ISIS is in possession of two machines that can print fake Syrian passports, and at least some of them may have been used to sneak into the United States, according to a recently-released Department of Homeland Security report, Fox News is reporting.
— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) December 12, 2015
Some time around June 2014, according to the 18-page report, ISIS took control of two regions in Syria: Deir- ez-Zour and Raqqa. ISIS operatives were able to walk into abandoned Syrian government offices there and commandeer passport-making machines – as well as blank passport books and according to CNN, Syrian government documents containing fingerprint and other biographical data on Syrian citizens. That data can be used to facilitate further identity theft, according to the report.
Since June 2014, the fake Syrian passports have traveled far and wide: they’re selling on the black market in Turkey for between $200 and $400. Some 3,800 Syrian passports issued since June 2014 have been flagged by the State Department as fake; and another 10,000 were recently caught in Bulgaria, destined for Germany. And two fake Syrian passports were used by the Paris suicide bombers, according to The New York Daily News.
And that may just be the tip of the iceberg: according to the report, the government has no real handle on the scale of the problem.
“The lack of ability to verify information with the Syrian government about how many passports may be vulnerable for exploitation in former provincial and regional government buildings will make attempts to analyze the scale of the problem difficult.”
Have Fake Syrian Passports Been Used To Enter The United States?
It is not clear, from the report, if any of the flagged 3,800 fake Syrian passports have wound up in the United States, but the possibility is still there.
As of this writing, 2,500 Syrian refugees have re-settled in the U.S., and the Obama administration is moving forward with a plan to accept 10,000 refugees. Since the November 13 ISIS-led terror attacks in Pars, which killed 130 people and injured over 300, concerns have been raised that ISIS terrorists may be using the Syrian refugee crisis as cover to sneak into the U.S. Thirty-one governors have already publicly refused to accept any more Syrian refugees, although they lack the legal authority to do so.
States that are rejecting/accepting Syrian refugees. 😕 pic.twitter.com/vl3escKEup
— Eyad (@eyad_93) November 18, 2015
The Obama administration insists the system for vetting Syrian refugees – which can take up to two years – is thorough and can weed out potential terrorists.
Gaming The System?
Claude Arnold, a former DHS Investigations special agent in charge for Minneapolis and Los Angeles, explained to Fox News how the refugee vetting process relies largely on the refugee’s word that he or she is not affiliated with ISIS.
“In absence of specific intelligence that identifies the refugee as a member ISIS, we are not going to know they are a member of ISIS. We don’t have those boots on the ground in Syria, no one is really gathering that information, it’s a no mans land. So their application is based solely on story that person tells. It is dangerous, it is idiotic.”
In fact, Arnold pointed out that war criminals have, in the past, sneaked into the United States by telling “convincing stories” about being persecuted – because they were the ones doing the persecuting. Similarly, and ISIS operative, with a fake Syrian passport, could claim firsthand knowledge of being tortured or otherwise being persecuted by ISIS – because he was the one actually doing it.
In the mean time, the U.S. is working on developing an advanced form of passport – passports with microchips that contain unique biometric data on the user, which can’t be faked.
Such advanced measures wouldn’t have any effect on identifying the thousands of known existing fake Syrian passports issued by ISIS, however.
[Photo by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images]