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State Dept. Spokesman Addresses Question on Stolen Passports

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 03071048 (posted Jul. 10, 2003)"

Following is an exchange excerpted from the State Department’s transcript of its July 7, 2003, press briefing:

QUESTION: Richard, last week the FBI put out an alert regarding stolenpassports of other countries, over several thousand, I think, Saudi, Russian, perhaps Mexican passports stolen. Given that members of al-Qaida have, in the past, used stolen passports, can you tell us what you know about this and what the Consular Affairs folks, I assume, are doing more than they usually do just being on the lookout for stolen passports?

MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you anything particular about this batch. You'd have to get that from the FBI. But we have a very, very active program working with other governments and working with our own consular officers to make sure that lost and stolen passports are reported, that they are entered into our databases. The Department regularly, and for many years, has conveyed information regarding reported lost and stolen passports to missions abroad and to the Department, now to the Department of Homeland Security for their ports of entry.

So we work with other governments. We get to know what's lost, what's stolen, we enter it into our databases, we alert our missions. And we actively work, as well, on detection of fraudulent documents. We do a lot of training of our own personnel to detect fraudulent documents or passports that may have been -- where the passport blank may have been stolen and the pictures and the seals and other things might be fraudulent. So this is an area where we do pay a lot of attention.

QUESTION: There's a follow-up. For instance, in these steps that you take, would you be informed by these governments of the numbers of these passports to allow you to be on the lookout more specifically for certain --

MR. BOUCHER: It depends how good the other government's controls are. But if a government's -- the other government's controls are fairly good, they can usually inform us of the exact serial numbers of these passports so that we can look for those -- any passports in that series.