Security or Payoff?

When the DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY was created out of the several entities that preceeded it the writing was on the wall:  This monster was going to do a lot less for a lot more.  And, the cost would be much more than money (eg. civil liberties and personal privacy). 

Because I am a longshoreman at the Port of Seattle, I am a designated "transportation worker" and required to obtain a TWIC (Transportation Worker’s Identification Card).  For this honor I will have to pay $132.50 and withstand a waterboarding of an interview (well, perhaps that’s a little harsh), but why?  Wasn’t my background check for my Top Secret clearance on nuclear submarines in the US Navy conducted by the NIS/DIA good enough, or my Secret clearance by the Department of Energy, or my Secret clearance at the three civilian areospace and shipyard jobs I’ve held in the past?  No, of course not.  That friend-of-Bush in charge of the new civilian contractor that conducts the new background check needs my $132.50.  Well, they’re just going to have to wait.  As you can read for yourself, DHS really doesn’t care about port security.  They can’t even maintain the 12 (yes that’s ONLY twelve) machines available to make the cards and they didn’t adequately plan on how many applicants there would be. 

By Jessica Kelmon

Medill News Service

WASHINGTON — Dockworkers in Tacoma and Seattle will be among the first in the country to use new federal identification cards that are meant to help protect the nation’s ports from terrorist attacks.

The Transportation Workers Identity Credential (TWIC) ID card is a high-tech document required of any dock or transit worker with unescorted access to secure port areas.

Equipped with a chip, a swipable magnetic strip and tamper-resistant holograms, the new ID card is the first step in a long-awaited plan to better screen port employees and others with secure-area access.

"TWIC is designed to address all facets of the supply chain," said Mike Wasem, spokesman for the Port of Tacoma, which will begin using the cards this week. "Ultimately, it will affect longshoremen, truckers, PR guys, anyone who ‘touches’ cargo. The PR guy doesn’t touch cargo, but he does have access to secure areas."

The program was ordered five years ago as part of homeland-security legislation. But so far, only two ports nationwide have the ID cards. The Transportation Security Administration, which oversees the program, plans to issue the ID cards in 39 additional ports, including Tacoma and Seattle, by the end of 2007 and in 147 ports by next fall.

Although most ports have their own employee-screening and other security measures in place, the new program is a uniform federal measure that will include criminal background checks, FBI terrorist-watchlist screening and biometric fingerprint data on each card.

In a hearing last week, the House Homeland Security Committee criticized the ID cards and the time it was taking to implement the program.

Labeling the ID card program a "failure," the committee focused on security breaches, inefficiencies and the potential impact on workers.

Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., noted recent examples of security breaches that could undermine the ID cards: A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) contractor’s laptop was stolen, and counterfeit ID cards reportedly are being created by organized crime.

Kip Hawley, TSA assistant secretary, said the hard drive of the stolen computer was encrypted in accordance with TSA rules so data could not be compromised.

Hawley also said the cards have tamper-proof security elements such as holograms and biometric fingerprint data that can’t be copied.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who has championed port-security legislation, condemned the delays in getting the cards up and running.
"It’s very troubling that so many key issues remain more than five years after Congress created the TWIC program," Murray said.

At last week’s hearing, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, critiqued another aspect of the program: the card readers meant to verify workers’ identities on the TWIC ID cards. Dicks expressed outrage at TSA’s projected 2- to 2-½-year timeline before the readers would be ready.

"I’m having a hard time understanding: Why would we not want to get the readers as quickly as possible?" Dicks asked, criticizing the department’s decision not to implement cards and readers simultaneously.

Hawley said the department was legislatively mandated to implement the two parts separately and was following rules for buying the technology.

Ramon Ortiz, director of security at the Port of Tacoma, said the TWIC cards add instant additional security, even without the readers, because of increased vetting for each employee.

Ortiz said that until the TWIC readers arrive, however, dockworkers in Tacoma are likely to have two mandatory ID cards: the new TWIC ID cards and their current employee ID cards.

