TWIC deadline extended

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration will delay a post-9/11 program that provides special identification cards to every worker with access to seaports.

The Sept. 25 deadline to enroll 850,000 port workers into the transportation worker credentialing program will be extended to April 15, 2009, according to a Homeland Security Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made. The department started the enrollment process in October.

As of Thursday, the department had enrolled 260,608 people in the program. For enrollment the department collects personal information including fingerprints, name, birth date, address and phone number. So far, the department has officially denied only 13 card requests because workers failed to meet the application standards.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said delaying the enrollment deadline is a good idea.

"It is my hope that this extra time will enable the department to fix the glaring holes and minimize the excessive burdens that it has placed on our nation's port workers, the valuable eyes and ears of the maritime system," Thompson said.

The more than $70 million program has been criticized because of potentially intrusive background checks on the workers and the $132.50 cost of the card, which workers pay. In addition, the department has not deployed machines to read the cards. There are plans to test the machines later this year.


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