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Report: U.S. passport risk persists

WASHINGTON, June 15 (UPI) -- A U.S. government contractor is still assembling a key passport component in Thailand despite repeated warnings about security risks, ABC News reported.

In a report conducted jointly with the Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog group, ABC said the Government Printing Office inspector general has warned the GPO lacks a basic security plan for protecting blank e-Passports from theft by terrorists, foreign spies or counterfeiters. Such passports contain a chip in the cover designed to deter counterfeiting.

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Despite offering assurances production of passports would be moved to the United States, a government contractor is still assembling the electronic component in Thailand, ABC and the CPI reported Monday.

Clark Kent Ervin, a former Department of Homeland Security inspector general, called the report "extremely troubling."

"Something like that ought to be produced only in the United States, under only the most rigorous security standards," he told ABC News.

GPO Chief Executive Officer Robert Tapella, after initially declining to be interviewed for the story, told ABC News at a conference in Baltimore government contractors are working on moving the work out of Thailand to Minnesota.

"I believe the Government Printing Office, along with the Department of State, are doing everything necessary to maintain and secure the passport supply chain," he said.

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Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., said there was "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."

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