Homeland Security to check backgrounds of port truckers

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In an effort to step up security at U.S. ports, the Department of Homeland Security will begin checking the names of all port workers, including truckers, against lists of terrorists and will expedite its plan to issue identification cards, the agency announced Tuesday, April 25.

“It is fundamental that individuals who pose a security threat do not gain access to our nation’s ports,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “The name-based checks will provide an immediate security boost while we simultaneously complete the work to implement a secure national transportation worker credential.”

DHS will begin conducting name-based background checks on nearly 400,000 port workers in the United States, Chertoff announced. The preliminary name checks, which will cover longshoremen and maritime employees of facility owners and operators, will be completed by summer, Chertoff said.

The department’s Transportation Security Administration will vet the names against terrorist watch lists through the Terrorist Screening Center and through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to see whether workers are in the country legally. The checks will be followed by the rollout of a national Transportation Worker Identification Credential later this year; DHS has been developing such a card for several years but decided to speed up the process.

TSA “has taken preliminary steps to identify a contractor to assist with the enrollment of TWIC,” the department said in a release. TSA soon will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking, the next step in adopting an ID card. Workers who apply for the card will undergo a more thorough criminal background check that will include biometrics, probably a fingerprint check, although the department hasn’t spelled out the details.