Now it looks like, to put it mildly, the measures taken were insufficient and over the past seven years U.S. officials have learned nothing about passport security and fraudulent documents.

How he did it

The investigator made four attempts to get a passport using a combination of fake documents and was granted a new passport in all four cases.

In one case, a combination of a Social Security number of a man who died in 1965, together with both a fake New York birth certificate and a Florida driver's license, made it possible to get an American passport in just four days.

Investigators gave it another try by providing the personal information of a 5-year-old boy to the passport application office, while pretending to be a 53-year old. He got his new passport in seven days.

The third time he made a two-step operation. He started by obtaining a genuine Washington D.C. identity card using fake documents – and he did it. Then he used the card to be issued a new passport in one day.

The final time the investigator used a forged New York birth certificate along with a fake West Virginia driver's license to complete an application for a passport which took a little more than a week – just eight days – for him to receive.

It is unnecessary to mention that fake passports from almost any country have a great value to the parties involved, from criminals to terrorists.

The U.S. intelligence officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement state in the report that a badly forged American passport costs about $300 on the black market while the value of a top-quality forgery could be as high as $5000.

The Patriot Act

After the 9/11 attacks President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act creating the Department of Homeland Security, which was the largest restructuring of the U.S. government in modern history.

Another key anti-terrorist measure was the so-called USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act).

It increased the ability of law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records: eased restrictions on foreign intelligence gathering within the U.S., expanded the state’s authority to regulate financial transactions and enhanced the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities in detaining and deporting immigrants suspected of terrorism-related acts.

Human rights groups have criticized the act, saying it infringed on people’s civil rights.