Tuesday, 6 April 2004

Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

This month the USA starts its next round of prototype testing of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), a secretly and remotely readable RFID/biometric ID card which 12 million or more workers in the passenger and freight transportation industry and in the vicinity of transsportation facilities will eventually be required by the government to obtain, carry, and use for access to their workplaces.

Most of us are, for most of our lives, workers as well as consumers, but somehow workers are often thought of as “others”, not as ourselves, and entitled to less than equal rights.

Under existing legal doctrines in the USA, we have fewer privacy and free-speech rights in our workplaces than at most other times. Since we have so little vacation in the USA (for more on that, and how to change it, see here and here), many of us spend the majority of our waking hours on the job. Workplace levels of privacy rights and civil liberties are thus the real norm of how free we are (or aren’t), not the exception.

The TWIC program is a threat to us all, not just to transportation workers, and especially those of us who travel — which means especially those of you likely to be reading this blog.

The earliest description of the TWIC program I’ve been able to find is a 23 January 2002 draft Concept Paper prepared by the “Credentialing Direct Action Group” (CDAG), which was created by the Department of Transportation after 11 September 2001. These portions of the authority of the DOT were later reorganized into the Department of Homeland Security as part of the TSA.

According to the CDAG “Functional Requirements” document:

The focus of the CDAG’s solution was on workers in the transportation system, while achieving sufficient flexibility to accommodate future needs to address identification of users of the transportation system.

In other words, the TWIC program was conceived and planned from the start as a prototype for mandatory identification and personal tracking systems that could eventually be imposed on travellers (“users of the transportation system”).

The first round of TWIC testing last year involved airport and maritime facilities in the Delaware River and Bay (PA/NJ/DE) and Los Angeles and Long Beach (CA) areas. The next round of tests will involve up to 100,000 workers in those locations as well as at deepwater ports throughout the state of Florida in a Federal/state partnership prompted by a Florida law mandating a single credential for access to all the state’s ports. Concerned that tourists worried about cruise port security might take their vacation dollars elsewhere, Florida has chosen to sell out the civil liberties of its own citizens working on the docks, in order to pander to the “Homeland Security” fears of out-of-state visitors.

The general idea behind the TWIC is that all transportation workers throughout the USA, including workers at air and sea ports and public transit facilities, highway and railroad and pipeline workers, truckers, and operators of any vehicle carrying passengers for hire, would have their biometric data recorded in a central database and be issued a single machine-readable card which would be used to control access to all transport factilities and vehicles. Presumably the “biometric” data would consist of digital photographs and fingerprints, although that hasn’t been spelled out, most likely because the TSA hasn’t wanted to face the backlash from announcing that it wants to fingerprint all taxi, truck, and bus drivers, road and rail and longshore workers, etc.

Regardless of any use or effectiveness for access control, the TWIC program seems to have been designed to maximize its potential for surveillance and monitoring of workers’ movements, in keeping with its development by an industry/government partnership (not, as it might have been and as was suggested by workers’ organizations, by an industry/government/worker partnership).

One of the locations in which the TWIC prototype was tested was an International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) union hall in Southern California, according to both a TSA stakeholder brief (25 December 2003) on the TWIC project and a 2 March 2004 presentation by the TSA to the Ship Operations Cooperative Program, “an industry-government partnership to enhance the U.S. maritime industry”.

Members and officiers of other ILWU locals who I have told about this have been unaware, and shocked, that this had happened. It’s unclear if union officers were aware that the goverment was controlling and logging who entered their union hall, whether — and if so, why — they gave their permission, and whether Federal labor laws may have been violated if it was done without the union’s knowledge and consent.

The Privacy Act notice for the TWIC database (68 Federal Register 495007-49509, 18 August 2003) purports to place some restrictions on how the government can use the TWIC records of workers fingerprints, photos, and movements.

But by their nature RFID tags can be secretly read from up to 6 feet (2 meters) or more away, and employers are free to place (or hide) their own readers wherever on their facilities they want to monitor who passes within range, and when.

