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The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies
"I am not only troubled that there may be serious security concerns with the new passport production system, but also that GPO officials may have been profiting from producing them," said Rep. John D. Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Officials at GPO, the Homeland Security Department and the State Department played down such concerns, saying they are confident that regular audits and other protections already in place will keep terrorists and foreign spies from stealing or copying the sensitive components to make fake passports.
TextConcerns that GPO has been lax in addressing security threats contrast with the very real danger that the new e-passports could be compromised and sold on the black market for use by terrorists or other foreign enemies, experts said. Concerns that GPO has been lax in addressing security threats contrast with the very real danger that the new e-passports could be compromised and sold on the black market for use by terrorists or other foreign enemies, experts said.
"The most dangerous passports, and the ones we have to be most concerned about, are stolen blank passports," said Ronald K. Noble, secretary general of Interpol, the Lyon, France-based international police organization. "They are the most dangerous because they are the most difficult to detect."
Mr. Noble said no counterfeit e-passports have been found yet, but the potential is "a great weakness and an area that world governments are not paying enough attention to."
Lukas Grunwald, a computer security expert, said U.S. e-passports, like their European counterparts, are vulnerable to copying and that their shipment overseas during production increases the risks. "You need a blank passport and a chip and once you do that, you can do anything, you can make a fake passport, you can change the data," he said.