It seems that the Transportation Security Administration has yet again a new rule. In order to get a Transportation Worker’s Identification Credential or “TWIC” the applicant must present a US passport. As my long-suffering readers know, I am no fan of the TSA. I saw the announcement of this seismic change in the back pages of several trade journals. My first reaction was that the TSA had made yet another irrelevant change in the government’s most irrelevant organization.
I have been observing this bunch since its inception. I suppose that had they stuck to aeroplanes I would not be terribly concerned. However, they were assigned the maritime portfolio with the Coast Guard a decade ago. So it came that the competent and well-managed Coast Guard was saddled with the incompetent and unmanaged TSA. Not much has changed since.
Recently, Congressman Mica, no fan of the TSA either, declared the TWIC to be run by the Three Stooges of port security. I have always liked Congressman Mica’s statements about the TSA because of his laser-like accuracy for the truth.
The TSA manages the TWIC program. I have said before, and nothing has been presented to change my mind, that the TWIC is one of the most useless things our government has done in some time. Even its grandiose name is a sham. There is no empirical evidence that this pseudo-high tech travesty has increased national security one iota. The GAO agrees with me. Indeed, it appears to me the TWIC was nothing more than a cynical defense contractor boondoggle from the get-go to increase its revenue and to deliver little. The contracted successor appears to be not much better in administering a program run by government drones for the sake of being government drones. And it has cost us billions we cannot afford.
Simply, it is quite expensive with no return. As the late Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois said, “a billion here and a billion there pretty soon adds up to real money.” The TSA and the TWIC have added up to real money over the past decade with no end in sight to the foolishness of the spending on either the TWIC or the TSA.
This passport requirement? Any fool can see immediately that requiring evidence of citizenship would be a useful adjunct to an organization in the identification business. My first question is “what took them so long to stumble into the obvious?” It flies in the face of any kind of reality – inside or outside the beltway -- for the TSA not to have asked for such a document in the past. However, I have learned that the TSA is not for the best and brightest, as any airport flier can attest, and certainly cannot be claimed to be foresighted. The transport side gets even less than that from these Keepers of the Sputtering Flame. I keep getting reports that the TSA does not even honor its own TWIC credential in airports. Now how hard is it to train people to identify their own documents?
This leaves the bigger question of the necessity of the TWIC. Is it necessary? In my opinion, no. It does nothing that a birth certificate or an MMD or a modern driver’s license does. It is redundant, operated by people who know little about the maritime business, and from what I can see, could not care less. The TWIC program is the quintessential government employment lashup. One asks; “What do these people do and where does the agency get them?” Neither the maritime industry nor the GAO has yet to hear a coherent answer from the gun carrying baggage checking department. It took an act of Congress to get these mental slugs to eliminate a second visit to the TWIC so-called offices to get the card. The former administrator John “Airport Johnny” Pistole ran in the other direction when asked by Congress to testify at hearings. Airport “We Will Not Back Down” Johnny, if you recall, legitimated the program of national genital groping in airports. There is no permanent administrator now. I have to wonder why. Maybe it is because it is hard even in this Congress to get people approved for the job? Looking at the organization chart, approximately 75% of the boxes are indecipherable as to what they are for and the other 25% deal with feel-good things within.
The TWIC is a de facto employment card. This makes one doubly suspicious of the motives and management of the TSA. Further, why does the TSA feel the necessity to trademark its TSA name? It is a government agency. Is a trademark necessary? That is an insult to any taxpayer.
More importantly. How can this group of keepers of lists-with-mistakes deny a TWIC for a person arising from its own idiosyncratic and politicized view of sedition? That little used and indeed archaic law essentially penalizes a person criticizing the government. We do have seditious conspiracy, which is a serious and legitimate crime. But the TSA confuses that with sedition. I suppose in a crowd run by keyboard punchers the subtlety escapes. Sedition went out at the end of the first Adams administration. How do the adults in government let this bunch do that? All the adults are in the other agencies.
All in all the TSA is full employment for the otherwise unemployable who administer a sham credential having no utility and no merit and who restrict the employment of others on either ignorance or pretense or lack of ability. That is the real house of cards protecting our maritime security.
Copyright © John A C Cartner, 2015. Dr. Cartner is a maritime lawyer practicing in Washington, DC and London. He holds the United States license of unrestricted master and is the author of The International Law of the Shipmaster,(2009)Taylor and Francis, (London). He may be reached at jacc@cflaw,net.
The opinions expressed by Dr. John A.C. Cartner in the ‘Conversations with Cartner’ Video Series and accompanying blogs are the opinions of Dr. Cartner and do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff and management of Maritime TV, or its parent network, TV Worldwide, Inc.