May 29, 2008, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE),
including Local 1998, issued a press
release announcing that the Union officially endorsed a bill introduced
on April 9, 2008 by Congressman
Bill Sali (R-Id) to require that passports be produced in the United
States. The bill, numbered H.R.
5752, has 22 cosponsors and was referred to the House Foreign
Affairs Committee. The International Association of Machinists
and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) included an endorsement
of H.R. 5752 in the June 3, 2008 edition of it's "i-mail"
- an email update regularly sent to hundreds of thousands of
IAMAW members. The IAMAW and NFFE issued an
"Action Alert" calling on members to contact their
Congressperson to support H.R. 5752 on June 10, 2008. The
IAMAW included the action alert in its i-mail
message emailed to thousands of members, while NFFE included
the action alert on its website,
along with a position
paper. To send a message to your Congressperson in
support of H.R. 5752, click on this link: "End
Passport Outsourcing" Action Alert.
H.R. 5752 was introduced in the wake of news
stories published March 26,
and 28, 2008 by the Washington Times
that the production of passport book covers (included the new
electronic chip) had been outsourced to
foreign companies and manufactured
overseas, including a site in Thailand.
NFFE calls on Congress
to pass H.R. 5752 or similar legislation that would prohibit the
production and manufacturing of blank United States passports or
their components outside of the U.S. The Department of State and the
Government Printing Office should require that U.S. passports be
produced domestically. NFFE Local 1998 urges all Union
members and bargaining unit employees, and our supporters and
friends, to write, email, or call their Congressional
representatives to support this important bill (see below).
passport should be stamped, "Made in the U.S.A".
The shocking news that the manufacturing of the passport book covers had been outsourced to
foreign companies was met
with widespread consternation and outrage in editorial pages and blogs.
A March 28, 2008 Washington Times Editorial
stated that the "annals of incompetent federal
empire-building have a new entry: the Government Printing
Office's e-Passport program". The Times called
this a "disastrous, almost incomprehensible failure"
in passport security, noting that "[t]he assembler and
patent-holder, Netherlands-based Smartrac Technology Ltd.,
'divulged in ... October 2007 ... that China had stolen its
patented chip technology for e-passport chips'." The Times
argued that "[b]lank passports are a free ticket to entry
into the United States. They must not fall into the hands
of terrorists or foreign agents".
NFFE Local 1998 agrees that the
decision to outsource the production of passport book covers and
chips to foreign countries threatens our national security. The employees of Passport Services that the
Union represents strive to ensure that correct decision-making
is applied to passport application adjudication and are
dedicated to protecting the integrity of the passport issuance
process. They play an important role in protecting our
nation's borders. When the U.S. passport book itself is vulnerable
to being counterfeited or its electronic information accessed,
that undermines and negates the efforts that the employees make
in the steps leading up to its issuance. For the employees
that we represent, all of their hard work in ensuring proper
passport issuance and preventing passport fraud would be
rendered meaningless if criminals, terrorists, and foreign
espionage agents could simply make their own U.S. passports, or
use proprietary information to successfully alter or access
information from a valid U.S. passport.
|Photo of the United
States passport with e-chip. Of course, the actual
passport does not state "Made in Thailand" on the
cover - that (and the red "X") was added for editorial
Congress to support H.R. 5752
a message in support of H.R. 5752:
The IAMAW and NFFE have made it easy to take action in
support of H.R. 5752. All you have to do is click
on the link below, enter your name, mailing address, and
email address, and click "send" and the
message supporting H.R. 5752 will be automatically sent to your
United States Representative:
Passport Outsourcing" Action Alert
write your own letter:
You can also compose your
own letter to your Representative and/or
Senators. It is recommended that you write a
letter in addition to, not instead of, sending the
email. However, the mailed letter will likely have
more of an impact than the email.
Enter your zip code in
the box to the right or click on this link to find your
Representative and Senators, including their mailing address and
to address a member of Congress:
Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Honorable (full name)
__(Rm.#)__(name of) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
As a federal employee, am I allowed to contact Congress
to support legislation? Answer: YES.
