Privacy-Act Shortcomings Of 2008 Passport-Application Forms
The United States Department of State, like all governmental departments and agencies, is required by the Privacy Act to collect only personal information which is relevant and necessary to a program which the agency administers.
For the program of issuance of passport booklets and passport cards, the State Department prescribes Form DS-11 (2/08) for use by first-time applicants, and also prescribes Form DS-82 (2/08) for use by applicants in the United States who apply by mail for a passport subsequent to the first one. On each form, the State Department collects, from applicants, some personal information which is relevant and necessary for issuance, and much personal information which is not relevant and necessary for issuance.
Over 16,000,000 applications for passport booklets or passport cards or both are filed annually, so the violations of the Privacy Act by the State Department are extensive as well as serious.
Personal information about an applicant, collection of which is underpinned by law or regulation, is an applicant's name, sex, date of birth, nationality, social-security number, foreign country of residence (if any), and personal ineligibility (e.g., as a consequence of owing more than $2,500 in child-support payments).
In practice, the State Department does not put to any applicant a question about personal ineligibility. Instead, the State Department checks an applicant's name and social-security number against various databases.
Chief among the personal information about applicants which is not relevant and necessary for issuance of a passport booklet or a passport card are
Filed Forms DS-11 and filed Forms DS-82 are informational gold mines. Nuggets in the gold mine, as to each applicant, are name, use of a different name (maiden, previous marriage, legal name change), name change from previous passport booklet or passport card (Form DS-82 only), date of birth, sex, place of birth, social-security number, mailing address, permanent address, email address (optional), phone numbers (plural), particulars of parents (Form DS-11 only), height, hair color, eye color, particulars of occupation and employer, emergency contact (i.e., a person close to an applicant), travel plans, particulars of spouse or former spouse, if any (Form DS-11 only), and prior passport booklet or passport card or both, if any. Every nugget is a key to other records, and, through them, yet more data.
From Forms DS-11, the State Department has the family trees of all applicants -- parents, spouses and former spouses, and details about them. Filings of Forms DS-11 by children of citizens and by children of noncitizen nationals who have or had passport booklets or passport cards extend family trees to the next generation.
All data collected on filed Forms DS-11 and Forms DS-82 are stored in illegal State Department dossiers on tens of millions of Americans.
Disclosure of personal information is never innocuous. Census records of 1860 were misused by the United States government, when it was waging the War Between the States, to look for Northern conscripts, to secure payment by Northerners of wartime taxes, and to seize Southern property.
Census records of 1910 were misused by the United States government, when it was waging World War I, to compile estimates and apportionments of draft-age men, and to classify registrants by occupation. In 1918, census records were misused to supply the Justice Department with information with which the department identified, arrested and prosecuted alleged draft-dodgers.
Census records of 1940 were misused by the United States government, when it was waging World War II, to project draft quotas and to provide support for the alien-registration program. In 1942, census records were misused to round up Japanese, both aliens and United States citizens, for herding them into internment camps.
Likewise during World War II, personal data, disclosed pursuant to laws which required individuals to file residence registration forms, were misused by the German government, when waging The War against the Jews (the title of Lucy Dawidowicz's book), to round up Jews for herding them into concentration camps.
The United States government is waging the Islamic War, and, so, is attracted by any step marketed as suitable for waging the war. Chimerical steps range from Total Information Awareness to Terrorism Information Awareness to CAPS to CAPPS to Secure Travel; from the Patriot Act to the revised Patriot Act; from pawing through baggage and carry-on bags to touching and rubbing passengers as conditions of boarding aircraft; from no-fly lists to selectee lists; from ignoring the Constitution to rewriting it to trashing it. The contempt of the State Department for law and the misuse by the State Department of Form DS-11 and Form DS-82 arise from the wartime intention of the State Department to gather a dossier on every man, woman and child who applies for a passport booklet or a passport card or both.
Historical wartime misuses of census records portend contemporary wartime misuses of State Department dossiers on applicants. Form DS-11 and Form DS-11 are dangerous, not merely excessive, information-collection forms.
Copyright© 2009 Stephen Krueger.
Stephen Krueger is a practicing attorney and the author of Krueger on United States Passport Law (2nd edition).
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.