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Passport insecurity

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Heads must roll at the U.S. Government Printing Office, where stunning idiocy regarding passport-production security has needlessly heightened America's vulnerability to terrorist attack.

ABC News and The Center for Public Integrity say the printing office, despite warnings from its own inspector general and security chief, has dragged its feet on fixing the problems for years. The most glaring involves computer chip assemblies that carry ID data and are embedded in passport covers.

Astonishingly, those assemblies come from a factory in a Bangkok suburb where security is lax, violence is common and al-Qaida leader Hambali was caught in 2003. If the "G" in GPO -- which says no U.S. firm wanted the job -- stood for "genius," maybe it would have actively sought an American contractor.

Exemplifying "better late than never," the printing office now says these crucial components will be produced domestically by July's end. But that's just one concern among many arising from having 60 suppliers worldwide -- and what GPO's inspector general calls its lack of even a basic security plan for blank "e-passports."

Having dealt U.S. security such an uncalled-for, self-inflicted setback, those to blame at the Government Printing Office should count themselves lucky if only their jobs are lost.

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