Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants

Back in March, the State Department published a notice in the Federal Register that they were proposing a new “Biographical Questionnaire” for (some) passport applicants. But the notice didn’t include the proposed form itself. Curious, and concerned, we requested a copy of the proposed form from the State Department contact person listed in the Federal Register notice.

When we got the proposed Form DS-5513, we were horrified. We immediately posted the form here on our website, with an alert about the proposal. We also prepared and submitted formal comments to the State Department opposing the proposal, which were co-signed by the Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights (CFPHR), Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Privacy Activism, Consumer Travel Alliance (CTA), Robert Ellis Smith, and John Gilmore.

Unfortunately, the mainstream media didn’t pick up the story until after we wrote about the filing of our comments at ConsumerTraveler.com last Friday. After that, the story went viral.  And it’s still spreading: today it’s reported on MSNBC and across the spectrum of political blogs and news sites from Glenn Beck to the Daily Kos.

What’s consistent across that political spectrum is the outrage. From fewer than 50 public comments in the State Department docket on Friday, the count went to more than 900 before the comment deadline yesterday (Monday) at midnight. But that’s not all. State Department docket clerks are still processing the backlog of last-minute submissions, which can take up to a couple of weeks. By lunchtime today, the count of public comments was up to more than 3000. We haven’t had time to read them all, but we haven’t found any in those we sampled that support the State Department’s proposal.

Organizational comments opposing the proposed “Biographical Questionnaire” were submitted by:

In addition to the comments submitted to the Department of State, here are some of the other discussions of this issue going on around the Web as news of this scheme spreads:

Seemingly the only voice raised in support of the proposed questionnaire was from Arthur Frommer, who stressed the fact that only some people (presumably other people) would have to complete the new form. Frommer’s position drew criticism from his own readers, with one commenter in Frommer’s blog saying that they were “Disappointed… in Arthur” and another writing, “In this, your only justification seems to be ‘Calm down, everyone, I just learned that this regulation won’t affect me.”’ (In the same article, Frommer also says he thinks that protests against TSA virtual strip-search and geneital groping policies has “dwindled … in the wake of a realization by the public of the role that the TSA plays in protecting us from terrorism.” Right. It’s all for our own good.)

Many people found the State Department proposal so outrageous that they assumed it must be a hoax. It’s not. We understand that it may seem fishy that the State Department chose to publish a notice in the Federal Register that it was proposing a new form, but didn’t publish the proposed form itself in the Federal Register. But that was their choice of how to proceed, not ours. We were sent the proposed Form DS-5513 in March, in response to our request, by the person identified in the Federal Register notice as the point of contact from whom it could be obtained: Alexys Garcia, GarciaAA@state.gov, 212-736-9216. We immediately published the form we received from the State Department here on our website. There’s more at the links in the sidebar on who we are and how to contact us, as well as links to press reports on our previous work and current projects. Like the co-signers of the comments we submitted to the State Department, and the other commenters listed above, we’re for real, and so is this proposal from the State Department. We wish this were a hoax, but it’s not.

What happens next? It’s up to the State Department whether to submit the proposed form to OMB for approval along with the overwhelming record of public opposition, to modify the proposal, or to withdraw it entirely.  The deadline for public comments on this specific proposal has passed, but it’s not to late to tell Congress and the President to take action to restore the freedom of movement guaranteed by the First Amendment and international law — and, while they are at it, to rein in the TSA.  We’ve got a little list of actions they could take to start that process.

[Follow-up: State Dept. already using illegal passport questionnaire]

[Follow-up: State Dept. responds to passport form furor — with lies]

24 Responses to “Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants”

  1. Sheila Dean Says:

    We usually find that when the State wants no opposition they mask the routes where the public can find fault or respond. You and others opposed who feel more public input may be required to make a difference could ask for more time from the State Department. This is so the public has time to better respond to the gestures on citizenship and demand for outrageous amounts of documentation.

  2. mike Says:

    I sent my comments by mail to Ms. Garcia in mid-March shortly after you posted your original entry on this matter. Should I be concerned that they are nowhere to be found in the linked public docket? Indeed, as far as I can tell, there are no comments at all there posted before April 14, which seems strange.

  3. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. proposes “Biographical Questionnaire” for passport applicants Says:

    [...] [Follow-up: Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants] [...]

  4. Jeanne Says:

    When I click on the link to submit a comment,I don’t find the “Submit a Comment” button at the upper right of the page!

  5. Edward Hasbrouck Says:

    @Jeanne - The ““Submit a Comment” link no longer appears on Regulations.gov because the comment deadline has passed. the deadline was midnight Monday, April 25, 2011.

  6. rjnerd Says:

    Another KOS diary can be found here http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/04/22/969262/-Papers-PleaseComments-close-on-new-passport-application

  7. Just a Little Addition … | Truth and Justice For All Says:

    [...] a groundswell of negative reaction has arisen to the proposed new and expanded Department of State passport application forms.  (If your memory [...]

