"I Have Determined that You Pose a Security Threat."

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is sending rather blunt letters rejecting applicants for Transportation Worker Identification Credentials, an ID necessary for employment as a dock worker and in other transportation-related fields where security is a concern. As the NYT reports:

A German graduate student in oceanography at M.I.T. applied to the Transportation Security Administration for a new ID card allowing him to work around ships and docks.

What the student, Wilken-Jon von Appen, received in return was a letter that not only turned him down but added an ominous warning from John M. Busch, a security administration official: "I have determined that you pose a security threat."

Similar letters have gone to 5,000 applicants across the country who have at least initially been turned down for a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, an ID card meant to guard against acts of terrorism, agency officials said Monday.

The officials also said they were sorry about the language, which they may change in the future, but had no intention of withdrawing letters already sent.

"It's an unfortunate choice of words in a bureaucratic letter," said Ellen Howe, a security agency spokeswoman.

Ms. Howe and Maurine Fanguy, who oversees the new ID card program, said that most foreign students did not qualify for the identity cards, but that the letters were not intended to label the recipients as potential terrorists. (Some applicants are also turned down because of criminal records.)

Even if DHS were justified in labeling some foreign students as "security threats," would this be a smart thing to put in a letter of this sort? Suppose Mr. von Appen really did pose a threat of some sort, and was not simply denied the credential because he is a foreigner, why would a security agency want to tip him off? I'm simply baffled by the bureaucratic ineptitude that would lead to the issuance of letters like this.