Since the TWIC cards are required to comply with the public Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification (GSCIS), anyone who gets within range with a reader (a fist-sized box costing a few hundred dollars) will be able to read and log the unique number on each card.

Use of the RFID chips (“smart cards”) in general, and the GSCIS format in particular, also maximizes the potential for government mission creep. While the TSA tested prototypes of TWIC cards using alternate technologies (magnetic strips, two-dimensional printed bar code blocks, etc.) that can’t be secretly or remotely read, and thus have much less potential for abuse, it’s clear from the 23 January 2002 draft Concept Paper that the real intent from the start was to use “SmartCards” (RFID chips) — precisely because they would facilitate expansion of the program and its uses:

General Concepts:

1. The Card:

  • SmartCard technology would be used to manage the information on the card as a means of controlling access to that information and as a means of ensuring the integrity of the information.
  • The SmartCard architecture will incorporate, to the maximum extent practicable standards, which allow maximum interoperability across hardware and software platforms. This will facilitate use of the card both domestically and for international enforcement regimes.
  • The TWIC would incorporate a reliable and standard biometric (to be determined by the Transportation Security Administration)….
  • The TWIC would incorporate GSA Smart Card Interoperability.

All this goes directly against what transport workers had clearly stated in the official comments to the government on the TWIC pilot program by the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TDD), the ILWU, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (also available here in alternate format with a list of the members of the TDD):

[W]e believe it is imperative that provisions for TWIC be promulgated that prohibit employers from using the TWIC card or system for other than the designated purpose, namely the positive identification of port workers and visitors. The regulations should specifically prohibit employers from utilizing TWIC as a means for employee discipline and other labor-management issues, including collective bargaining.

As long as workers are required by government order to carry TWIC cards that contain secretly and remotely readable RFID chips with unique identifiers, and as long as employers or others are free to place RFID readers wherever they like and use the data however they like, limitations on the government’s direct use of TWIC data will have little value to workers.

It remains to be seen how the deployment of TWIC radio tracking tags will be challenged by transport workers. But in resisting and opposing TWIC, they are standing up for the freedom to move without government tracking of all workers and travellers — on and off the job — and they desrve our fullest solidarity. The first people to be subjected to this tracking are transport workers, but the government and industry are already on record that all of us who travel will be the next to be “chipped”.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 6 April 2004, 13:32 ( 1:32 PM)

The situation for transportation workers will become more and more difficult in the coming years. Partly due to security, partly due to cost-cutting. In the current system, it takes so long (in certain airports) for the administration issuing Airport Identification Medium to issue ID's to new employees that many quit prior to doing anything but check-in and office work. As technology increases, there will be less need for transportation workers, more reliable IT systems will replace gate agents & check-in agents. Eventually airlines will ask the passengers to clean the aircraft before it lands at the airport (after all you ate 5 packets of potato chips). All of the changes on the horizon will severely limit the number of employees who need access to "sensitive areas." I fear that having a radio Frequency ID means that no one has to visually check that the face of the person matches the face on the ID. Thus I can steal and ID, gain access and someone else is blamed.

Posted by: panoramix, 2 August 2004, 21:46 ( 9:46 PM)

Want to guess how long it is before this horror is extended to every other so-called "citizen"?

Posted by: Richard Weil, 13 April 2005, 09:42 ( 9:42 AM)

"Florida has chosen to sell out the civil liberties of its own citizens working on the docks, in order to pander to the "Homeland Security" fears of out-of-state visitors" Too bad you didn't do your research because Florida has been doing the background checks with no labor problems for 4 years. Their effort was actually to reduce the cost to the transportation worker, particularly the truckers.

