Port work­ers sub­ject to new se­cu­rity rules; costly ID tech­nol­ogy nonex­is­tent

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

Nearly 1 mil­lion work­ers ac­cess­ing U.S. ports must un­dergo crim­i­nal back­ground checks, sub­mit fin­ger­prints and pay more than $100 for a bio­met­rics iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card un­der new rules an­nounced Jan. 3 by the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment.

The rules ap­ply to “com­mer­cial driv­ers au­tho­rized to trans­port haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als in com­merce to mer­chant mariners and work­ers who re­quire un­escorted ac­cess to se­cure ar­eas on ves­sels and at mar­itime fa­cil­i­ties,” the de­part­ment said.

The tech­nol­ogy re­quired to read the bio­met­rics cards, how­ever, has not been cre­ated, so the ex­pen­sive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card will be used as a flash­card at check­points.

“They ex­pect us to spend a lot of money on some­thing that is just a photo ID at this point,” said Steve Stal­lone, spokesman for the In­ter­na­tional Long­shore and Ware­house Union.

Mr. Stal­lone said union of­fi­cials are re­view­ing the newrules, but have not yet taken a po­si­tion.

“There is a lot here to re­view and check to see what we think. It’s hard to say at this point. But it looks like some of it we like, and some of it we don’t like so much. We don’t even know what they are do­ing yet to de­velop a reader,” Mr. Stal­lone said.

The new rule for the Trans­porta­tion Worker Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Cre­den­tial (TWIC) es­tab­lishes the en­roll­ment process, fees for the card rang­ing from $107 to $159, and crimes which will dis­qual­ify work­ers — a task Congress failed to com­plete dur­ing the last ses­sion.

“TWIC ap­pli­cants will un­dergo a com­pre­hen­sive back­ground check that looks at crim­i­nal his­tory records, ter­ror­ist watch lists, im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus, and out­stand­ing wants and war­rants,” said a state­ment is­sued by the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment.

En­roll­ment in the pro­gram will be­gin in March at a small num­ber of ports and then phased in na­tion­wide.

Rather than scan the ID cards through a reader to de­ci­pher the bio­met­rics in­for­ma­tion and fin­ger­prints, work­ers will “present their cards to au­tho­rized per­son­nel who will com­pare the holder to his or her photo, in­spect se­cu­rity fea­tures on the TWIC and eval­u­ate the card for signs of tam­per­ing.”

“Un­til card-reader tech­nol­ogy is tested and a reg­u­la­tion is­sued on ac­cess con­trol, fa­cil­ity own­ers and op­er­a­tors will not be re­quired to uti­lize TWIC read­ers for fa­cil­ity ac­cess,” the state­ment said.

One in­dus­try in­sider said the sys­tem won’t be ef­fec­tive un­til tech­nol­ogy is cre­ated that does not re­quire a pin or reader that re­quires di­rect con­tact by a swipe card.

“Con­tact read­ers can be de­stroyed eas­ily in a marine en­vi­ron­ment. Right now it will be used as a flash­card un­til the next gen­er­a­tion of tech­nol­ogy is up and run­ning.”

Al­though the card-reader re­quire­ments are not be­ing im­ple­mented at this time, “the Coast Guard will in­sti­tute pe­ri­odic unan­nounced checks to con­firm the iden­tity of the holder of the TWIC,” says the new rules, which are spelled out over nearly 500 pages.

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