US port workers get smartcard IDs

The Transportation Security Administration is apparently moving ahead with plans to start issuing new smartcard biometric identification to more than 75,000 port workers from March, despite earlier concerns by another government agency about its readiness to do so.

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is apparently moving ahead with plans to start issuing new smartcard biometric identification (ID) to more than 75,000 port workers from March, despite earlier concerns by another government agency about its readiness to do so.

As a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency, last week the DHS published the final rule for the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) scheme put in place after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on behalf of the security arm. The move is designed to boost security at an estimated 4,000 transportation facilities in the country.

Under the scheme, all workers at US transportation facilities will be required to undergo criminal background checks and carry DHS-issued smartcard credentials that include their photographs and a fingerprint template. The credentials will be required for unescorted access to secure areas of ports and vessels.

The published final rules spell out the enrolment process for TWIC, as well as disqualifying crimes, usage procedures, fees and other requirements for workers, port owners and operators. Enrolment will start in March "at a small number of ports" and be phased in throughout the remainder of the year at ports around the country, a DHS statement said.

Workers will be notified when and where to apply for the IDs before the program begins. Once the TWIC cards are issued, DHS will then set a deadline by which the workers will be required to carry the cards with them for unescorted access.

The decision to move ahead with the TWIC implementation comes in the wake of a report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in October recommending that the TSA do more testing of both technology and processes before rolling out the smartcard program.

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