On today's editorial page we read:
Heads must roll at the U.S. Government Printing Office, where stunning idiocy regarding passport-production security has needlessly heightened America's vulnerability to terrorist attack.Now, what do you think we'll find when we look at the sources?
ABC News and The Center for Public Integrity say the printing office, despite warnings from its own inspector general and security chief, has dragged its feet on fixing the problems for years. The most glaring involves computer chip assemblies that carry ID data and are embedded in passport covers.
First there's ABC News:
The U.S. government agency that prints passports has for years failed to resolve persistent concerns about the security risks involved in outsourcing production to foreign factories, a joint investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity has found.And the Center for Public Integrity:
"On a number of levels this is extremely troubling," said Clark Kent Ervin, a former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. "Something like that ought to be produced only in the United States, under only the most rigorous security standards." A report on the outsourcing of U.S. passports to high-risk countries can be seen on World News with Diane Sawyer tonight.
Despite repeated assurances they would move production to the U.S., a key government contractor has continued to assemble an electronic component of the nation's new, more sophisticated passport in Thailand.
Last month, a gunman opened fire on an insurance building in the ancient Thai city of Ayutthaya, piercing the glass windows of the People’s Alliance for Democracy headquarters with 11 millimeter caliber bullets.We can conclude, of course, that the Trib's editorial board is criticizing the Obama administration (and they should be criticized on this) on this but what the braintrust leaves out of the mix is telling.
A few weeks earlier, bombs made from powerful plastic explosives were detonated near transmission towers in the same city in an unsuccessful effort by terrorists to darken the manufacturing district.
The violent episodes hardly registered in the United States. Few Americans have heard of Ayutthaya, after all, or know of a reason to pay attention to it.
But there is a reason, one directly connected to America’s security. The key electronic components for millions of American e-Passports, the crown jewel of a new U.S. border security system, have been put together inside a little-known factory in Ayutthaya for the past four years.
GPO's inspector general has warned that the agency lacks even the most basic security plan for ensuring that blank e-Passports -- and their highly sought technologies aren't stolen by terrorists, foreign spies, counterfeiters and other bad actors as they wind through an unwieldy manufacturing process that spans the globe and includes 60 different suppliers.Two years ago? Wasn't Mr You're either with us or you're with the terrrists in charge then?
This disturbs Rep. John D. Dingell, D.-Mich., who wrote letters to the agency two years ago raising questions about passport production.
"Regrettably, since then, our fears have been realized because the inspector general and other people in charge of security at the government printing office have pointed out that the security is not there," Dingell told ABC News. "There is no real assurance that the e-passports are safe or secure or are not in danger of being counterfeited or corrupted or used for some nefarious purposes by terrorists or others."
Then there's this from the CPI:
The U.S. Government Printing Office, the agency charged with producing the new e-Passports, has been warned repeatedly since 2006 by its own security officer that the Thai manufacturing site posed a “potential long term risk to the USG (U.S. government’s) interests,” according to inspection reports obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and ABC News.For more than a year.
The sweeping concerns ranged from poor police protection and political instability in Thailand to difficulty in obtaining security background checks for factory workers, according to documents and interviews.
GPO officials told the Center and ABC News they have been shifting the Thai assembly work into the United States for more than a year and hope to have all of it stateside by summer’s end.
If it's now June 2010, then "more than a year" would seem to point to sometime before June 2009. Sometime in the Spring of 2009, perhaps?
Looks like, if you look closely enough, this security risk inherited from the Bush Administration has been in the process of being fixed since the close to the beginning of the Obama Administration. If they haven't been moving fast enough on it, then the Obama Administration deserves some blame of course.
But let's not mince words here. This is another Bush mess the Obama Administration has to clean up.
Funny how that didn't make it through the Trib's news filter.