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British Issue Passports to Fraudulent Applicants

According to a report in the Guardian, it is estimated that the British government has issued at least 10,000 valid passports to people who filed fraudulent applications. The Home Office has also acknowledged that a number of these faked applications have been done by al Qaeda.

Between October 2005 and September 2006, the Home Office minister, Joan Ryan, said that the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) had received 16,500 fraudulent applications. Although close to half of the frauds were intercepted by existing measures, the rest had gone under detected. Therefore, the Home Office says:

"Our current estimate is, therefore, that the level of undetected fraud is about 0.5%, equivalent to 10,000 applications against the planned 6.6m passports issued per year."

Tony Blair’s spokesperson said, “It isn't just a matter of saying there's 10,000 [fraudulently obtained passports] out there and doing nothing about them. Each and every one of these is being followed up to ensure that those responsible are caught." If they are trying to make that sound reassuring, I don’t think they succeeded, especially since one other source estimated that of 16,500 fraudulanet applications filed yearly, 10,000 were undetected.

Ten thousand valid passports issued to fraudulent applicants is a lot. Two examples of those who were issued passports were Dhiren Barot, the most senior al-Qaeda terrorist ever captured in Britain and here is his profile. The other was Moroccan national Salaheddine Benyaich who is now serving eighteen years in Morocco for terrorist offences.

Of course, the British have instituted a one-on-one interview process for fist-time applicants for a UK passport in which a series of questions will be asked (e.g., “do you have a mortgage,” “where and when were your parents born,” “where do you bank?”).

How safe are we? Well, there is a great deal of talk on both sides of "the pond" about identity credentials and e-passports, but the essential element in identity security remains with the breeder documents, like birth certificates. Without assurance of the authenticity of this basic document, the certainty of other types of identity like a Social Security card or a drivers license is tossed into doubt.

How safe are we? The British revelation of passports being issued to fraudulent applicants gives you an answer. We simply are not there yet.