Homeland Insecurity: Need a passport quickly? Get a fake one
Posted by James McPherson on March 14, 2009
More than seven years after 9/11 introduced most Americans to Osama bin Laden, it apparently is still fairly easy to get a fake passport in this country. (By the way, news this week prompts the question of why is it that we can track thousands of pieces of space junk, but apparently remain clueless about the whereabouts of “Osama bin Hidin,” who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Tuesday.)
Unfortunately those of us who have spent much time dealing with bureaucrats are unlikely to be overly surprised by the fake passport findings, considering how many government employees are lackadaisical, incompetent or overworked.
What is surprising, however, is the speed with which a Government Accountability Office investigator was able to get fake passports in the latter months of the Bush administration–the same day that he presented phony supporting documents, in one case, and in all four cases less than nine days. Even the government website says you should expect to wait four weeks for “routine service” and two to three weeks for expedited service. It took months for my passport to arrive (a couple of years ago), and my situation seems to be all too common.
Also somewhat surprising about the fake passport investigation were these lines in the Associated Press story: “The State Department has known about this vulnerability for years. On February 26, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary of passport services issued a memo to Passport Services directors across the country stating that the agency is reviewing its processes for issuing passports because of ‘recent events regarding several passport applications that were approved and issued in error.'”
Interestingly, the media seem to be in no rush to give us all of the details, perhaps because the government followed the time-honored tradition of releasing bad news on a Friday. The CNN story linked above doesn’t mention how quickly the passports were issued (less time than it takes to purchase a handgun, in some cases), and neither the New York Times nor Fox News–which devotes an entire web section to “Homeland Security“–seemed to have the story at all this morning (perhaps Fox is trying to figure out a way to retroactively blame the Obama administration).
The lead story of Fox’s Homeland Security section is more than two years old, and ironically is titled “High Tech Passports Arrive.” The third story on the list, from about a year ago, underscores my comment about bureaucratic issues: “Homeland Security Employees are Unhappy with their Jobs, Survey Shows.”
Hey, with this latest news appearing just days after a U.S. Senate committee concluded that the threat of domestic terrorism is increasing, I have something in common with those Homeland Security folks: I’m pretty unhappy with the job they’re doing, too.