Experts, lawmakers question credentials of Mahan shooting suspect

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on March 28, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 28 at 7:00 PM

NORFOLK -- More questions are being raised about Transportation Worker Identification Credentials in the wake of Monday's shooting at Naval Station Norfolk.

The Navy has said the suspect, 35-year-old Jeffrey T. Savage, used a valid TWIC card to gain unauthorized access to the base.

Savage was able to obtain a TWIC card despite two felony convictions.  In 1998, Savage was convicted in Virginia federal court for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and in 2008 he was convicted of manslaughter in North Carolina.

Savage was released from a North Carolina prison in December 2009 on the manslaughter charge.

A federal judge revoked Savage's supervised release related to his previous drug charges in 2010 and he served nearly two more years in a federal prison before going to a halfway house, the AP reports.

The TWIC program is administered by the Transportation Security Administration.

A list of TSA guidelines do not prohibit convicted felons from obtaining the credential but convicted felons are not eligible to get a TWIC within five years of being released from prison on a felony charge.

TWIC applicants who do not meet the eligibility requirements can apply for a waiver. The TSA does not provide a list of criteria considered when deciding whether or not to grant a waiver to a convicted felon.

The fact that Jeffrey Savage was able to obtain a TWIC card has some lawmakers and security experts asking questions.

Senator Mark Warner sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus on Friday calling for answers about the process used to hand out TWICS.

Warner's letter listed five questions for the two secretaries and pointed out the string of reports from the Government Accountability Office, which found major security flaws and other concerns in the TWIC program.

"The men and women who serve and put themselves in harm’s way ought to be able to go to work when they're home ported and feel safe," Warner said on Friday.

In an interview with 13News Now investigative reporter Nick Ochsner, Warner said his concerns over the TWIC program were heightened by the fact Savage had been convicted of two felonies.

"Something went dreadfully wrong. In the 21st century era, where there's very sophisticated notification systems, this kind of tragedy shouldn't be taking place," Warner said.

Warner's letter joins a host of other members of Congress who have questioned the TWIC program in recent years.

"It's a big problem and we're very troubled by it, very, very concerned about it," said Congressman Randy Forbes when asked about the TWIC card.

Forbes, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he is following the investigation into Monday's shooting closely.

"He still should not have been on the facility at that time because he didn't have a work order or anything that needed to be in complement with that," Forbes said. "So, that's one of the things I think the investigation will turn up for us as to whether or not everybody was doing their job along the way."

Homeland security expert Ed Clark said the fact that Savage was able to get a TWIC card after his two felony convictions and time in jail is troubling.

"I don't know what criteria they use [for waivers]," Clark said when asked whether or not Savage should have been granted a waiver for his criminal record. "But I would say, the face value of that, probably not."

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