Port worker ID card program starts - without card readers

A decision on readers for biometric ID cards is a year away but background checks and card issuance will begin in March.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

The Department of Homeland Security announced a new program, to start in March, that will require 750,000 U.S. port and maritime workers to carry biometric identification cards. There will be no card readers for at least a year, though, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Coast Guard decided that more research was needed on technology for the card readers, which must be durable enough to withstand saltwater environments and able to scan cards and fingers without direct contact, Coast Guard spokeswoman Angela McArdle said.

There is a stop-gap measure, though. Coast Guard officers will conduct spot checks with hand-held scanners.

Part of the program includes background checks on workers and TSA and the Coast Guard argued the program could start even without the reading technology. The TSA posting called it "imperative" to go forward, despite the delays, "to improve the security of our nation's vessels and port facilities."

McArdle said the agencies "can still take advantage of the screening and the background checks, so we know the backgrounds of the people who are getting these cards."

Under the regulation, applicants for the new ID card will undergo a comprehensive check of their criminal histories, immigration status and whether their names show up on the TSA's terrorist watch lists.

The rule lays out what crimes or terrorism-related concerns will disqualify applicants for the new identification card. For example, money laundering is listed as a disqualifier because it is among "crimes of dishonesty and fraud and can be a means of funding terrorism," while welfare fraud and passing bad checks will not preclude issuance of the credential.

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