Congress, watchdog probe passport security

New US RFID passports manufactured offshore at a huge profit, transported by unsecured couriers - BoingBoing, October 23, 2008
...After the computer chips are inserted into the back cover of the passports in Europe, the blank covers are shipped to a factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, north of Bangkok, to be fitted with a wire Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, antenna. The blank passports eventually are transported to Washington for final binding, according to the documents and interviews.
The stop in Thailand raises its own security concerns. The Southeast Asian country has battled social instability and terror threats. Anti-government groups backed by Islamists, including al Qaeda, have carried out attacks in southern Thailand and the Thai military took over in a coup in September 2006.
The Netherlands-based company that assembles the U.S. e-passport covers in Thailand, Smartrac Technology Ltd., warned in its latest annual report that, in a worst-case scenario, social unrest in Thailand could lead to a halt in production.
Smartrac divulged in an October 2007 court filing in The Hague that China had stolen its patented technology for e-passport chips, raising additional questions about the security of America's e-passports...

Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security - Washington Times, March 26, 2008
[Thanks to Eric for pointing this out.]
...After the computer chips are inserted into the back cover of the passports in Europe, the blank covers are shipped to a factory in Ayutthaya, Thailand, north of Bangkok, to be fitted with a wire Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, antenna. The blank passports eventually are transported to Washington for final binding, according to the documents and interviews.
The stop in Thailand raises its own security concerns. The Southeast Asian country has battled social instability and terror threats. Anti-government groups backed by Islamists, including al Qaeda, have carried out attacks in southern Thailand and the Thai military took over in a coup in September 2006...


Congress, watchdog probe passport security - Washington Times, March 27, 2008
...The Times reported yesterday that the GPO chose two European computer chip makers over U.S. manufacturers to make tens of millions of electronic passports. The passports are being assembled in Thailand by one company that was a victim of Chinese economic espionage.
"If true, these allegations raised in today"s press reports are extremely serious not only to the integrity of our e-Passport program, but also to our national security," said Mr. Dingell, chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
...One of the companies involved in passport production in Thailand, Smartrac, charged in a court filing in the Netherlands last year that its technology was stolen by China...


The Thai company that makes US passports: Smartrac
They also have this domain--www.smartrac.co.th--but it seems only to be used for email.

Smartrac, issuing inlays, opening fourth factory in Thailand - Contactless News, November 29, 2006
Smartrac, a provider of inlays for electronic passports, has obtained a major order to supply several million ePassport inlays for the new U.S. passports, Security Document World reports.
Since 2004, Smartrac has been a certified supplier for the U.S. ePassport program, and produces one million inlays a month.
In order to meet the increasing worldwide demand for high security inlays Smartrac is planning to open a fourth factory at the company’s location in Thailand as early as January 2007.

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