Question: Doesn't the Hatch
Act forbid me from contacting Congress? Answer: NO.
The United States Office
of Special Counsel (OSC) answered these questions
definitively and specifically for Passport Services on January 24, 2007. The OSC is "an
independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency" which
has, among other responsibilities, the authority to issue advisory
opinions that enable "individuals to determine whether contemplated
political activities are permitted under the [Hatch] Act" (quoting
from the OSC website). The OSC issued an
advisory legal opinion,
requested by NFFE Local 1998, regarding whether employees of Passport Services are allowed under the
Hatch Act to write letters to Congress expressing concerns about the
integrity of the passport issuance process. (See: complete
advisory legal opinion)
The OSC summed up the request as follows: "Department
of State employees would like to consider writing letters or personally
visiting members of Congress to express your concerns about the passport
issuance process". In
the opinion, the OSC stated that the "Hatch Act does not prohibit
you or other Department of State employees from contacting members of
Congress". The OSC also explained that the law (5
U.S.C. 7211) specifically authorizes employees to
contact Congress: "The right of employees,
individually or collectively, to petition Congress or a
member of Congress, or furnish information to either
House of Congress, or to a committee or Member thereof,
may not be interfered or denied."
for writing your Congressperson:
Here are some tips for
writing a letter to your Congressperson:
specifically to H.R. 5752 (and the
issue of outsourcing passport book and chip
production to Thailand) in your opening
- Be courteous
and succinct. Use examples to support
- Only address
H.R. 5752 in your letter. You can
address other issues in separate
- Directly ask
the Congressperson to support or even to
co-sponsor H.R. 5752.
- Try to keep
the letter to ONE PAGE.
- If applicable,
do state that you are a member of IAMAW FD1
NFFE Local 1998, which represents the
employees of Passport Services.
- If applicable,
do state that you are a constituent and a
hand-writing the letter.
- DO NOT use
government postage to send the letter.
- DO NOT write
the letter on work time.
- DO NOT write
in any manner which would cause the reader
to think that you are writing in your
capacity as a Passport Services/State
- DO NOT write
as a government official or use government
letterhead - write your letter as a U.S.
citizen and voter.
- DO NOT use
- DO NOT make
this issue personal. While it is hard to
comprehend why anyone would authorize U.S.
passport components to be outsourced to
foreign companies, it is not clear at this
time which individual(s) are responsible for
this bad decision. DO NOT assume that
any particular manager is to
Prior to visiting your
Congressperson in order to ask him/her to support H.R.
5752, it is recommended that you coordinate with your
NFFE Local 1998 Union representative
What others have to say
about manufacturing U.S. passport book covers and the
Below are selected quotes and opinions from
a variety of sources regarding the manufacturing of the U.S.
passport book and e-chip:
Members of Congress:
Rep Bill Sali (R-ID), sponsor of
H.R. 5752: “Our
government should set the highest level of standards to protect
the privacy and security of our fellow citizens."
“Currently, key components of American passports manufactured
and assembled for United States citizens are sent outside our
nation. Especially troubling is the fact that the inlaying
of the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID) antennae
occurs in Thailand. Additionally, there is evidence that
suggests Chinese efforts to infiltrate Thai technology firms.
This is not acceptable. We need to manufacture American
passports in America – period.”
American passports to be manufactured and assembled overseas
raises serious national security concerns."
“Outsourcing work that has the potential to jeopardize the
privacy and security of American citizens must be avoided. Border
security and national security are important to the people I
represent. Outsourcing the production of our passports runs
counter to the Idahoan definition of common sense.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA, ranking
member of the House Armed Services Committee: "The foreign
production of our passports presents significant security
concerns, particularly when considering that this form of
identification is now a requirement for entry into the U.S.".
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS),
chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee: "It is
just plain irresponsible to jeopardize the gold standard in
document security by outsourcing production when U.S. companies
ought to be able to do the same work here."
