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U.S. Urged To Take Lead In issuing Biometric Passports

The State Department should begin issuing passports with chips containing biographic information later in the year; an assistant secretary of state says the United States needs to take the lead to encourage other nations to issue similar passports.
The State Department should begin issuing passports that will include electronic chips containing the bearer's biographic information and photograph later this year, meeting an internationally agreed deadline that many other nations may not meet.

Maura Harty, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, testified at a Congressional hearing Thursday that the United States needs to take the lead in issuing the new passports to encourage other nations to do likewise. Doing so, she says, will help secure our borders against terrorists and other potential troublemakers.

"We recognize that convincing other nations to improve their passport requires U.S. leadership both at the International Civil Aviation Organization and by taking such steps with the U.S. passport," Harty told member of the House Government Reform Committee's hearings on the government's US-Visit program, which requires many foreigners entering and leaving the United States to have their fingerprints and face electronically scanned. "Embedding biometrics into U.S. passports to establish a clear link between the person issued the passport and the user is an important step forward in the international effort to strengthen border security."

The first biometric U.S. passports using the International Civil Aviation Organization's standard of facial recognition should be issued by October, she said--and all newly issued U.S. passports should contain biometric chips by the end of next year.

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