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Passport Issuance: Current Situation Results in Thousands of Passports Issued to Registered Sex Offenders

GAO-10-643 Published: Jun 15, 2010. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 2010.
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A U.S. passport allows the owner to travel freely both in and out of the country. Although passport recipients typically travel internationally for business or leisure, some passport recipients are using their passports to commit nefarious illegal activities outside this country. Specifically, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has documented cases of U.S. passport holders engaging in sex acts with children in foreign countries. Federal statutes authorize the Secretary of State to deny issuance of a passport in certain circumstances, such as for a conviction for international drug trafficking or arrearages in child support. GAO was asked to (1) determine, to the extent possible, the number of passport recipients who are registered sex offenders and (2) develop case study examples of passport recipients who are registered sex offenders. To do so, GAO compared fiscal year 2008 passport data from the Department of State (State) to data in DOJ's National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR). GAO also interviewed State officials. GAO selected 30 sex offenders, primarily based on geography, and performed investigations. In response to a draft of this report, DOJ had no comments. State expressed concerns about the presentation of some findings. State's comments are addressed within the report.

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