TWIC Compliance Gets Extended While Foreign Workers Come Under Suspicion

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the final compliance date of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) from September 25, 2008, to April 15, 2009, according to The Maritime Executive Magazine.

The decision was made in collaboration with port officials and industry, the magazine reports.

TWIC will issue vetted workers a biometric credential that allows unescorted access to secure areas of ports, vessels, outer continental shelf facilities, and all credentialed merchant mariners. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which administers the program, it is estimated that more than 1 million workers will need the biometric credential.

Some of these workers will be foreign-in-origin and as The New York Times reports today, they will have a hard time being approved for the new ID card as Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Wilken-Jon von Appen recently discovered.

An oceanography student, von Appen, applied for the TWIC card and received a rejection letter with a note from security official John M. Busch: “I have determined that you pose a security threat.”

According to the Times:

Ms. [Ellen] Howe [a TSA spokeswoman] and Maurine Fanguy, who oversees the new ID card program, said that most foreign students did not qualify for the identity cards, but that the letters were not intended to label the recipients as potential terrorists.

Mr. von Appen and other MIT students rejected, including the institute's officials, worry that the security threat label will impede students' travel into and out of the United States and want the letters resent without the security threat label attached.

Howe said TSA has no intention of sending replacement letters, calling the letters legal, if flawed.

She said the letters sent out will not hurt receiving students' visa renewal applications or cause hassles at airport security checks. She said the letters won't even stop students from accessing the necessary ships and docks they need to perform their work as long as a credentialed worker accompanies them.




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