U.S. intelligence officials are warning that the Islamic State terrorist group may have seized an official government passport printing machine and a trove of blank passports in Syria and could be printing fake passports that would allow some of its followers to infiltrate the U.S. border.
The terror group has reportedly been able to print legitimate-looking Syrian passports since taking over the city of Deir ez-Zour last summer, home to a passport office with “boxes of blank passports” and a passport printing machine, according to a Homeland Security Investigations Intelligence Report issued to law enforcement last week and reviewed by ABC news.
Another passport office was located in Raqqa, Syria, where the terror group has long maintained its de facto capital.
“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 report says, ABC reported.
FBI Director James Comey admitted the U.S. intelligence community was concerned about the problem in testimony before Congress on Wednesday.
“The intelligence community is concerned that they [ISIS] have the ability, the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting,” Mr. Comey said.
Fake Syrian passports have already been discovered in Europe, most notably two used by suicide bombers in the Paris attacks last month.
According to the source that provided the passport information to homeland security officials, Syria is awash in fake documents.
“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, according to ABC. “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.”
The report included one example in which law enforcement officials said that a Syrian passport discovered in Turkey was printed with a designator number indicating it had been printed in an ISIS-controlled area earlier this year.
The last page of the report warns, “If ISIS ability to produce passports is not controlled, their operations will continue to increase and expand outside of their operational controlled areas.”
• Kellan Howell can be reached at email@example.com.
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