By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Friday, May 02, 2014
The United States Navy’s Mid-Atlantic region has tightened its requirements for truck drivers and other workers to gain access to military ports along the East Coast following a deadly shooting at a Virginia Naval installation last month.
The new screening method began in early March and has resulted in 48 people being denied access to Naval installations in Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Virginia. The Associated Press reported that during that same timespan, 1,018 TWIC cardholders were allowed entry to 12 Naval installations the Navy is tracking.
On Monday, March 24, Jeffrey Tyrone Savage, 35, of Chesapeake , Va., was initially believed to have used his Transportation Worker Identification Credential to enter the Naval Station Norfolk, the world’s largest naval installation. Recent reports indicate, however, that Savage was waved through after asking to make a U-turn. He did not return to the gate and eventually Savage walked onto Pier 1 and was intercepted by Naval security personnel when he tried to access the USS Mahan.
Savage was killed by Navy security officers after he wrestled a gun away from a petty officer watching the ship. Savage shot Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Mayo, who also was working security at the Naval Station Norfolk.
Savage also was a convicted felon who served time in prison shortly before receiving his TWIC card.
The Navy announced increased screening measures one week after the shooting. Visitors must now have their names run through the National Crime Information Center database for criminal histories or outstanding warrants – either of which are “grounds for denial in accordance with Navy Region Mid-Atlantic access standards,” according to a press release from Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Public Affairs. Visitors may be denied access for felony convictions within the last 10 years; misdemeanor convictions in the last five years for violent crimes; larceny; drugs; habitual offenders and sex offenses.
Navy Region Mid-Atlantic Spokeswoman Beth Baker told the AP the new background checks can add five minutes to two hours to wait times for TWIC cardholders.
The Navy installation with the most rejected entries was Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach, VA, the AP reported. It denied 21 of 198 TWIC cardholders from entering its port, which houses amphibious ships used to transport Navy Seal units.
TWIC cards were designed to securely carry biometric identification details including fingerprints, birth records and other information that could be read remotely by security personnel at ports and other major commerce centers that could be potential targets of terrorism.
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.
TWIC cards are issued by the Transportation Security Administration. Felons are eligible to receive TWIC cards if they’ve been out of prison for at least five years.
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