Passport Record System Open To Abuse, Review Finds
Hartford Courant, July 4, 2008
The State Department’s passport record system has found itself in hot water again after an investigation by the inspector general’s office found that the system is “wide open to abuse and unable to prevent or detect unauthorized access.” In March, it was revealed that State Department employees and contractors had accessed the passport files of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama, forcing the investigation into the security of the system.
Investigators surveyed the passport records of 150 high-profile Americans and found that 127 of those had been accessed a total of more 4,148 times, strongly suggesting unauthorized access. The investigation found “many control weaknesses — including a general lack of policies, procedures, guidance and training — relating to the prevention and detection of unauthorized access to passport and applicant information,” says the report, which was released in heavily redacted form.
The unauthorized access of system records is particularly concerning when considering the broad reach of the Passport Information Electronic Records System holds passport records on more than 127 million U.S. citizens. Passport information includes Social Security numbers, date and place of birth and passport numbers. This story underscores the need for the State Department to beef up security related to its electronic records and demonstrates the difficulty that many government organizations and enterprises face when trying to secure large quantities of sensitive information.