- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

The State Department is investigating whether it is being overcharged for blank electronic passports by the Government Printing Office, the sole maker of the new travel document, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday.

In terms of price, we’ll just have to look into that, Miss Rice told reporters and editors of The Washington Times. And I hope GPO is giving us the best deal they can.

The secretary was commenting on an investigation by The Times that revealed GPO had made about $100 million in profits over the past 16 months by selling blank electronic passports to the State Department at nearly twice their cost.

Asked about the overcharges and outsourcing of computer chips, Miss Rice quipped, I was glad to learn that from The Times report.

The secretary said her main worry was that foreign computer chips and overseas assembly for the passports pose security risks. Security officials at the State Department assured her that the production process is protected, she said.

Both the State Department and the foreign companies involved in producing radio signal microchips for U.S. passports maintain security measures to track, trace what happens with the passport document as it comes from there, she said, noting that State is legally required to purchase the blank passports from GPO.

Miss Rice said she was upset that lower-level officials did not inform her about snooping by contract workers who improperly viewed the passport applications for presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. John McCain.

I’m very concerned that we do everything that we can to protect the personal data of Americans, Miss Rice said.

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