Barking up the wrong tree

At a Congressional hearing last summer, Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) Vice Chairman Otto Candies went on record as stating that the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program is overly complex and could create the same delays for the maritime industry that recent changes in passport rules caused for American travelers.

The hearing was held by the Coast Guard and Marine Transportation Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to assess the progress (?) on the TWIC program. At that hearing last year, personnel from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Coast Guard admitted that the program was roughly six months behind schedule, but assured the Committee that the program was scheduled to be in full effect by September 25th of this year.

Early in May, however, the TSA extended the deadline by another seven months for mariners, port workers and other personnel and now requires that TWIC cards must be obtained by April 15, 2009.

In his testimony last year, Mr. Candies reminded the House Committee that mariners had already undergone a thorough background check, and he warned that an overly cumbersome process that discourages Americans from wanting to work offshore could hurt rather than help security. He cited the example of passports, where new requirements and unrealistic deadlines in the processing of applications resulted in delays for thousands of U.S. citizens. He also said that OMSA was strongly opposed to requiring TWIC-reader devices on vessels.

Several of the Committee members at the hearing were of the opinion that the TWIC program appeared to have so many problems that it may be necessary to scrap the project and start over from scratch. Too bad they didn’t make a move in that direction. Almost everyone, except a majority of those in Congress, knows that the government can’t do anything right, and even House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., is beginning to find that out. And if he needs further evidence of DHS incompetence, he should also look into these two disturbing aspects of our “security initiatives”.

This first report was put out by MTRnews:

“Efforts by the Department of Homeland Security to institute Transportation Worker Identification Cards (TWIC) have largely been lamented in the maritime industry, as port and shipboard workers work feverishly to receive appropriate documentation which allows them to continue to make a living.

“TWIC, a direct result of the September 11 terrorist attacks, has been besieged with technical and logistical problems. Eight MIT graduate students with student visas learned first-hand of the frustrations, as they were denied TWIC credentials, and after their department appealed the decisions on their behalf, the DHS declared at least two of the students ‘security threats’, according to a report in the Tech Online Edition, MIT’s Student Newspaper.

“Without the credential, the students will soon have a harder time boarding and leaving ships at U.S. ports, including the three research ships at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where the students work.

“The situation was reportedly known to WHOI, but it only came to MIT’s attention when a German student forwarded to colleagues in the Earth, Atmosphere, and Planetary Sciences Department a letter from the Department of Homeland Security, according to the report. The letter reportedly said in part: ‘I have personally reviewed the Initial Determination of Threat Assessment, your reply, accompanying information, and all other information and materials available to the TSA. Based upon this review, I have determined that you pose a security threat and you do not meet the eligibility requirements to hold a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC).’ A British graduate reportedly received a similar letter.

“WHOI reportedly will continue to try to obtain the credential for the students.

“(Source: The Tech Online Edition, MIT’s Student Newspaper & Staff Reports).”

Speaking of the TSA, the following appeared as a Letter to the Editor in the Providence Journal dated June 22, 2008. In the writer’s own words:

“I went through the security checkpoint at T.F. Green (airport) the other day and observed a Transportation Security Administration employee doing a full pat-down security check on a uniformed U.S. Navy command master chief petty officer in full view of everyone.

“This is one of the top chief petty officers in the navy. This CPO had seven rows of awards and service ribbons, including personnel awards for combat valor! On the right breast of his uniform was a presidential security staff badge. He is in command of all enlisted multi-service personnel at Camp David.

“I had the opportunity to talk with him for a short time and he stated that this was not the first time this has happened to him and his fellow servicemen. He did not complain about the situation, although I told him that I thought it was an unnecessary imposition and a dishonor to the man and the uniform.

“Do these TSA people have any common sense at all? Old people, children, military people in uniform — right, a threat to our nation!

“Do first-class patrons, members of the Congress, governors, etc., get a free pass through a private entrance while we disregard our honorable members of the armed forces who put their lives on the line so TSA employees can have jobs?


[As Senator Byrd stated in the Congressional Record, this whole thing is a hoax.]