TRAVEL: An American? Not Me

An American? Not Me

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At first glance, the passport looks richly authentic. Its burgundy, textured- vinyl cover is stamped with gold lettering that reads, PASSPORT, REPUBLIC OF CEYLON. Trouble is, Ceylon is now Sri Lanka and the passport is a fake. Or, to use the euphemism favored by Creator Donna Walker, a 49-year-old former travel agent, "It's not counterfeit; it's camouflage."

Walker began minting the false documents earlier this year, prompted by hostage-taking incidents in which terrorists singled out tourists and military personnel who carried American passports. Her clientele can choose citizenship from eight nonexistent nations, including one named after an element on the periodic table. Walker keeps the names secret, using the Ceylon passport only as an example. She claims to have sold 350 of the passports already, 100 of them to U.S. Government officials and an additional 120 to military personnel. Price: $135 to civilians, $95 to armed forces members.

Walker is fairly certain that her products are legal. The Justice Department maintains that no particular law bans carrying such documents. Walker's rival in the passport business, the State Department, professes no objection to U.S. citizens' holding the bogus papers -- as long as they present their genuine passports when they enter or leave the country.