- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Department of Homeland Security yesterday said that it had begun running the names of 400,000 port workers against U.S. terrorist watch lists, the first step in creating a federal credential for transportation employees.

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Michael P. Jackson told business leaders in Washington the national biometric identity card, Transportation Worker Identity Credential, will eventually be issued to all 725,000 people with unescorted access to U.S. port facilities.

“It’s the terminal facility operators; it’s the longshoremen … the rail employees … the truckers … . It’s the whole ball of wax,” Mr. Jackson said.

The department aims to be issuing cards for the program — which will involve full criminal and immigration background checks for anyone requiring credentials — by the end of the year.

Mr. Jackson said the full program would also cover “a large portion” of the foreign mariners with access to U.S. ports, and that the department would “in the next couple of days” publish “the additional rules and procurements necessary fully to implement” the program.

Officials rolling out the announcement at an earlier event said that technology and business processes for the cards had already been tested last year. More than 4,000 of them were issued to staff at 26 locations in six states.

But Mr. Jackson said that those cards might need to be replaced with whatever credential the administration eventually fixed on.

“We may have to replace the actual card, but not all the work that went into the card,” he said in answer to a question.

Mr. Jackson said a key issue was the question of redress for those wrongly flagged as a security risk.

“At this larger volume, we’re going to have an aggressive redress program that is user-friendly,” he said.

When the Transportation Security Administration ran name-based terrorist watch-list checks on the 2.7 million truckers licensed to haul hazardous materials in the United States, 29 had their licenses revoked as a result of security concerns — and many more because of criminal records or because they had once been judged mentally incompetent.

Yesterday’s announcement came as Democrats announced an amendment they hoped to insert in the SAFE Ports Bill scheduled to be marked up today by the House Homeland Security Committee.

The provision’s sponsor, Reps. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, told a press conference at the Capitol that it would require a physical inspection and tamperproof sealing for all containers headed for the United States.

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