"Questions alone about the production and chain of custody of
blank U.S. passports can send shock waves through our homeland
security infrastructure." "The Committee on Homeland
Security will use all of the tools available to determine if
American technologies are being overlooked and what implications
there might be for other border security documents and
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) chairman
of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce: "If true,
these allegations raised in today's press reports are extremely
serious not only to the integrity of our e-Passport program, but
also to our national security". (March
27, 2008) "I am not only troubled that there may be
serious security concerns with the new passport production system,
but also that GPO officials may have been profiting from producing
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI): "Given
all of the personal information contained in an e-passport, it is
essential that the entire production chain be secure and free from
potential tampering". (March
Rep. Sue Myrick: "We have
got to stop selling our country!" "The US Government
has once again shown they have no common sense. They think that
an American company like Microsoft can't produce a security chip and
an e-passport? Apparently the government doesn't value our
national security very much when we are willing to sell it to save a
few bucks! I ask all businesses in our area to contact me
personally if they have the technology and ability to produce security
chips which can be used in US e-passports. I have already spoken
to several companies about passport technology and I know we can
produce it in America, which would provide safeguards against security
breaches and identity theft." (April
From the March 26, 2008
Washington Times story, "Outsourced
passports netting govt. profits, risking national security":
"The most dangerous
passports, and the ones we have to be most concerned about, are
stolen blank passports," said Ronald K. Noble,
secretary general of Interpol, the Lyon, France-based
international police organization. "They are the most
dangerous because they are the most difficult to detect."
Mr. Noble said no counterfeit
e-passports have been found yet, but the potential is "a
great weakness and an area that world governments are not paying
enough attention to."
Lukas Grunwald, a computer
security expert, said U.S. e-passports, like their European
counterparts, are vulnerable to copying and that their shipment
overseas during production increases the risks. "You need a
blank passport and a chip and once you do that, you can do
anything, you can make a fake passport, you can change the
data," he said.
Michelle Van Cleave, a
former National Counterintelligence Executive, said outsourcing
passport work and components creates new security
vulnerabilities, not just for passports.
"Protecting the acquisition
stream is a serious concern in many sensitive areas of
government activity, but the process for assessing the risk to
national security is at best loose and in some cases missing
altogether," she told The Times.
"A U.S. passport has the
full faith and credit of the U.S. government behind the
citizenship and identity of the bearer," she said.
"What foreign intelligence
service or international terrorist group wouldn't like to be
able to masquerade as U.S. citizens? It would be a profound
liability for U.S. intelligence and law enforcement if we lost
confidence in the integrity of our passports."
From a March 26, 2008 CNN
"Situation Room" report:
(voice-over): Your passport used to be made in America, but
because of 9/11, all passports now must be fitted with
electronic chips -- harder for terrorists to fake. Turns out,
though, that in trying to make passports more secure, the U.S.
is outsourcing the job to foreign companies.
MICHAEL CUTLER, CENTER FOR IMMIGRATION STUDIES: It's
another reason not to sleep tonight.
Security experts fear blank chips could be stolen or tampered
CUTLER: If bad guys got a hold of those blanks and then properly
filled them out and processed them and you had corruption
involved, then what you really have are the keys to the kingdom
sitting in a foreign country.
Commentator Lou Dobbs: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0803/26/ldt.01.html
(March 26, 2008)
New evidence tonight
that our government is putting expediency ahead of national security
once again. The State Department is outsourcing the manufacturer of
American passports to foreign countries and at the same time doing
little or nothing to enforce visas into the
. It always seems to get just better and better.
Louise Schiavone has our report.
LOUISE SCHIAVONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New findings about
passport security breaches and visa over stakes are raising red flags
about national security. "The Washington Times" reports
batches of blank passports have been shipped to several countries,
including the Netherlands, Israel
and then on to Thailand
MICHAEL CUTLER, FORMER INS AGENT: Would they do this with money that's
being minted in the United States
or being printed in the
United States? The passport is as vital a document as is our currency. This should
never been outsourced to any foreign company. This should be done by
the American government.
