Manslaughter charge now a disqualifier for TWIC applicants

Spurred by the killing of a sailor at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the government now is flagging Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) applicants with manslaughter charges in their background.

Truck driver Jeffrey Tyrone Savage, 35, of Portsmouth, Va., passed through security using a valid TWIC card, tried to board the USS Mahan and fatally shot Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Mark Mayo on March 24, according to the Navy. Savage then was killed by other security forces.

“Somebody with a TWIC card that gets into a port and shoots people – how’s that happen? How did we miss that?” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., asked Wednesday at a Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on port security.

Savage served time for voluntary manslaughter, Stephen Sadler, assistant administrator for intelligence and analysis, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told Coburn. “We encountered him in 2013, and based on the standards that we were using at the time, that voluntary manslaughter charge was not a disqualifier,” he said. So Savage got his card in January 2014.

“The TWIC in and of itself does not give you access to a port. You have to have the TWIC and you have to have a business need,” Sadler said. The Navy said Savage had no reason to be on the base.

“We’ve changed our policy now….if you come in with a voluntary manslaughter charge that’s going to be an interim disqualifier,” Sadler said. Interim means the designation can be appealed.

Coburn also asked about electronic card readers, which both TSA and the Coast Guard favor despite flaws in the pilot program, problems with the TWIC cards themselves and concerns raised by mariners and operators.

“That’s one way we can be more successful is by implementing the TWIC reader,” Sadler said.

The Coast Guard is sifting through 2,600 comments on its proposed rule requiring the readers to control access to high risk vessels and facilities — a rule it considers essential for maritime security.

“We’re going to make some adjustments” to the rule, Rear Adm. Paul F. Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy, told the committee. The final version should be out “sometime next year” with implementation to phase in over two years. 

Sadler also said the new OneVisit program should be implemented nationwide by this summer. The rollout follows a pilot program in Alaska and Michigan which let mariners get their TWIC cards with just a single stop at an enrollment center.

Applicants who pass necessary background checks will get their cards by mail and avoid a follow-up visit to activate the card and select a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Sadler said the agency sends out the cards and PINs separately.

TSA also is expanding the number of enrollment centers from 136 to about 300 so people can apply for a TWIC or Hazardous Materials Endorsement (HME) at the same place. 

Related reading: Naval base shooting underscores failures of TWIC 

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