Apr 26 2011

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: Read More