CAGW Names State Department Official Frank Moss Porker of the Month | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Names State Department Official Frank Moss Porker of the Month

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Daytime:Jessica Shoemaker 202-467-5318
February 27, 2005After hours:Tom Finnigan 202-253-3852


Rollout of Chip-Embedded Passports Begins

(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Deputy Assistant Secretary for Passport Services Frank Moss Porker of the Month.  Mr. Moss and the rest of the State Department decided to ignore the overwhelming public opposition to the use of passports containing radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.  The first e-passports are being distributed and the nationwide rollout will occur at the end of the year.  

Affecting 60 million Americans, the new passports will cost $2.5 billion with an annual operational cost of $1.3 billion.  The estimated cost to produce passports will increase from the current $2.40 to more than $10 each, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In addition to the four-fold increase in cost, the new passports and the chip technology pose a serious threat to privacy and security.  There remains the possibility that personal information could be “skimmed” or stolen from a distance using a chip reader.  The State Department claims that the chips can only be read from approximately four inches away.  But demonstrations have shown that stronger readers can scan the chips from a greater distance.  The chips could also act as beacons that broadcast travelers’ nationality to terrorists. 

Frank Moss maintains that security features will protect the passports and that further talk of unauthorized reading is “poppycock.”  The Dutch television program Nieuwslicht teamed up with the security firm Riscure to successfully crack and decrypt a Dutch-prototype RFID passport developed under international standards.  Furthermore, what is not “poppycock” is the federal government’s abysmal record with technological initiatives of this magnitude.    

The supposed basis for RFID chips is better fraud protection and faster processing through customs.  However, magnetic strips or two-dimensional bar codes could provide the same level of security and would have to be physically stolen before being read.  RFID chips have the capacity for carrying all manner of personal information.  While current policy limits the data that can be stored on the passport, bureaucrats will almost inevitably think of reasons for expanding the amount of information.  The increasing number of security flags that result, and the cases of passports with damaged chips, could have the overall effect of slowing travel without improving security.

The State Department solicited public comments on the introduction of the electronic passport.  Of 2,335 comments received, approximately 1 percent of the comments were positive and 98.5 percent were negative.  Moss was quoted in Security Focus as saying, “We are doing it right, we just disagree.  If you really think this is a horrible idea, you better start writing your member of Congress.”       

For advocating an unproven and unnecessary technology when cheaper and safer alternatives are available, and for brushing aside the concerns of the public who will be carrying RFID passports, CAGW names Frank Moss Porker of the Month for February 2006. 

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.  Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.


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