Posted: 3:19 pm EDT
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— Al Kamen (@KamenIntheLoop) April 25, 2015
WaPo reported last week that federal employees responsible for reviewing and processing U.S. passports are now prohibited from bringing their cellphones to work. The new rule would affect the 1,200 government workers and 1,000 private contractors in passport offices across 22 domestic locations. What started this off? Who knows except that there apparently was a contractor in Houston:
“The rumor among passport workers is that a contractor in Houston was taking pictures of private information on passports.”
A State Department official confirmed the new policy to WaPo: “The Department has a serious and important obligation to protect the personally identifiable information (PII) of U.S. citizens applying for passports,” the official said. “Prohibiting cellphones throughout our Passport Agencies, where employees review and process passport applications, is an effort to further protect passport applicant’s PII.”
The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) Local 1998 that represents Passport Agency workers nationwide is not happy. The union wondered what use is getting these employees secret clearances if they can’t be trusted with the information?
Read in full here.
Our own source at the Consular Affairs bureau declined to confirm the rumor but did confirm the ban on cell phones.
The last time the Passport Agency made a huge splash was back in 2008 when illegal access of politician and celebrity passport records were discovered. Nine State Department employees and contractors were charged and pleaded guilty in that case.