U.S. authorities believe ISIS terrorists may have slipped into the country using authentic-looking passports printed on the terror group’s own passport printing machines.
A 17-page long Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Intelligence Report says ISIS has been able to print legitimate-looking Syrian passports since last summer when they overran the city of Deir ez-Zour, home to a passport office with “boxes of blank passports and a passport printing machine”. ISIS’s long de facto capital of Raqqa also had a passport office.
“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.,” says the report.
The document notes that the primary source for the information is rated at “moderate confidence,” the second-highest rating given for source assessments.
FBI Director James Comey says, “The intelligence community is concerned that they (ISIS) have the ability, the capability to manufacture fraudulent passports, which is a concern in any setting.”
Former Department of Homeland Security intelligence official, John Cohen, says, “If ISIS has been able to acquire legitimate passports or machines that create legitimate passports, this would represent a major security risk in the United States.”
Two of the suicide bombers in the recent Paris terror attacks had fake Syrian passports. The two men are believed to have slipped into Europe in the wave of Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in their country.
According to the source quoted in the report, 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.” says the report. “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 cites a case where law enforcement officials said a Syrian passport found in Turkey was printed with a number designator indicating it was printed in an ISIS-controlled area earlier this year.
The report concludes with a warning: “If ISIS ability to produce passports is not controlled, their operations will continue to increase and expand outside of their operational controlled areas.”