Today I went to the post office to take care of renewing my passport. This is a sad day, because I actually liked my old passport photograph, taken with good lighting so that it actually looks like me, wearing my old leather jacket that's been everywhere and still looks the same. My old passport is also green, an artifact from a very short period in 1993-94 when the US issued green passports. They were not a success, I guess. Just luck that I got one, but I liked my green passport . That's ok. On my new passport picture my hair looks sort of green.
So in the post-9/11 environment, I expected some kind of elaborate identity screening, maybe involving fingerprints, skin samples, blood work, a cavity search, literacy test, what have you, all because your passport is the key to getting back into the US of A from foreign lands. (No, I am not advocating any of these procedures, Mr. Ashcroft!) And with a U.S. passport and not much else you can get all kinds of other ID you need to show, according to the Supreme Court, whenever asked for it. But with my old passport, all I had to do (so far!) was mail it to Pittsburgh with two photos and sign a statement promising that these were really photos of me. I suppose they can compare the 1993 photo to the 2004 photos and look at things like my trollish little nose, but no one charged with issuing me a passport is even going to look at me, in the pasty flesh, and look at the photos I'm submitting, to see if I'm even the same person before using those pics to make me (or someone) a brand new passport. My address has changed a few times since 2003 when my old passport was issued. Does the State Department care? No, they will mail it back to me where I tell them to mail it, once I've given them my word that I'm really the person who goes with the passport I'm sending them. Oh yes, and I had to provide the information on the form that anyone can read from my old passport. Do identity thieves worry a lot about forging things, under penalty of perjury, in the victim's name? I don't think so. For that matter, you have to mail your passport to "National Passport Office" making it easy for any post office employee or agent between you and Pittsburgh to identify the envelopes likely to contain passports. I'm not a security expert by any means but under these circumstances a government-issued ID doesn't strike me of proof of anything.
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