When ISIS took over a large swath of territory in Syria, one of their prized spoils of war was a passport machine. Not a forger’s creation, but an actual machine to make real looking passports. And now, according to intelligence sources, they are using that machine to their advantage. From ABC News:
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters that through ISIS’s operations in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the group has acquired blank passports and has now set up a “real fake document industry.” Cazeneuve made the statement following a meeting with top European officials where he proposed setting up a new task force to help nab people attempting to come into the European Union with fake papers.
Well, isn’t that special. In the last month, according to the ABC News article, the United States’ Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) claims that ISIS may have been printing passports that pass muster since summer 2015, which raises the specter of ISIS fighters having legitimate looking passports that could possibly cover a multitude of background deficiencies. Not only that, since they had a significant head start on the international intelligence community knowing about this, the implications are perfectly ominous.
“Since more than 17 months [have] passed since Raqqa and Deir ez-Zour fell to ISIS, it is possible that individuals from Syria with passports ‘issued’ in these ISIS-controlled cities or who had passport blanks, may have traveled to the U.S.,” the HSI report says.
At this point, we have to figure this is a reality. The source of the information gives it the second highest “rating given for source assessments.” That person is confident that this information is accurate.
FBI Director James Comey, a man with a lot on his plate, testified before Congress on this matter.
“The intelligence community is concerned that they [ISIS] have the ability, the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting,” Comey said.
It is worse than that, though. ISIS has made a whole industry out of producing fake documents. All of Syria is awash in them and the people there see no problem in holding indentification that does not come from a government accepted by the rest of the planet. They, as well as backdated stamping, are available for less than $500.
“The source further stated that fake Syrian passports are so prevalent in Syria that Syrians do not even view possessing them as illegal,” the report says. “The source stated fake Syrian passports can be obtained in Syria for $200 to $400 and that backdated passport stamps to be placed in the passport cost the same.”
To make headaches more real for law enforcement in the United States and other parts of the civilized world, the passport machines are portable, and their locations change on a regular basis. The danger of this operation is all too real for the people in law enforcement, intelligence, and border control.
The HSI report’s last page contains a warning: “If ISIS ability to produce passports is not controlled, their operations will continue to increase and expand outside of their operational controlled areas.”
That might be the government understatement of the century. ISIS is in the passport making business. Forget keeping them out. We need to find them because they are already here.