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GAO: Border Security Worse than in 2003 Test

Congressional investigators report that they were able to enter the United States earlier this year, using fake identification papers. The report says there's been no improvement in border security since the last time tests were conducted three years ago.

Investigators with the Government Accountability Office used phony driver's licenses and birth certificates earlier this year as they tried to cross from Canada and Mexico into the United States. Each time, they got through without a problem: Not one customs or border patrol official questioned the authenticity of their documents.

The investigators say that they sometimes weren't even asked to show identification. But what surprised Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley is that undercover agents were more successful this year than they were before.

"They used the same phony documents and the same fake IDs to cross the U.S. border 18 more times, and they weren't ever caught once," Grassley said.

Gregory Kutz, of the GAO, noted that in 2003, one investigator was stopped at a New York crossing when he showed an expired passport and fake driver's license. But that was little consolation.

"This individual used the same documents later in 2003 to enter the United States from California and Texas," Kutz said. The name on the papers had previously been entered on a government watch list.

To make the false documents, officials used commonly available computers and software. The names on some of the documents were the same as those used in 2003.

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Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty, philanthropy, and voting issues.