25 June 2004
Nations Strive to Prevent Passport Fraud, State's Moss Says
U.S. fosters international efforts to share data
on lost, stolen passports
A senior State Department consular official June 23 outlined international
efforts to prevent the use of lost and stolen passports by terrorists
"The first objective of the United States and governments throughout
the world is to ensure that passports are issued only to persons
who are legitimately entitled to them," Deputy Assistant Secretary
of State for Passport Services Frank Moss said during a hearing
before the House Committee on International Relations.
Moss noted an important objective in improving security is strengthening
the capability to certify travelers' identities at ports of entry
"The international community has made great strides towards introducing
biometrics that will be used in a "one-to-one verification" of
the passport bearer to help meet this goal," Moss said.
According to Moss, biometrics such as digital, inkless finger-scans
and digital photographs enable officials to determine whether a
traveler applying for entry is the same person who was issued the
passport or visa.
Moss said that the United States will begin to issue biometric
passports by February 2005.
"Other governments that are the source of large numbers of visitors
to the United States are working on a similar schedule," Moss said. "The
European Union plans to begin introducing biometric passports by
the end of 2005. Japan should complete its transition to embedded
biometrics in early 2006. Many other governments should meet this
objective around the same time."
The new passports will be used as part of a multination test to
determine whether the systems developed by various governments
are compatible and can be processed smoothly by border officials
at international ports of entry.
Moss noted another important step in this process is sharing data
electronically on lost and stolen passports. "This has been a long-term
goal of the Department of State and a key element in our efforts
to frustrate the international travel of terrorists, criminals
and alien smugglers," the passport official said.
The deputy assistant secretary discussed increased efforts to
cooperate with the International Police and Criminal Organization
(INTERPOL), which have led to the sharing of information about
300,000 missing and stolen U.S. passports.
He also noted new initiatives to enhance the effectiveness of
the INTERPOL database "so that once a passport's machine readable
zone is swiped ... data on lost and stolen passports, regardless
of nation of issuance, can be made immediately available to immigration
and custom officials of member states worldwide."
Moss continued, "This should help ensure that persons traveling
on documents that may be lost or stolen are identified at primary
The U.S. effort to share data on lost and stolen passports will
encourage other governments to follow suit, he predicted. "We believe
that the U.S. decision to share its data will help jumpstart a
broad-based international effort. To help make that happen, we
are also encouraging the sharing of such data through bilateral
approaches to other governments and in international forums such
as the G8 and the ICAO," Moss said.
Following is the text of Moss' remarks as prepared for delivery:
International Relations Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Stolen Passports: A Terrorist's First Class Ticket
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Frank E. Moss
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Passport Services
Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
I am Frank Moss, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services
at the Department of State, and it is a privilege to appear before
you this morning regarding the efforts of the Department of State
to prevent the use of lost or stolen passports by terrorists, criminals,
and others who wish to do us harm.
The State Department, and our partners in the U.S. Visa Waiver
Program, are taking a number of common steps to help prevent the
misuse of passports. The first objective of the United States and
governments throughout the world is to ensure that passports are
issued only to persons who are legitimately entitled to them. This
is particularly important since physical security improvements
to passports-such as the use of photodigitized images of bearer-make
it increasingly difficult to defeat the internal security features
of a passport.
In the United States, we have a sophisticated passport application
and adjudication process to help ensure that the person to whom
we issue a passport is both a U.S. citizen and the person who the
applicant claims to be.
We are also actively exploring new initiatives in this area. We
have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Social
Security Administration so that the Department of State can use
that agency's data as another element in our effort to identify
fraudulent applicants. We are also examining the role of commercial
databases to identify cases of identity theft or other applications
that require additional scrutiny.
Another key element in improving the security of the international
passport process is to strengthen the process used at ports-of-entry
(POE) to ensure that the person traveling on a passport is the
person to whom the passport was legitimately issued by his or her
national government. The international community, based on leadership
by the United States and strong legislation enacted by the Congress,
has made great strides towards introducing biometrics that will
be used in a "one-to-one verification" of the passport bearer to
help meet this goal. Consistent with specifications established
through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the
United States and many other governments, particularly those that
are the source of large numbers of temporary visitors to the United
States, have launched comprehensive efforts to introduce biometrics
The ICAO specifications, which were revised and received their
final approval last month at a meeting in Montreal, call for a "globally
interoperable" biometric system based on the following:
-- The baseline biometric will be facial recognition. Nations
have the option of adding to that fingerprints and/or iris scans,
but these biometrics may be for national government use and thus
not "globally interoperable;"
-- The data will be written to an integrated circuit with a minimum
storage capacity of 32 kb;
-- The data will include the full facial image of the authorized
bearer of the passport as well as other biographic data found on
the data page of the passport;
-- Data transmission standards will be consistent with protocols
approved by the International Standards Organization; and,
-- Digital signature technology will be used to secure data written
to the integrated circuit.
As a point of reference, here is the status of U.S. plans to introduce
biometrics into U.S. passports. Working in conjunction with our
partners at the Government Printing Office, we currently have a
Request for Proposal out to the industry. We expect to award a
contract for the purchase of integrated circuits and the associated
antenna array later this summer. We expect to produce our first
operational passports this December at the Special Issuance Facility
here in Washington. We will use government travelers as our test
population in order to minimize problems for the general public
should there be any production problems. We plan to begin producing
tourist passports in February 2005 at our passport agency in Los
Angeles. These books will then be used as part of a multi-nation
interoperability test that will be undertaken by our colleagues
from the Department of Homeland Security and their counterparts
from other governments such as Australia and New Zealand that will
by then also produce passports with embedded biometrics.