Posted by: Concerned Florida Port Woker, 22 July 2005, 19:05 ( 7:05 PM)

I work for Ergon, WV Inc., at an oil refinery and am now required to get a twic card, and find the idea to be an infringement of my rights. By law i am not required because only certain areas of my plant are covered,those dealing with the Captain of the Port,due to our location on the Ohio River. In the last seven years i have not had to access these areas because i run a boilerhouse, and have no reason to be there. Furtheremore, people without cards can be escorted or be monitored by cameras which we have, and still be in compliance. And the real kicker is that our cards will be kept in our personnel files and not on us? Also, we have year round many hispanic workers that do not even speak english, and i doubt are here legally, that everyone knows will not have to get the cards at all due to the cheap labor they provide. It makes one wonder what will be demanded next by some backdoor means to force more control of our lives by the government!

Posted by: Todd Jones, 15 February 2008, 16:58 ( 4:58 PM)

I, along with about 50 of my employees registered in 12/07. So far less than 10% have their badge. I've heard many stories from other departments arount the port that their fingerprints didn't read. It will be a long, long time before this thing gets done, if ever. How can it any other way, the government is doing it!

Posted by: JS, 10 May 2008, 05:08 ( 5:08 AM)

TWICs are for kids- ...and for sheep too ignorant to read their own Bill of Rights, let alone the history of their own country and the past struggles of their fellow workers, their families, their unions.

This TWIC garbage is the most UN-American attempt by the US government to control and intimidate workers since the days of Senator McCarthy's witch hunts.

We are patriotic Americans, not commie saboteurs and we are damn sure not terrorists. The DuHbya admin and their industry lapdogs have been pushing this scheme for 7 years, nearly twice the time the USA fought in WW2. In this time there has not been A SINGLE INCIDENT involving any US transportation worker.

That is to say, there is NO threat from American workers and NO need to waste precious resources in a depressed economy in a massive violation of the civil rights of citizens of the United States.

Anyone with any military intel background could tell these TWIC chumps that any terrorist threat would be 99.9999% certain to originate from a port OUTSIDE the USA and arrive sealed in a container rigged with remote detonator, timers/GPS etc which was loaded in a place like Egypt, Saudi, Indonesia perhaps. NOT New York, New Orleans, San Francisco or Long Beach.

None of us Americans will have any warning either, because our government will be too busy dog-tagging, snooping, and spying on its own citizens!

Why are the feds then wasting money, effort, and manpower hassling our own? Because the industry types who put W in office saw an opportunity to clamp down on that troublesome workforce.

Homeland Security and Bush-buddy Cherkoff were only too happy to jumpstart the ID-tagging bandwagon. Why? So they can crow in the media about their accomplishments' and 'vital security measures' while hiding their ineptitude at the truly vital mission of overseas intelligence-gathering. It's a lot easier to just sit at home and spy on your neighbors.

What could a government possibly do to its own people that is more insulting than implicitly accusing them en masse of intent to commit crimes of sabotage or treason? Anyone who helped this country prevail in the Cold War knows well that unwarranted searches, intrusive background checks, and constant demands for one's 'ID papers' were the favored tools of the paranoid regimes of East Germany, the Soviet Union, Red China and North Korea. Of these, only North Korea remains, as even China has seen wisdom in relaxing state control.

This paranoid surveillance state has no place in a democracy, and all true patriots must oppose it.

What we as Americans must realize is our best defense is to stand together in defending our liberty and our dignity, as our founding fathers did.

Do not allow yourselves to be cowed and intimidated by the Stasi-sympathizers who would tag us all like some errant herd of caribou. The surveillance state will not protect you, it will only control and monitor as an end in itself. Once built, the secret state security apparatus will be very difficult to dismantle indeed. Ask those who lived in East Berlin how long that wall stood.

Finally, the only way to prevent further erosion of our liberty is to refuse to accept it. This means speaking out,
non-compliance with repressive measures, and civil disobedience when necessary. Recent history shows us again and again that no government can enforce an unjust policy if it is defied by the majority.

In the case at hand, if millions simply refused to comply and to be unjustly interrogated, ID-tagged, and radio tracked on demand, the policy would become de facto unenforceable, and would soon be withdrawn.

