One detail in the ongoing "illegal" Russian spy scandal in the USA, seems to involve the abuse of a British Passport.
BBC copy of the District Court Indictment against 9 illegal spy suspects (.pdf) i.e. Christopher R. Metsos, Richard Murphy, Cynthia Murphy, Donald Howard Heathfield, Tracey Lee Ann Foley, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills, Juan Lazaro and Vicky Pelaez.
48. Similarly, TRACEY LEE ANN FOLEY, has traveled on a fraudulent British passport, prepared for her by the SVR. One of the Boston Conspirators' Internet Messages provided FOLEY with instructions with respect to her then-upcoming trip to Moscow.
Itinerary to M. [Moscow] for D.; Paris - Wien (by train), Mar 18 in Wien exch[ange] doc's for British pass[port] - [Moscow] (Mar 19, flight OS 601). Very important: 1. Sign your passport on page 32. Train yourself to be able to reproduce your signature when it's necessary.
Will the Home Office and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office investigate this alleged abuse of the British Passport system by Yet Another Foreign Intelligence Agency ?
It is still unclear whether or not an Israeli diplomat was actually expelled, following the abuse of British passports in the Dubai assassination affair
See the previous Spy Blog article and comments: Has the Israeli diplomat / intelligence officer been expelled from London yet ?
Note that this Internet Message , presumably hidden through stenography and / or encryption, appears, given the abbreviations, to have been written in English rather than Russian.
N.B. the current British Passports no longer force you to sign page 32, your signature on the specified box on application / renewal form, which your are warned to to exceed the boundaries of, is digitised.
An approximately half scale image version of your signature is reproduced on the main Passport laminated page
How this is meant to be of any use it for comparison with your "usual signature" ? Many people will had had to modify their "usual signature" to fit within the cramped, "one size fits all" box on the application form. To then reduce this in size by a factor of two as it appears on the front of the laminated main passport page, completely devalues this as a "security" feature.
Why could they not put a full sized signature image on the back of the laminated page, which, apart from the embedded chip and antenna, is devoid of any important information, except for "Official Observations", which for most people will be utterly blank. ?
N.B. the previous version of the UK Passport , without this embedded chip and antenna, had an identical "Official Observations" page, but it was not laminated, only the previous main details page was laminated. Therefore they cannot now actually write any new "Official Observations" or "Endorsements", e.g. limits on the right to work or reside in the UK etc. without replacing the entire Passport !
This laminated page has a stupid embedded contactless chip and antenna loop, which act as a a "let's blab the nationality and / or unique passport number to anybody with cheap unlicensed band radio frequency equipment" device, even before any encrypted data is sent between the chip and the passport reader equipment.
It has already been demonstrated that this can be done at ranges of several tens of metres, way beyond the few centimetres that the Passport and Passport reader equipment require. It therefore puts British travellers at risk of covert surveillance and tracking, as they pass by unseen detection equipment, operated by anbody with access to some cheap electronics..
They are therefore at potential risk from terrorist bombs which are detonated only once enough British passports are detected within range.
Spy Blog recommends, that just as with Oyster Travel Cards in London, you use aluminium metal foil etc. to line your Passport cover, so as to prevent this chip being sneakily detected or read, except when you are actually presenting it at passport control.
Doing so, will, of course, show up your radio frequency shielded passport as a "suspicious" object on intrusive "see under your clothes" Passive or Active Millimetre Wave radar or TeraHertz or Backscatter X-Ray scanners.
See Spy Blog: Foiling the Oyster card
If you are delayed or falsely accused or searched unnecessarily as a result of taking the simple radio shielding precaution, in order to reduce the extra personal danger risk which the Government bureaucracy has inflicted on you, then please let us know and we will name and shame the bureaucrats and politicians responsible.