Our current plan is to complete the migration to passports with
embedded biometrics for all U.S. domestic passport production by
the end of 2005.
Other governments that are the source of large numbers of visitors
to the U.S. are working on a similar schedule. The European Union
plans to begin introducing biometric passports by the end of 2005.
Japan should complete its transition to embedded biometrics in
early 2006. Many other governments should meet this objective around
the same time.
Having a more secure passport, a strengthened adjudication system
and embedded biometrics will help prevent the misuse of passports.
Another important step in this process is sharing data electronically
on lost and stolen passports. This has been a long-term goal of
the Department of State and a key element in our efforts to frustrate
the international travel of terrorists, criminals and alien smugglers.
We developed and deployed our Consular Lost and Stolen Passports
(CLASP) database in 2002.
This initiative provides lost and stolen US passport data to all
POEs within seconds of receiving the information. We have now expanded
this critical program to the international level with the transfer
in early May through our colleagues at the US National Central
Bureau of limited data on over 300,000 lost or stolen U.S. passports
I know that there are questions about exactly what we have provided
INTERPOL and how that data will be used. First, in terms of what
has gone to INTERPOL it is only the passport number of the over
300,000 U.S. passports that have been reported as lost or stolen
since April 2002 when we established our centralized database for
this information. In addition, we have provided INTERPOL data to
show that the lost document is a passport issued by the U.S. government.
Second, this system as it currently operates, requires that a customs
or immigration inspector become concerned about a traveler, then
check with the U.S INTERPOL National Bureau and verify whether
the passport has been reported as lost or stolen. Should that be
the case, there would then be a concerted effort involving INTERPOL
and the Departments of Justice and State to help determine whether
the user of the passport is its authorized bearer.
There are at least two ways that a legitimate passport number
could be found in the INTERPOL database. The first is nothing more
than a data-entry error. No matter how hard we attempt to check
our data before we turn it over to INTERPOL, it is almost inevitable
that we will encounter an occasional data entry error. The second
issue that we can foresee is that some people may report a passport
as "lost or stolen," locate the passport, and then try to travel
on that passport. The State Department has recently issued new
regulations to make it clear that once a passport is reported as
being lost or stolen it is no longer a valid travel document, but
we are concerned that some people will still attempt to travel
on such a passport. We have established in cooperation with the
NCB and consular personnel in the Department of State standard
procedures that we will apply to help resolve quickly and accurately
whether someone seeking to use a U.S. passport for travel is in
fact the authorized bearer of that document.
Our delivery of data on over 300,000 lost or stolen U.S. passports
is an important step, but it is not the end of this process. We
will update the data on a daily basis. More importantly, we have
initiatives underway with INTERPOL that we hope will strengthen
further the effectiveness of the INTERPOL database.
A prime objective is to change the system so that it becomes a "business
to business" process so that once a passport's machine readable
zone is swiped, that is the two lines of data found at the bottom
of the data page of a passport, data on lost and stolen passports,
regardless of nation of issuance, can be made immediately available
to immigration and custom officials of member states worldwide.
This should help ensure that persons traveling on documents that
may be lost or stolen are identified at primary inspection. Ann
Barrett the Managing Director of Passport Services has recently
traveled to INTERPOL headquarters to launch this effort. We know
that it will take time for INTERPOL's systems to evolve to the
point that data exchange is a totally electronic and near-real
time process, but that remains our objective and that is shared
by INTERPOL's senior management.
Another important effort that we have underway is to encourage
other governments to join us in sharing data on lost or stolen
passports with INTERPOL.
We believe that the U.S. decision to share its data will help
jumpstart a broad-based international effort. To help make that
happen, we are also encouraging the sharing of such data through
bilateral approaches to other governments and in international
forums such as the G-8 and the International Civil Aviation Organization
The U.S. has also taken steps to obtain comprehensive information
from other countries on lost and stolen passports in the interim.
As part of the Visa Waiver Program Country Review process, we have
requested complete information on all lost and stolen blank passports
from all VWP countries under review for the last 10 years. This
information will be checked against information currently in the
lookout system and added if necessary. We are also going to continue
to closely monitor the lost and stolen blank passport situation
to ensure complete and timely reporting by these countries.
The Department of State is also looking at other avenues beyond
INTERPOL to facilitate the exchange of limited passport data in
a real-time environment. Both of these initiatives would involve
automated checks from ports of entry back to the country of passport
issuance. One bilateral effort is underway with Australia and there
is also early work underway on a multilateral initiative that includes
ICAO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD), and other potential groups called Enhanced International
Travel Security or EITS. Both of these initiatives would take our
efforts to ensure that passports borne by international travelers
are legitimate documents to a new level where checks would be automatic
and in real-time. Much work is needed to bring these initiatives
to closure, but they offer alternative means to reaching our goal
of preventing travel by international terrorists, criminals or
other persons of concern on lost of stolen passports.
A final initiative that we have underway is strictly a U.S. initiative.
It involves making available to Customs and Border Protection Officers
at POEs an electronic image of all passport applications received
since 1994 to assist in resolving questions about the bona fides
of persons claiming to be American citizens. The United States
is encouraging the development and promotion of the initiatives
on maximizing individual privacy protections and information security.
The State Department appreciates the encouragement that we have
received from this Committee and others as we have pursued our
strategy to improve the security of the U.S. passport and those
issued by other governments. We are especially appreciative of
your support for our efforts to share internationally data on lost
or stolen U.S. passports. I would be pleased to answer your questions
about our overall strategy to help make U.S. and foreign borders
more secure through improvements to the entire passport process.