"Eight MIT graduate students with student visas were denied a key credential by the Department of Homeland Security. After their department appealed the decisions on their behalf, the DHS declared at least two of the students “security threats.”
The troubles stem from a new homeland security program called the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, a plastic card which, like an MIT ID, contains personally identifying information and can be read wirelessly. Without the credential, the students will soon have a harder time boarding and leaving ships at U.S. ports, including the three research ships at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where the students work.
It is “just really offensive” to call the graduate students security threats, said Yoder. The students conduct research funded by federal agencies including the National Science Foundation, he said. Because WHOI has no secure facilities, its employees do not do research on site that requires a security clearance, Yoder said.
Seeking comment from the government, this reporter was referred by the DHS media relations office to the TSA public affairs office, who redirected the call to the TWIC hotline. After 30 minutes on hold, this reporter was told by an operator to contact the DHS, who did not return a request for comment.