You know those new, super-secure, RFID-enabled passports the US is issuing to its citizens? They’re manufactured and assembled offshore, in sometimes-unstable regions, the blanks are shipped around using unsecured couriers, and they’re sold to US citizens at an 85% profit. I feel safer already.
Each new e-passport contains a small computer chip inside the back cover that contains the passport number along with the photo and other personal data of the holder. The data is secured and is transmitted through a tiny wire antenna when it is scanned electronically at border entry points and compared to the actual traveler carrying it.According to interviews and documents, GPO managers rejected limiting the contracts to U.S.-made computer chip makers and instead sought suppliers from several countries, including Israel, Germany and the Netherlands.
Mr. Somerset, the GPO spokesman, said foreign suppliers were picked because “no domestic company produced those parts” when the e-passport production began a few years ago.
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.
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