SCHIAVONE: The outsourcing decision was made by the Government
Printing Office, which the report states reaped huge profits in over
charges to the State Department. GPO says it couldn't find a U.S.company capable of assembling the latest state of the art passports
and that perceived profits were due to accounting procedures and GPO
says, "The materials are moved via a secured transportation means
including armored vehicles."
SCHIAVONE: But Lou on the matter of overseas passport assembly the
State Department insists there's nothing to fear. However Congress is
asking for a full accounting of what passport components are made
overseas and whether that could threaten national security -- Lou.
DOBBS: Well if there's nothing to fear, why should there be any
concern about the fact that one of the principal firms involved in
this had its technology stolen by the communist Chinese?
SCHIAVONE: That's right. SmartTrac in Thailand
pled a case at The Haguelast year that the Chinese had in fact stolen its patented technology.
So this is an issue that has lots of potential for violating national
DOBBS: You know the question becomes, if the State
Department is outsourcing visas and if the State Department is
outsourcing passports, if the State Department can't get much of
anything else done around the world, I mean why do we have a State
Department? Even their briefings by their spokesmen are boring
nonevents with very little information?
SCHIAVONE: We asked this question, Lou, and you know what our answer
is -- no comment.
NBC Tonight Show Comedian Jay Leno:
The White House is now outsourcing our passports
overseas. Foreign companies are making our passports. See, this is
smart thinking. Now, when we deport illegals, they can go home, make
their own passports, and come back.
The White House is now outsourcing the manufacturing of our
passports overseas. See, this is how a global economy works. See, when
an illegal immigrant from Mexico living in LA and working in a
Japanese-owned company wants to go home to visit his relatives, he
uses a passport made in Thailand that he gets by calling a customer
service number in India. You see how it works? This could be the thing
that makes Lou Dobbs’ head explode.
(March 31, 2008
Government Printing Office is profiting by outsourcing homeland
the federal government's official printer have been reaping windfall
profits by overcharging for U.S.electronic passports and then
rewarding themselves with bonuses and globe-trotting junkets,
according to The Washington Times.
The agency has
made more than $100 million by overcharging the State Department for
blank passports -- even though the law requires the agency only to
office uses companies from
, including one in the Netherlands
with a plant in Thailand. That company claimed in 2007 that
had stolen its patented technology to
manufacture this republic's passports
GPO Inspector General had warned last year about
"significant" deficiencies regarding the manufacturing of
blank passports, security of components and internal controls.
responded that "monetary constraints" prevented it from
improving security. This, while executives jetted to exotic
destinations such as Hawaii
and Hamburg, Paris
-- and Las Vegasand Atlantic City
outsourcing and shameless squandering must end now.
conduct a thorough investigation and replace those responsible for
this graphic example of incompetence before terrorists give new
meaning to "pass-through costs."
Blogs and Letters to the Editor:
27, 2008 Blog posts on www.ronpaulforums.com:
every terrorist in the world may have a fake US passport with the
is really amazing is that we outsource a secure document to the
counterfeit capitol of the world, Thailand and Southeast Asia.
We are asking for trouble there.”
“This is more than just an accounting oversight. It's a
national security nightmare. Economy tanking? Unemployment
skyrocketing? I got it-- let's ship government contracts to
let me see if I understand this correctly.
The United States Department of Homeland Security is
worried terrorists will come into our country so they employ a
foreign entity to build the security key used to keep this from
happening. That is
tantamount to the farmer giving the fox the key to the hen house
so he can make a copy to give back to the farmer. ”
27, 2008 Letter to the Editor, "Risky GPO Business":
"This is another outrageous example of how not doing
essential government work in-house, with government employees, or
at least in the United States and employing Americans, imperils
our national security. When will we ever learn that some jobs are
inherently governmental and should be done by government
26, 2008 Blog posts on www.freerepublic.com:
Government and Big Business have outsourced everything, even
national security. The only thing left to outsource is the
"Outsource it to China. We
can trust the commies."
