State Dept. Proposes Creepy, Impossible-To-Answer Questions for Passport Applications

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Not really sure what to make of this, other than that it’s disturbing:

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new  Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories.  So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

It’s not clear from the supporting statementstatement of legal authorities, or regulatory assessment submitted by the State Department to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) why declining to discuss one’s siblings or to provide the phone number of your first supervisor when you were a teenager working at McDonalds would be a legitimate basis for denial of a passport to a U.S. citizen.

The new questions also ask for the names and contact information of all witnesses to your birth.

Reads like a tool to allow the State Department to turn down a passport when they can’t find a more legitimate reason.

(Via boingboing.)

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64 Responses to “State Dept. Proposes Creepy, Impossible-To-Answer Questions for Passport Applications”

  1. #1 |  Ken | 

    “t…he State Department is proposing that the questionnaire only be required of those applicants who “submit citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity, or when applicant has sufficient assets to be considered an expat risk.”

    FIFY. Clinton’s exit tax is back.

  2. #2 |  Bill Starr | 

    Have to wonder if that directive didn’t come out on April 1.

  3. #3 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 


    I have very little patience with the people you call “Good Christians”, but to attribute this kind of bumph to any kind of obsessive Christianity strikes me as a real stretch. State Department employees are – in my experience – divided into two major classes;

    1) Overeducated chinless wonders from the Best Families (Back Bay Boston and such trash), who attend High Status Church just often enough to not get disinherited (which, these days, isn’t all that often).


    2) Obsessive paper-pushing career job-holders, who barely believe in anything except their pensions.

    These are the mass, with a slight leavening of articulate Foreign Policy Wonks on the make.

    The last time “Good Christians” of the type you describe had a lot of influence at State was probably at least as far back as the administration of Woodrow Wilson (who was, himself, a bigoted, progressive elitist with ‘advanced’ views that would shock “Good Christians”….as well as the modern Liberals who think he was a good President), and maybe as far back as the administration of William McKinley.

  4. #4 |  supercat | 

    #49 | Matthew Brown | April 25th, 2011 at 4:39 pm “These in some cases at least will trip the “fraudulent” detector and make them have to do all this BS.”

    What should the State Department do if it is otherwise unable to determine the official circumstances of a person’s actual birth? I will readily admit that there really should be a means of generating an official redacted birth certificate when it is necessary to affirm certain information surrounding a person’s actual birth without necessarily revealing all of the potentially-confidential information surrounding biological parents, etc. but it seems better to have the State Department provide a means by which people for whom the official record is unclear can nonetheless demonstrate citizenship by a sufficient preponderance of unofficial records than to either declare that some people are just “out of luck”, or issue passports to anyone without proof of anything. Note that even open-borders libertarians should want the government to confirm people’s identities before issuing passports, lest other governments decide that U.S. passports aren’t valid as proof of identity overseas.

  5. #5 |  Chris C. | 

    Unlike Billy Beck, I’m not an independent contractor, but I am a salesman. I’ve had eleven employers since leaving the Army 33 years ago. Four are no longer in business, three more have been bought by foreign companies and undergone major changes (name, corporate structure, etc.), and two of the four remaining probably don’t remember me (many years have passed). I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Hell, I can’t even remember the names of supervisors past about 12 years ago (with a few Dilbertian exceptions).

    While I understand, from what others have posted, that this wouldn’t apply to me now, I also agree that bureaucratic creep will likely change that. (I live in Maryland, where the legislature routinely passes laws that they swear won’t be a primary offense, and makes them into such a year or two later with no evident shame.)

  6. #6 |  stevelaudig | 

    Perhaps I missed it but could someone provide the information that can direct me to how to make a comment on this proposed rulemaking by the Department of State? Usually when such things are proposed there is a comment period. I have some comments. I’d like to make in an attempt to derail this absurd proposal. I don’t mind showing my email address.

  7. #7 |  Rich | 

    It’s rare that the very first comment is the thread winner…

  8. #8 |  Tim Utz | 

    Just like TSA groping, when will American’s get a grip and stop the insanity. read how germany gave up liberty to Hitler and the political party.

  9. #9 |  Jerry | 

    I’m with Billy Beck, not only have I been in the Air Force when i was younger, I continued to move almost as much when I got out of the AF. Places I’ve lived:

    Bangor, ME; Brewer, ME; Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX; Subic Bay, Philippines; Edwards AFB, CA; Bangor, ME; Vernon, CT; Bangor, ME; Bucksport, ME; Bangor, ME; Odenton, MD; Brewer, ME; Bangor, ME (moved twice during this time frame); Springfield, VA and Leesburg, VA.

    one of the places I worked after I got out of the military ended up being an EPA Superfund site and was demolished and is a grassy field. LOL

  10. #10 |  So Wait A Minute... | 

    …if you insult a Christian by making the distinction between the “Good Christian” and the “christian”, do you also uphold the “african american” and “Nigger” distinction?

  11. #11 |  Steve | 

    If one were to want a relational database of everyone, one would want all the connections possible for each individual. Anyone remember TIA? See link in the name.

    I don’t think they have given up on their datamining dreams.

  12. #12 |  Papers, Please! » Blog Archive » Public outrage at proposed questionnaire for passport applicants | 

    […] The Agitator (Radley Balko): State Dept. Proposes Creepy, Impossible-To-Answer Questions for Passpor… […]

  13. #13 |  FreddyJ | 

    Isn’t asking about circumcision getting pretty close to religious discrimination? I mean seriously, who needs to know?

  14. #14 |  Video Squeeze Pages | 

    @ FreddyJ – How would that be discrimination? They are simply asking for information to confirm your identity, not allowing or disallowing a passport based on whether one is or isn’t circumcised.