Sir, your passport shows that you're a terrorist...

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NYT reports that the State Department doesn't screen passports against blacklists of criminals or terrorists:
WASHINGTON, June 28 - The names of more than 30 fugitives, including 9 murder suspects and one person on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list, did not trigger any warnings in a test of the nation's passport processing system, federal auditors have found.

Insufficient oversight by the State Department allows criminals, illegal immigrants and suspected terrorists to fraudulently obtain a United States passport far too easily, according to a report on the test by the Government Accountability Office to be released Wednesday.

The lapses occurred because passport applications are not routinely checked against comprehensive lists of wanted criminals and suspected terrorists, according to the report, which was provided to The New York Times by an official critical of the State Department who had access to it in advance. For example, one of the 67 suspects included in the test managed to get a passport 17 months after he was first placed on an F.B.I. wanted list, the report said.

And this isn't even what State thinks is the real problem:

The real problem, Ms. Harty said, is the ease with which people can obtain fraudulent identification, like birth certificates, to apply for a passport. The State Department, she said, tries to block fraudulent applications by checking them against other records, like Social Security files.

Ms. Harty said that to screen passport applicants better, she had secured commitments from the F.B.I. and the federal Terrorist Screening Center to provide more complete access to records, including the comprehensive list of suspected terrorists.

"Nobody should have a passport in an attempt to flee from prosecution," Ms. Harty said.

If you're going to have a watchlist-based system, it helps to (1) make it difficult for people to get false documents and (2) actually check the blacklist. Outstanding!

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Don't give them any ideas--they'll probably do this about as competently as the airlines have. "Hmmm. Says here John Smith is a known criminal alias. I'm sorry, Mr. Smith, you can't leave the country."


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