"If we cannot manufacture
a passport in this country, we just as well wave the white flag
"'Unbelievable.' My thoughts as well. I just applied
for the Passport card. Glad to hear the government is providing
(NOT) security for my privacy and documents."
stupid! Why don’t we just contract out our armies?"
"Obviously, the bigger factor is that if the security chips
are being made overseas, how can we ever trust the system?
Sometimes you just have to laugh."
27, 2008 Story on www.dailykos.com:
"Your RFID-Chipped Passport
Is Made In Thailand and Chila 'Stole" the Chip Tech":
"... the bad idea of having RFID chips in our American
passports just got worse." "The ...
administration deliberately compromised the security of American
citizens abroad by out-sourcing the production of the already
dubious "secure" RFID chipped passports."
"Your passport has traveled from the Netherlands to
Thailand to the United States before you even leave the country.
This is what the U.S. State Department advises
about Thailand to Americans traveling to that country:
The State Department is
concerned that there is an increased risk of terrorism in
Southeast Asia, including in Thailand... They should remain
vigilant with regard to their personal security and avoid
crowds and demonstrations...
In September 2006 a military
group calling itself the Council for National Security (CNS)
seized control of the Thai government and declared martial
law... The Department of State advises all American citizens
residing in or traveling to Bangkok to continue to monitor
The far south of Thailand has
been experiencing almost daily incidents of criminally and
politically motivated violence, including incidents attributed
to armed local separatist/extremist groups...
That's just a brief excerpt from
the thirteen paragraphs cautioning Americans about their security
in Thailand. Just earlier this month, the international arms
Bout, the Russian 'Merchant of Death' was captured in
Thailand. Plus as recently as 2002, Thailand has been questioned
as a safe
haven for al Qaeda and today the Thai government is battling a
insurgency in its predominantly-Muslim southern provinces.'
Thailand is hardly a stable and secure place to manufacture U.S.
passports and the manufacturing company agrees:
The Netherlands-based company
that assembles the U.S. e-passport covers in Thailand,
Smartrac Technology Ltd., warned in its latest annual report
that, in a worst-case scenario, social unrest in Thailand
could lead to a halt in production.
Smartrac divulged in an October
2007 court filing in The Hague that China had stolen its
patented technology for e-passport chips, raising
additional questions about the security of America's
Blog posts after the www.dailykos.com
"The ... administration does not care about American
"And, will we ever be able to
get decent, non-compromised, passports again? Made in the
"I must say, in the Theatre of the
Absurd, this story takes the cake. And that's what we're living,
every day a new absurdity."
"Aren't we supposed to
represent freedom and opportunity? Isn't outsourcing our Passport
manufacturing bad as much because of sweat shop
26, 2008 Blog posts on www.drudge.com:
you have got to be s**tting me."
people talking about this at work yesterday. I thought they
were joking. What's next, are we going to let China print
our money for us?"
25, 2008 Letter to the Editor of The Free Lance-Star: "We
issue new passports to have better control, but we outsource the
printing to Thailand, where the Chinese intelligence are involved
with the company printing them. It's
kind of dumb; we really need to have that imprint on our passports
saying 'Made in China'."
28, 2008 entry by Patricia H. Kushlis at www.whirledview.typepad.com:
like Thailand. It was a fascinating place to serve in the
Foreign Service at the end of the Vietnam War. I also enjoy
Ayutthaya, the country’s ancient capital where the plant in
question, according to Gertz,
is located. Ayutthaya’s temples are a favorite tourist
destination about a two hour boat trip up river from Bangkok’s
Ayutthaya is also the same city
where Hambali (Ridwan Isamuddin), the instigator of the 2002
Bali nightclub bombing and apparent member of Al Qaeda’s inner
circle, was finally caught by a joint CIA-Thai security services
team in 2003 after being on the lam since late 2001. The prize
money – or pay-off - that went to the Thai for their efforts,
according to Sidney Morning Herald reporter Ray Bonner
shortly thereafter, was on the order of $10 million. I guess the
US government, that time at least, outbid Osama Bin Laden - but
think of the number of potential implications.
