Outsourcing U.S. passports?

by Charlie Leocha on March 31, 2008

A recent column suggested that the Government Printing Office (GPO) is risking national security by outsourcing overseas the production of new hi-tech U.S. passports. The GPO says the report is wrong. It is not outsourcing the passport process, only the manufacture of the electronic chips that will be embedded in the passport cover.

This hi-tech passport process has been a bureaucratic hot potato and steps are planned to bring the entire production cycle back to U.S. soil, however, in the meantime it seems that German and Dutch companies are currently manufacturing and programming the electronic chips. There may be chip manufacturing taking place in the orient, which is causing a major security stir.

Already the target of privacy groups that feel the electronic chip is not secure and can be read by nearby electronic scanning systems, this new brouhaha is not welcome news for the State Department or the GPO.

Questions about rogue software being planted in the chips are raging even though the GPO claims that the components for the passports are secure … even transported in armored vehicles. I never knew that.

Here is the Government Executive coverage of the uproar.

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