Two people died earlier this week after a confrontation at the world’s largest naval installation. It appears a biometric security card designed to thwart potential terrorists at American ports and shipping facilities did little to prevent the incident.
At 11:20 p.m. Monday, March 24, a civilian man entered the USS Mahan docked at Pier 1 at Naval Station Norfolk – the largest naval base in the world. After approaching the destroyer’s deck, the suspect struggled with a naval security officer who was on watch. The previously unarmed suspect grabbed the officer’s weapon. The man shot a second naval sailor who was trying to help his colleague. Other security officers arrived and fatally shot the suspect.
No one else was injured in the incident.
The shooter possessed a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, or TWIC card, authorities said. Authorities had not released the suspect’s name as of publication time Wednesday.
Capt. Robert Clark, commander of the naval base, said the man had previously worked on the base. Clark told reporters Tuesday the man’s credentials “didn’t necessarily” allow him access to the base, according to CNN.
The TWIC card was first implemented under the Bush administration in the years following 9/11. TWIC cards were supposed to securely carry biometric identification details, including fingerprints, birth records, and other information. The information could be read remotely by security personnel at ports and other major commerce centers that could be potential targets of terrorism.
According to several news reports, the Norfolk facility used hand-held card readers.
Problems with remotely held card readers have led most port facilities to use them merely as flash cards, though card readers are reportedly used at some facilities. A report issued by the Government Accountability Office in May 2013 pointed to multiple failures of the program in recommending Congress scrap the 10-year program for a new card system.
The TWIC card’s unpopularity has put the program’s future in question.
Last winter, the Transportation Security Administration posted an announcement on its website that TWIC cardholders whose cards expire before Dec. 31 2014 must obtain a TWIC extension card called an EED that will last three years.
The EED TWIC card’s $60 fee is less than half of the five-year TWIC card’s $129 cost.
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