State Department Improperly Seized Passports of Americans in Yemen, Inquiry Finds

Passport grabs left Americans stranded in Yemen

A new report from the inspector general’s office found that from 2012 to 2014, the US State Department seized the passports of American citizens in Yemen without following proper procedures, and without consistent documentation.

This was ongoing at the US Embassy in Sanaa, where the Obama Administration was worried about passport fraud. They seized the passports of the citizens they suspected had committed fraud, and left them stranded in Yemen.

In at least one case, courts faulted the State Department for its approach, and ordereed the return of a passport seized in Yemen. They noted that the confession the man signed was “involuntary,” and coerced after he was denied food, water, and medication.

The inspector general concluded that the State Department routinely ignored citizens who asked for their passports back, and left them stuck in war-torn Yemen. In fact, the record-keeping was so shoddy that officials couldn’t even conclude how many passports were taken, with the State Department offering several different numbers to different investigators. At least 31 have been confirmed, but it may be more.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of