Congressman criticizes US port biometric security card program

July 9, 2015 - 

In 2002, the US federal government pledged to improve port security by implementing new biometric security cards, but a full 13 years later, the DHS has failed to set guidelines on how to read these Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards, according to a report by My Fox Tampa Bay.

All workers, truckers, and other individuals without an escort require a TWIC card – which are encoded with fingerprint data and other data to confirm the person’s identity — in order to gain access through ports.

Homeland Security developed the TWIC card without issuing approved card readers or guidelines on how to read or use the cards.

Using grant money, Port Manatee and many other ports purchased systems that fail to scan and read the cards. However, the aforementioned ports are operating the systems without specific federal guidelines in place and with no set timeline as to when those rules will be introduced.

“We gave it our best guess,” said David St. Pierre, director of seaport security at Port Manatee. “One would have thought they would have that resolved much faster, but it’s not.”

A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review in 2013 called the pilot program to develop readers, “inaccurate, and unreliable.”

The government has already issued nearly three million TWICs, and five years later, many are up for renewal.

“They’re already reissuing cards that do not work,” said Mica. “Now we’ve got an expensive flash badge — costly to the government, costly for transportation workers, and useless as far as security.”

The House has passed a reform bill designed to assess the TWIC program and implement a corrective action plan, which must be executed without any additional funding.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.