Trust yourselves and your instincts, this kind of direct
democracy works. It has changed the world in many places for the better, during your own lifetimes.

Posted by: HARRY BRIDGES, 12 December 2008, 01:50 ( 1:50 AM)

I enrolled for TWIC November 3,08 and it took 5 months to receive a denial letter. They made a mistake, I'm in the adjudication process, and I need my card by 4-20-09 or I can't work anymore. The latest call to the help desk told me up to 90 more days.

I've worked as a contract industrial instrument technician for 20 years, have been issued security passports, and a life long US citizen. Last year I hired in permanent with a company and now it is all about to go down the tube.
What to do??, Who to call?? Where to protest?? Which law firm to contact??

Any help appreciated,


Posted by: Richard Craven, 10 April 2009, 10:04 (10:04 AM)

RC, maybe ACLU could help.

I resist this, but I need to work, and my union has gone along quietly. Absolutely the employers are the only ones to benefit from this process. Absolutely a problem in the ports would come in one of the millions of containers that come through the ports with no idea of what it contains.

Posted by: mike, 25 April 2009, 13:09 ( 1:09 PM)

I too, have been denied after waiting 8 months also, I was thinking the same thing as everyone else, there must be something people can do.I was born and raised in the U.S.,pay taxes, vote, I've worked in petro-chemicals for years. I must now appeal. When I called TWIC they couldn't give me any info, and TSA couldn't help either only that they didn't share info. with TWIC (that scared me, these people are in charge of your personal information, but don't talk) I've had two company background checks, an FBI background check and I paid a lawyer to get a copy myself, and nothing comes up to warrent a denial/appeal. No felonies, nothing I'm about to be phased out of work for no reason, could someone just point me in some direction, PLEASE, I have a wife and 5 wonderful boys who don't deserve this, if there aren't any groups out there let's start one it worked for the tea-parties. One more thing why do illegals have TWIC cards I thought this was homeland security. Any one who can help we thank you. God bless!

Posted by: Roy Munguia, 27 April 2009, 07:15 ( 7:15 AM)

I also had to appeal to get a twic card, 64 days past before i received my initial denial, then i went to court house paid ten dollars for a disposition that said my arrest for a felony was reduced to a misdemeanor, mailed that back to tsa and then i hear tsa has 60 work days to get back with you, well i did receive my twic card, total time 4 months 3 weeks.

Posted by: todd, 27 August 2009, 17:14 ( 5:14 PM)

I too have been denied a TWIC card,for a charge that was dismissed but still on my record. I am currently unemployed because of it. I've sent disposition to prove me clear and that was 3 months ago for an appeal, haven't heard anything from them. My life has been turned upside down!

Posted by: Michael White, 21 October 2009, 11:45 (11:45 AM)

i work for the help desk and may have taken calls from probably all of you on this board. this whole system is broken down. im not sure what TSA is doin but its not much. i have taken calls from workers who applied for this cars in early 2008 and dont have cards now! the appeal process is a crock. they are gathering wrong information on people or misreading what they do have and costing people their jobs. Appeals are languishing 10-12 months tho they tell u to get that paperwork in within 60 days or case is closed. the website used to say 25 days for a disposition but we know that's not the case. we cannot provide the caller any infor to contact TSA and the tickets are escalated and on urgent status and TSA has not touched them in weeks. TSA does not provide us any updates either, so the status u see online that is 5 mos old is what we see too. Our hands are just as tied as yours...

this whole process is flawed. it wasnt thought out to the end, they have temps with little or no training in the enrollment centers, and i cant fathom what TSA is doing other than processing the appeals since those take on average 6-8 months just to get a denial letter...

people who have been on jobs all their lives are now without work. I read a report by NELP that over 10,000 people have lost their jobs over this dayumm card. there must be something they can do.

if it were me i would look into suing TWIC and everyone involved over the loss of my job, my car, my home and family. these are the things these people are saying to us when they call the helpdesk- every call is potentially an escalated call. we are underpaid, frustrated, and emotionally bankrupt. They tell us this is not a customer service line its a help desk and NOT to feel the pain of the caller. to provide the info and get the caller off the phone -the client pays by the call.

we are being laid off and Im kinda glad...

