Homeland security expert: Passport security too vulnerable

Is your passport or personal information at risk of falling into the wrong hands? (John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The news of two men traveling with stolen passport on the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner is shedding new light on the vulnerability with passport security, says a homeland security expert.

Michael Greenberger, director of the University of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security, says counterfeiting passports is a worldwide problem.

“It’s too easy for a criminal to pretend he’s someone else and get a legitimate passport with his picture on it or her picture on it, and that makes stopping this very, very hard,” Greenberger said on WTOP Tuesday.

In many cases, people involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, transporting stolen contraband or terrorism are working off passports that are counterfeit, fake or stolen, Greenberger says.

With the Malaysia Airlines passengers with fake passports, there was a suspicion that they were using the passports with a terrorism link, which was later disproved, according to officials.

Greenberger says it is “very easy” for someone to steal identification, a Social Security number, birth date, place of birth and get a fake birth certificate to get a legitimate passport with someone else’s name.

“As a matter of fact, if you want to find out somebody’s Social Security number, there are services on the Internet where, for 15 cents a name, you can get someone’s Social Security number,” he says.

Measures are being made to enhance passport security such as the installation of chip and fingerprints in the documents, but it is still a vulnerable system, Greenberger says.

“The thought that a passport protects from unwanted people from coming into the country is just a fallacy.”

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