Rewarding failure is a fundamental precept of The Bureaucratic Code, which helps to explain why government’s regulatory powers grow in spite of its incompetence. Examples are legion, of course, including the recent case of the State Department and passport fraud.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has on several occasions investigated the department’s procedures for processing passport applications and found them dangerously wanting. In 2009, for example, the GAO “easily” obtained passports using counterfeit documents. A 2010 investigation also yielded passports despite numerous discrepancies and suspicious indicators within each application (including, for example, photos of the same investigator on multiple applications; a 62-year-old applicant using a Social Security number issued in 2009; passport and driver’s license photos showing a 10-year age difference; and the use of a California mailing address, a West Virginia permanent address and driver’s license address, and a Washington, D.C., phone number in the same application).

So, pray tell, just how do State Department officials propose to remedy the problem? Predictably, they are proposing to expand the very investigatory powers they have failed to use properly and, in so doing, impose onerous new burdens on passport applicants—i.e., us.

Specifically, the department is proposing a new passport application, Form DS-5513. It would require the name and address of your every employer, as well every supervisor’s name, and the address of your every residence. And if you were not born in a hospital (or if your birth was not officially recorded within a year) you would also have to document:

  • The circumstances of your birth, including the names of everyone in the room when you were born;
  • Whether your mother received pre-natal and post-natal care and the names of the doctors and dates of the appointments for that care;
  • The name of your mother’s employer when you were born and her dates of employment;
  • Your mother’s address when you were born and her address one year before and one year after your birth.

In their submission for approval to the Office of Management and Budget (as required under the Paperwork Reduction Act!), department officials claim the new application will take just 45 minutes, on average, to complete. But that calculation comes from the very same folks who issued passports to fictitious and fraudulent applicants.

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