Posted by: msdeety, 21 January 2010, 06:32 ( 6:32 AM)

I am a union pipefitter, and served my 5 year apprenticeship in a oil refinery, and have worked there on and off for the last 10 years. I have been denied the twic and am now facing loosing every thing. I call tsa twic help desk but get no where. I have been waiting over a year for this letter they keep saying they're sending, now my status is closed... So I have to go reapply and pay another 135 bucks out of my pocket for nothing. I have gone as far as writing my congressmen, still nothing. I don't even know why I'm denied the card, I was born and raised in the U.S.A. as was my father grandfather and his father before. I'm no criminal, I am a husband father and home owner being forced to starve. I tried calling lawyers but never get a return call, seems like this is our Government (TSA)waging war on the middle class worker. Seems like some civil disobedience might get this issue some much need attention. Only thing to do when you're pushed up against the wall with nothing left to lose is to come out swinging.

Posted by: Dan C, 24 May 2010, 12:09 (12:09 PM)

I was convicted of a felony offense when i was 14 years old. I am now 29 and i was denied based on that information. I was released and bagan working as a scaffold builder and made a life doing so. I dont know any other type of work and i have lost everything that i have built up. I have two girls and had a really good life going for myself. Is there anyone that can help me get a TWIC card or that can offer me some sort of advice to lead me in the right direction to obtain a TWIC card. I have exhausted every resource i know and have been fighting this for 3 years. PLEASE...

Posted by: brandon, 7 October 2010, 13:55 ( 1:55 PM)

i dont have a problem with the process of the twic card itself except they took my money and never enrolled me, and still i have the headacke of having to push them to do thier job even after they took my money, is it also now thievery? i guess you could now add that to your arguement. would posting this comment constitute a threat to home land securety? oops my bad!

Posted by: jaime amaro, 2 May 2011, 10:00 (10:00 AM)

Big problem with TWIC cards and people that see no harm in the TWIC cards. You"re like sheep just follow everyone else, its ok someone else will tell you what to do and how to do it. You"re giving your money to pay a federal department of Homeland Security to document and track you. This agency is not even efficient and if it was a private company it would be out of business. I do not understand where in the constitution does this say they can do this? With the sheep thinking we should at birth take D&A of individual babies and then at a later year take fingerprints with photo I.D. of each individual. This is the direction that we are being led.

Freedom it means exactly that, free from intrusion of all types-government, religion, ECT…

It"s like owning any type of gun with large ammunition clip. I did not shoot and harm anyone (schools, movie theaters, restaurants). However I must be guilty because I chose to have a military style gun with 100 round ammunition drum attached to this military style semi-auto rifle with a bad-ass bonnet blade. Surly there must be something wrong with me and did this start from when I was a child shooting 22 rifle at a target or small game and or plying with explosives like cherry bombs and M80, fire crackers, sparklers. No it"s just the many pleasures of life we as CIVILIANS in the USA can enjoy and there will always be abuse of any kind (running cars into crowds, hitting people with baseball bats, a knife) including law enforcement. TWIC is a joke tell your congressman to stop the abusive power of homeland security-TWIC, TSA and other spy agencies and the government needs to stop using the word Patriot act. Freedom means I do not have to explain why or for what reason I own a weapon, however I should be held responsible for any poor choice I make with anything that can bring harm or threatens anyone or groups of individuals. This is the same with the TWIC card it"s not the governments business.

Rambling Man

Posted by: JW, 21 April 2013, 16:44 ( 4:44 PM)

Put it in microwave for 2 seconds

Posted by: Anonymous, 5 August 2015, 21:41 ( 9:41 PM)
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