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Were You Circumcised? New Passport Questionnaire Baffles Many With Absurd Info Demands


Quick: Name every address you've ever held. And job.

Who was present when you were born? Can you remember every address you've ever had? How about every place you've ever worked? Were you circumcised?

What if I told you that those were some of the queries the State Department is proposing for a new "biographical questionnaire" as part of the passport application?

Sounds absurd, doesn't it? It's true. Take a look:

According to BoingBoing, the form is meant for those who, while applying for a passport, can't produce a birth certificate. "But as the FA suggests," the site notes, "the circumstances in which people unable to provide a birth certificate will be given this form (rather than the traditional bureaucratic investigation) are not spelled out; further, the form itself remains a Kafkaesque impossibility for most people to complete." notes the near impossibility of the proposed application, too:

The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

"It’s not clear from the supporting statementstatement of legal authorities, or regulatory assessment submitted by the State Department to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) why declining to discuss one’s siblings or to provide the phone number of your first supervisor when you were a teenager working at McDonalds would be a legitimate basis for denial of a passport to a U.S. citizen," that site goes on to say.

The supporting statement does say the questionnaire will be "used to supplement an application for a U.S. passport when the applicant submits citizenship or identity evidence that is insufficient or of questionable authenticity." Still, it does not define "insufficient or questionable authenticity."

Libertarian website calls the new form "disturbing," and in its headline covering the story further describes it as "impossible to answer" and "creepy." Author Radley Balko theorizes it could be a "tool to allow the State Department to turn down a passport when they can't find a more legitimate reason."

And it's not just conservative sites that are raising alarm. The uber-liberal Village Voice mocks the form's question asking if the applicant was circumcised (yes, that's a real question).

According to the document, answering the questionnaire is voluntary, "but failure to provide the information requested may result in processing delays or the denial of your U.S. passport application."

The State Department was taking comments on the new application through yesterday. To read up more on the new form, you can go here and here.

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)

This story has been updated.

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