Thousands of Issued TWIC Cards Won’t Work Due to an Issuing ‘Error’

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December 7, 2011

Not that many of you needed another reason to hate the TWIC program, but here it comes anyway. The TSA managed to issue thousands of TWIC cards that probably don’t work.

Some 26,000 holders of the Transportation Worker Identification Credential may not be able to use their cards at an electronic reader because of an encoding error, the Transportation Security Administration said.

TSA said a system error caused a federal code number to be incorrectly embedded on the TWIC card’s microchip, and the agency said the error was fixed on April 5. The TSA did not say why it took until November to notify holders. – The Journal of Commerce (Click the link to read the whole story)

Here is TSA’s FAQs on this error:

  • What is the issue with improperly encoded TWICs?
    • Every TWIC contains a Federal Agency Smart Credential Number (FASC-N) on its integrated circuit chip.The FASC-N uniquely identifies each card.When a TWIC is read by a card reader, the FASC-N is one of the pieces of information the reader obtains from the card.Due to a card production system error, the number of characters in the FASC-N on some TWICs was shortened (truncated), causing readers to not recognize the card as a valid TWIC. Click here to access the TSA notification bulletin on this issue.
  • How many TWICs are affected by this?
    • TSA estimates that the integrated circuit chips (ICCs) on approximately 26,000 previously issued TWICs were improperly encoded and may not work with TWIC readers.
  • What time frame did this problem occur?
    • The system error causing the FASC-N to be truncated was corrected on April 5, 2011 and TWIC issued before this date (April 5, 2011) could potentially have this issue and as a result, TWIC readers could have problems reading these cards.TWICs issued after that date do not have truncated FASC-Ns.
  • How can I determine if my TWIC is affected by this issue?
    • The TWICs that have this problem can be identified by the 8-digit Agency Serial Number (ASN) that is printed on the back of the TWIC.The ASN is on the bottom left side of the back of the card (on the same line as the numbers ‘7099′ which appear on the bottom right.) Click here, to see if the ASN on your TWIC matches a number on the TSA list.If it does, then your card has a truncated FASC-N and you may need to obtain a replacement depending on how you use your card.
  • What do I do if my card has a truncated FASC-N?
    • If you confirm that your TWIC has this problem (and is on the TSA list), then you have two options:
    • If you currently do not use your TWIC with a card reader, then you do not need to get a replacement right away—you will be able to get one later.
    • If you currently need to use your TWIC with a card reader and you are experiencing problems, you should get a replacement TWIC as soon as possible
  • How do I get a replacement?
    • If your TWIC is identified on the TSA list of cards with truncated FASC-Ns you can receive a no-cost replacement by calling the TWIC Help Desk at 1-866-347-8942, Monday through Friday, 8AM to10PM Eastern.Please identify that your card has a truncated FASC-N, and the Customer Service Representative will assist you with ordering a replacement.You must designate the enrollment center where you will pick up your replacement TWIC.You must turn in your TWIC with the truncated FASC-N when you return to pick up your replacement TWIC.


So, on the bad side, all the fancy features that make this ID so secure, in reality are only a show. This error does bring out another problem in that most of the terminals do not have the equipment to actually check these IDs. That’s why they managed to issue so many before they realized that there was a problem. What I do not understand is why aren’t they immediately mailing out replacement cards for everyone. After all, you paid for the card to function as advertised. Worse yet, they are going to force you to pick these things up in person and return your old card. If this system worked as intended, they wouldn’t card about your old cards, because those would just be disabled.

You’re Welcome…


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