Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

A Humble Request for Help

April 4th, 2012 · 6 Comments


As I steal another day to focus on the book—my deadline is less than two weeks away—I was hoping to ask y’all for a bit of help with a research matter.

Let’s say I walked into an American embassy or consulate in the spring of 1978, claiming to have lost my passport while traveling. What identification, exactly, would I have been asked to provide in order to obtain a replacement passport? You have no idea how hard it’s been to get a concrete answer to this question. And while I’m sure I could glean what I need from the State Department’s archives, I’d rather not invest the time/money in a Bolt Bus trip down to Washington D.C. Fingers crossed that someone in the Microkhan audience can provide a little insight, or at least point me in the direction of a resource I can tap from the comfort of my global headquarters. Thank you in advance for the helping hand.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Captured Shadow

    Sorry I can’t help nail this one. I know a guy who lost his passport in Poland in the 1990’s but kept a photocopy and that was about all he needed. (now I always have a scan in my email for quick retrieval)

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Thanks for the feedback. To clarify the situation, this is someone who lacked a passport because they were a fugitive from justice. Because of a bureaucratic oversight, they were able to apply for a passport in their own name without raising any alarm bells. But I assume they would still need some proof of citizenship. Makes me think they had an accomplice in the U.S. who supplied a copy of a birth certificate.

  • Captured Shadow

    I am just speculating, but I imagine a Foreign Service Officer might have had some leeway in 1978 to issue a passport to someone who dropped into an embassy with a sob story about having all of their ID stolen. I’m not sure they even would have a consistent protocol to follow.
    I’m curious what you find out.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Captured Shadow: Will do. This detail is driving me crazy, in large part because the State Department documents I FOIA’d are so maddeningly unclear on the outcome. I suspect that I was not given everything pertaining to this particular individual, since the case is still technically open. Still, I’m surprised I haven’t been able to find a definitive statement as to whether or not a passport was issued.

    Slowing down my writing roll, to say the least…

  • Sara Mayeux

    You might try the Code of Federal Regulations which I’d imagine is where any official protocol would’ve been published? (Maybe a friendly law librarian at your nearest university library with a government docs collection can help…) Though this also seems like something where ideally you might ask someone who worked in an embassy at that time — or what if you could find a 1978-ish travel guidebook to the relevant country or part of the world? It might have tips for travelers about what they’d need if they lost their passport…?

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Sara Mayeux: Thanks for the recs. There actually doesn’t seem to have been an official protocol, outside of assessing whether the applicant’s story was credible. That said, I can’t imagine that no documentation whatsoever was required. The big challenge for me is finding out what documentation would suffice. Maybe just a valid SSN?

    The one thing I do know is that the applicant’s name was always checked against a master file of “lookout cards”–i.e. fugitives and personae non grata. But my particular fugitive wasn’t in that master list b/c of a bureaucratic mistake. Lots of info to pack into a 500-word section!

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