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State Department Amps Up Passport Fraud Detection

Image: Rakka
Image: Rakka

Following a Government Accountability Office investigation that uncovered weaknesses in the State Department’s ability to detect fraudulent passport application, legislators introduced the Passport Identity Verification Act yesterday during a Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security hearing.

Subcommittee Chairman Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced the legislation to give sState the capabilities needed to adequately verify the identity of every passport applicant and detect passport fraud without extending the time that it takes to approve passports.

The legislation comes after GAO obtained passports using illegitimate documents in an investigative operation.

“For these tests, we used counterfeit and fraudulently-obtained documents such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates,” said Greg Kutz, GAO’s managing director for forensic audits and special investigations. “These documents were prepared using publicly available hardware, software and materials. We also used seven different Social Security numbers from factious and deceased individuals.”

In response, State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Brenda Sprague outlined steps State took once the findings were released. Implementation of facial recognition software was among the steps included.

“We will have facial recognition for all incoming passport applications,” Sprague said. “We have a second tool, which is facial recognition on demand, where we can take a single photograph when we suspect fraud and run that against the entire database.”

Sprague told legislators the software will be used across the department by Sept. 15.

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