  8. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. already using illegal passport questionnaire Says:

    [...] Papers, Please! Challenging ID Demands The Identity Project explores and defends the fundamental American right to move freely around our country and to live without constantly having to prove who we are or why we are here. Home The Issue Who We Are What We Do Secure Flight Featured Cases Policy Analysis Lawyer’s Corner Take Action Press Room Contact Us Friends « Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants [...]

  9. Amanda Says:

    Thanks for linking to my post.

    What I find so ironic about all of this, as an adopted person, is that the government wants us to prove our identities and citizenship in such an exhaustive manner…but for 6 million people (the adopted) it is the government that is withholding from us the documents that give us the ability to do so!

    Only 6 states in the U.S. provide Adult Adoptees with unhindered access to their own Original Birth Certificates. Up until last year when I finally unsealed my OBC, I would not have been able to answer one question on this new proposed form. Even now without this form, many adoptees are denied passports or have difficulty obtaining driver’s licenses because their Amended Birth Certificates are not adequate in proving their identity.

  10. Tom Pendleton Says:

    I am 68 years old and my parents are deceased. For the life of me I could not accurately fill out that darn form. I used to be able to remember where my parents lived, but that escapes me now. The apartment they live in has long since been demolished and the street on which it stood was eradicated in a highway straighting and widening project so I don’t even have any visual references. As far as employment goes, I cannot count on my being a carrier/salesman for two newspapers while I was in middle and high school but the route managers I reported to have both died as have my supervisors from my summer jobs will I was re-started my college education, although the businesses still exist.

    There are many more details in that form that I am unable to provide accurately so I am glad I already have a passport! .

  11. State Dept. wants to make it harder to get a passport Says:

    [...] More than 3000 people and several organizations submitted comments opposing the proposal in the final days before the deadline. Those comments [...]

  12. State Dept. wants to make it harder to get a passport Says:

    [...] More than 3000 people and several organizations submitted comments opposing the proposal in the final days before the deadline. Those comments [...]

  13. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. responds to passport form furor — with lies Says:

    [...] readers (among the thousands who submitted comments) have forwarded copies of the email message the State Department’ is sending as an [...]

  14. Joe M Says:

    You know EXACTLY why the form is so outrageous. It is so very outrageous, so that way when they scale down to only LESS outrageous, people will be willing to compromise and accept it. You can hear them saying, “Well, at least it’s not so bad now that they scaled it back some… so I’m okay with it.”.

  15. stephen A bishop Says:

    I have been denied a passport. I .was given a letter by the state dept, to provide 10 documents 10 years old or older.I provided the info necessary. I was written back on anther letter from the state dept. That my proof was innsuffiecient for passport purposesIt seems they always need more and they know who I am. I hold a gun permit I sent tax records an school records and still they dont know. I have asked why I have been singled out and they will not give me a reason why!

  16. State Dept. admits passport form was illegal, but still wants it approved Says:

    [...] massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms [...]

  17. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » State Dept. admits passport form was illegal, but still wants it approved Says:

    [...] massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms [...]

  18. State Dept. Admits Impossible Passport Form Was Illegal, But Still Wants It Approved | The Flopside Says:

    [...] include the form itself. After I obtained and published the proposed Form DS-5513, the story went viral (I wasquoted on the same day by both Glenn Beck and the Daily Kos!) and more than 3,000 public [...]

  19. Why You Need a US Passport Now! At a future point, it may be impossible to get one. | American Expat in Chiang Mai Says:

    [...] Ignoring massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms illegally without approval, the State Department is trying again to get approval for a pair of impossible-to-complete new passport application forms that would, in effect, allow the State Department to deny you a passport simply by choosing to send you either or both of the new “long forms”. [...]

  20. READ THIS! Why You Need a Passport Now! | TheSleuthJournal Says:

    [...]   Edit This The new U.S. passport application forms are back, worse than ever. Ignoring massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms illegally [...]

  21. Headlines: RIP to Means and McGovern; Feed the Weed; Passport Boogie; Fascist U.S.A.; COINTELPRO COPS; WalMart Still Sucks « WaketheHerd.com Says:

    [...] massive public opposition, and despite having recently admitted that it is already using the “proposed” forms illegally [...]

  22. James Says:

    this is exactly why everyone should get a passport now

  23. Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » White House approves new “long forms” for some passport applicants Says:

    [...] approving these forms, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ignored overwhelmingly public outrage at these questionnaires, which ask such questions [...]

  24. White House approves new “long forms” for some passport applicants Says:

    [...] for US passports. In approving these forms, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ignored overwhelmingly public outrage at these questionnaires, which ask such questions [...]

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