Members of the House committee also voiced concern about the impact of the cards on individual workers. Original estimates were that 750,000 workers nationwide would require a TWIC ID card. Revised estimates are nearly double that number.

In Tacoma alone, an estimated 10,000 workers will need the cards this month, Ortiz said. The burden to workers is not small. Valid for five years, the new cards will cost $132.50 — a charge that will be shouldered by individual employees.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers up and down the West Coast, has voiced concerns over the high fees for lower-paid workers such as security guards.

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Associated Press

The Bush administration will delay a post-9/11 program that provides special identification cards to every worker with access to seaports.

The Sept. 25 deadline to enroll 1.2 million workers with access to ports into the transportation worker credentialing program will be extended to April 15, 2009, the Homeland Security Department announced Friday. The department started the enrollment process in October.

As of Thursday, the department had enrolled 260,608 people in the program. For enrollment the department collects personal information including fingerprints, name, birth date, address and phone number. So far, the department has officially denied only 13 card requests because workers failed to meet the application standards.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said delaying the enrollment deadline is a good idea.

"It is my hope that this extra time will enable the department to fix the glaring holes and minimize the excessive burdens that it has placed on our nation’s port workers, the valuable eyes and ears of the maritime system," Thompson said.

The more than $70 million program has been criticized because of potentially intrusive background checks on the workers and the $132.50 cost of the card, which workers pay. In addition, the department has not deployed machines to read the cards. There are plans to test the machines later this year.

On The Net: do/layers/twic/index.shtm

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Broken machines delay seaport identity cards

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The post-Sept. 11 program to provide special identification cards to every worker with access to seaports faces yet another problem: Most of the machines that print the cards are broken, according to a top House lawmaker.

Of the 12 machines that make the cards, only four work, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said in a letter Tuesday to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. It typically takes only a day to produce one of these cards, but it now takes up to 10 days because of the eight malfunctioning machines, Thompson said.

By April, 1.2 million workers will be expected to be enrolled in the program, which produces a tamperproof ID card intended to help ensure potential terrorists do not have access to sensitive security areas of U.S. seaports. By June 6, 249,652 cards had been printed, leaving nearly 1 million to be produced by April.

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DATE: July 10, 2008 12:47:25 EST
Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Coast Guard
News Release Date: July 10, 2008
Contact: Lt. Cmdr. Chris O’Neil
Coast Guard Announces Latest Transportation Worker Identification Credential Compliance Ports, Dates

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration announced Thursday that Nov. 28, 2008, is the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program compliance date for owners and operators of facilities located within the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port Zones of Cape Fear River, N.C., Corpus Christi, Texas, North Carolina, and Port Arthur, Texas.

The Coast Guard plans to announce those additional ports scheduled for the compliance phase of the TWIC program in coming weeks. Compliance will be phased in by Captain of the Port Zones between Oct. 15, 2008 and April 15, 2009, after which all ports must be in compliance and all credentialed mariners must be in possession of a TWIC.

A framework showing expected compliance dates by Captain of the Port Zone is available on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Homeport Website.

Workers are encouraged to enroll as soon as possible and can pre-enroll for their TWIC online at Pre-enrollment speeds up the process by allowing workers to provide biographic information and to schedule a time to complete the application process in person. The pre-enrollment process reduces the time it takes to fully enroll in the TWIC program and eliminates waiting at enrollment centers.

"Facility owners and operators must ensure that those who need unescorted access to secure areas get their TWIC as soon as possible," said Capt. Mark. P. O’Malley, Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Port and Facility Activities. "It is vital we work together to achieve this important port security initiative."

TWIC was established in the Maritime Transportation Security Act and the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act to serve as an identification program for all Coast Guard credentialed mariners and personnel requiring unescorted access to secure areas within a port. The program is progressing steadily and has opened more than 138 fixed enrollment centers and dozens of mobile sites nationwide. More than 370,000 workers have enrolled to date and thousands more are processed each week.

Additional information can be found at ic and

About ItheMissingLink

Retired longshoreman at the Port of Seattle. US Navy veteran 9 patrol FBM nuclear submarines; married 29 years
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