If you are a mule skinner — that is, someone who drives mules — then you’ve got to register for special Transportation Security Administration clearance that amounts to a full background check, the same that other professions like truckers have to obtain.
That’s the latest ruling from one of our guardians of homeland security, at least.
The TSA is in a little row with the National Canal Museum in Easton, Penn. It’s one of those places were park workers dress up in period costumes and offer quaint canal rides on a boat that is pulled — at a stately 2mph — by two mules.
Now, I’ll hold off on the obvious question — why would want a mule-pulled canal ride in the first place? — to get to the heart of this controversy: Technically, the TSA argues, these park workers need to register for a biometric Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC), which basically required for anyone who could possibly transport dangerous or deadly materials to be used in an act of terrorism (hence the reason truckers need them, for example).
By doing this, the TSA is essentially equating these mules (or perhaps more accurately, the barge they pull) as a potential terrorist threat — never mind that the canal along side of which these beasts walk does not pass any militarily or scientifically sensitive areas.
The park’s director of operations is lobbying her congressman to get this silly requirement waved. The congressman, Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.), has so far been rebuked by the TSA. Rules are rules, the TSA says — if you’re operating on water, you’re required to have both a credential from the Coast Guard and a TWIC (funny enough, the workers at this park actually have a Coast Guard credential!)
Now there’s a chance that things might work out for the two mules, whose names are Hank and George.
Congressman Dent confronted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Capitol Hill this week and asked her was it really necessary to perform background checks on two mule drivers in outdated clothing. He showed her a picture of Hank and George.
As quoted by CNN, Dent told Napolitano: “Now Hank and George, while sometimes they are ornery, they are not terrorists.” Napolitano said she’s look into the matter.
And you thought the TSA only enforced stupid rules at airports…
Check out these other stories from the airport checkpoint!