Thailand also has a history of
– well – forging documents, manufacturing fake antiques and
copious narcotics smuggling and of police and security forces
that too often look the other way. It has a simmering and
lengthy Muslim insurgency in the country’s south near the
border with Malaysia, and Thailand’s domestic politics
fluctuate between unstable democracy and equally unstable
In my view, it is simply not in
America’s national security interests to farm out the
production of its citizens’ most precious documents to the
lowest bidder. And the longer the supply chain and the more
questionable the factory location the greater the security risk."
March 27, 2008 Blog posts on
“The State Department is making a profit on every passport
ordered by a US citizen because it has outsourced printing to
Asia, including a Thai company that has had had problems with
Chinese espionage. Not only is this stupidity from an
administration supposedly committed to keeping the USA safe, it
may also be illegal since Congress requires such activities to
be break-even rather than to profit from the citizens it
“Go go keeping jobs in America!”
“Hahaha, Happy opposite day! I
think our "government" needs a little time to double
think this problem.”
“Do you really want (even blank)
passports printed in another country? It will still make it
easier for forgers over there to make fakes-- it's like you've
done half the work for them.”
“DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES
“Perhaps we should save money by
printing our currency in Thailand? No? That would be stupid? Of
course it would!! And so is the outsourcing of the production of
high security documents with major national security
implications to an overseas low bidder!!!”
paid 180$ to get my passport to go to guatemala. and it went to
this? This is probably the first time I have cried while looking
at anything on the internet. the
thing is to me, it just sounds like guatemalan news. Like the
united states is just another banana republic with polliticians
scrambling to get into office so that they can sell governmental
know they sold the national guatemalan postal service to some
rich texan guy. it was supposed to be something about fixing
government debts, but most of it went to the president at the
time. America is gonna be like that soon. it's
only a matter of time, and if you know anything about the
downfall of guatemalan economy, I think you will be crying to.”
NFFE Press Release:
Citing Safety Concerns, Passport
Workers Endorse Legislation to Manufacture Passports
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Colin Walle, NFFE Local 1998 President
Phone: (206) 808-5764
D.C. - The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE),
the federal union representing Passport Agency workers, is
endorsing H.R. 5752, a bill requiring that United States
passports be manufactured in the United States.
5752 was introduced in the House of Representatives after Washington
Times reporter Bill Gertz broke the story on March 26th
that the Government Printing Office (GPO) had outsourced the
manufacturing and assembly of the U.S. passport book cover,
RFID chip, and antenna to a company operating in Europe and
Thailand – and that the technology utilized in the passport
chip had, according to that company, been stolen by the
matters worse, according to the Times,
there are concerns about instability in Thailand, where the
government was installed by a military coup in 2006 and al
Qaeda and other terrorists have launched attacks against the
a result of outsourcing of the passport book and chip, the
production of critical passport components is now vulnerable
to terrorists, criminals, or foreign espionage agents who may
seek to obtain these parts to create counterfeit passports or
to use that knowledge to alter or access valid U.S. passports.
off-shoring of this critical government function is absolutely
shocking,” said Colin
Walle, President of NFFE Local 1998, a nationwide Passport
local. “We go
to great lengths to ensure the integrity of the U.S. Passport.
It makes no sense at all to open a Pandora’s Box of
safety concerns by manufacturing passport books and security
features in foreign countries.”
of HR 5752 would address these concerns by requiring that U.S.
passports be manufactured domestically.
employees we represent don’t make the actual passport books.
Our members adjudicate and process the passport
applications,” explained Colin Walle, President of NFFE
Local 1998, a nationwide Passport local. “Our members care
very deeply about the integrity of the process and the
integrity of the book itself.
We need to restore trust in the security of the U.S.
passport by bringing the manufacturing of the entire document
on U.S. soil.”
to this webpage for more information: http://nffe1998.org/HR5752.htm.
June 8, 2008