Monday, August 1, 2011

Security theater at the ports

The TSA has mandated that all port workers get expensive ID cards (aka TWIC) with even more expensive ID card scanners:
Starting in January of 2009, workers at area facilities like Port Fourchon were required to carry Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, a card about the size of a driver’s license.
To get the card, workers must apply with the Transportation Security Administration and undergo a background check. People convicted of conspiracy, terrorism, use of explosives or similar charges can’t get the badge. Convicted felons can only get them seven years after the offense, or five years after leaving prison.
The card costs $132.50, and is valid for five years.
As you might imagine (and seeing as how we're 30 months into the mandate), the roll-out has gone swimmingly and closes all security gaps at the ports:
A dock at Port Fourchon was the first to catch workers using counterfeit TWICs — in February of 2009, two men were caught after officers found spelling errors on their cards.
“There have been a few instances where a crew member on a boat that is docked will go out and get drunk,” Terry said. “They’d be denied into the facility because they are under the influence, and then they try to sneak back onto the boat.”
Currently, guards visually check the TWICs to make sure that everyone entering sealed dock areas is certified. The TSA is currently in a pilot program to test electronic readers, but that program has yet to be widely implemented.
“There’s still not a scanner that works on a regular basis.” Chiasson said. “Everything still works on sight.”
Parfait has used his TWIC card in ports all over the country. He’s never seen the electronic test system — he says guards usually just ask him to show the card.
Plus, the cards are not too hard to come by - 1.7 million have been issued and there are certainly some unscrupulous port workers out there. But, even if you don't have your TWIC on you, the guard may wave you in anyway if your buddy has one.