I just got off the phone with the TSA’s TWIC Help Desk and, after explaining to them that I have a pre-October 21st TWIC and that I had written down and saved my original PIN for it, was told “you’re fine.” Just to be on the safe side, I called them back to see if I might get a different answer from a different person. The answer was the same. I was also informed that the problem stems from workers whose cards have or will become automatically locked from excessive incorrect PIN entries.
Here’s how it works: if you use your pre-October 21st TWIC to enter a regulated facility and enter the PIN incorrectly 10 times the card is immediately locked. To get it unlocked requires that you know your PIN when you contact the TSA. So if you never wrote down your original PIN, or wrote it down and then lost it, and you can’t remember it then they can’t unlock it and you’ll need to get a new card. Speaking for myself, I’ve never used the damn thing anyway. Nobody has readers yet so I’ve never had occasion to enter the PIN, therefore I’ve had no opportunity to screw up and lock the card, therefore my card is fine.
Basically, everyone falls into one of three categories:
You have a TWIC of whatever vintage and you remember, wrote down or otherwise retained your PIN: you’re good to go, no worries.
You have a pre-October 21st TWIC and, for whatever reason, you don’t have your PIN: you need to get a new card and the process must be initiated via the TWIC Help Desk (1-866-TSA-TWIC).
You have a post-October 21st TWIC and, for whatever reason, you don’t have your PIN: you need to get your PIN reset. This can be done at any enrollment center and walk-ins are welcome, although your wait will probably be shorter with an appointment.
So there you have it. The only question I had that couldn’t be answered on the spot by the TWIC Help Desk was whether the 10 incorrect PIN entries threshold for triggering the automatic deactivation of a TWIC was consecutive incorrect entries or cumulative incorrect entries during the standard 5-year life of the card. I would like to think that someone thought this through ahead of time and that it’s the former, but you know what happens when you assume. More on this later when accurate information becomes available.
In closing, I must mention that the people who answered the phone at the TWIC Help Desk were pleasant, helpful, and took the time to explain in detail to me exactly what the situation is and what course of action individuals must take to remedy the problem. I’m still no TWIC fan but I can honestly say that I have no complaints about the service I received.