A U.S. passport is one of the most sought after travel documents in the world, allowing its holder entrance into the United States and many other countries. People attempting to obtain a U.S. passport illegally often seek to use the guise of a U.S. citizen to conceal their involvement with more serious crimes, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering, or murder. In March 2009, GAO reported on weaknesses in State's passport issuance process that could allow a terrorist or criminal to fraudulently acquire a genuine U.S. passport. Specifically, GAO easily obtained four genuine passports from State using counterfeit documents. In April 2009, GAO suggested that State take 5 corrective actions based on these undercover tests and State acknowledged those corrective actions. GAO was asked to perform additional proactive testing of State's passport issuance process to determine if it continues to be vulnerable to fraud. To do this work, GAO applied for seven U.S. passports using counterfeit or fraudulently obtained documents, such as driver's licenses and birth certificates, to simulate scenarios based on identity theft. GAO created documents for seven fictitious or deceased individuals using off-the-shelf, commercially available hardware, software, and materials. Undercover investigators applied for passports at six U.S. Postal Service locations and one State-run passport office.
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