Mica: TWICs æno more useful than library cardsÆ
Undercover investigators looking into the effectiveness of port security were able to fraudulently obtain Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC cards) and use them to access port facilities and drive a vehicle with a simulated explosive into a secure area.
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said the nearly decade-long effort to develop an identification card for port workers was “turning into a dangerous and expensive experiment in security.'
About $420 million has been spent on the program and about 1.6 million TWIC cards have been issued.
Mica said they are “at best no more useful than library cards.”
At the Senate's request, the Government Accountability Office “conducted covert testing. Investigators were able to fraudulently obtain TWIC cards and use the cards to access secure locations. Not only were they able to access the port facilities, but they were able to drive a vehicle with a simulated explosive into a secure area,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.
Mica said according to the GAO report released Tuesday, “investigators were able to obtain authentic TWICs using fraudulent identification documentation and gain access to ports using counterfeit TWICs. GAO also found that, among other things, TSA is unable to confirm that TWIC holders maintain their eligibility throughout the life of their TWIC.
'Even more troubling, GAO found that in some cases a TWIC can be fraudulently obtained, becoming a permanent biometric key that unlocks our nation's ports and facilities for any individual with the intent and desire to do us harm,” Mica said.
Lautenberg also said 'fraudulent and counterfeit cards like the ones used by investigators could also be used as identification at airports or military facilities. The problems don't stop with fraudulent cards. There are also issues with criminal background checks, immigration checks and a lack of safeguards to determine if an applicant even needs a TWIC card.
'Given the critical importance of our ports, it is unacceptable that we are spending hundreds of millions of tax dollars on a program that might actually be making ports less safe. According to estimates, it could cost as much as $3 billion dollars to deploy the cards over a 10-year period — and this doesn't include the cost of the sophisticated biometric equipment needed to read the cards,” Lautenberg said. ' Chris Dupin