Progress was made last week on the airport security front. Backlash over the TSA’s invasive full body scanners and pat-downs is rapidly escalating and a number of key news items suggest the public is finally starting to push back.
Most notably, there is now a glimmer of hope that the TSA will scale back pat-down searches. In a statement just hours after making his rounds on the Sunday talk shows, TSA Administrator John Pistole stated the agency would work to make airport screenings "as minimally invasive as possible." Of course he gave no specifics and set no timeline, but his words are in stark contrast to his comments earlier in the day that no changes would be made to security screening during the busy holiday travel period. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton publicly expressed their reservations over TSA screening procedures today, perhaps contributing to this potential softening of policy.
And there are other encouraging signs that changes may be coming to the TSA.
Though largely symbolic because the TSA will still call the shots in terms of specifying security protocol–including pat-downs and nude-o-scopes, the tenative decsion at Sanford Airport in Orlando to hire private screeners in lieu of DHS-employed government employees is a positive step. It sends a message to the thousands of TSA smurfs (blue-shirt front line employees) that "just following orders" is not a valid excuse. No doubt, some of the same people will be hired back, though probably at lower wages, but hopefully this type of scandal will be curtailed:
I worked at the Orlando International Airport and the management that worked their (many have since been promoted to move them out of the public eye) broke EEO laws and were found guilty, sexually harassed female workers (he is still there), falsified payroll documents, covered up blatant incidents of wrong doing, engaged in retaliation against employees who stood up to them, protected and promoted unqualified employees into management positions (they needed their buddies up there with them) and some were just an embarrassment in the way they treated passengers. We also had our share of really shitty employees – a few child molesters (fired eventually), sex scandals, drug and weapon smuggling, theft and some that were just embarrassments for existing in they way they treated passengers (like snickering, purposely holding people just to be an ass, and abusing their authority).
The incoming leaders of the House Transportation Committee on Friday called the new airport pat-down procedures "overly intrusive" and demanded that the Transportation Security Administration restrict their use.
In a letter to the TSA, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis., who are set to assume leadership of aviation issues in Congress next year when Republicans take control, said only the highest risk passengers should be subjected to the more aggressive pat-downs.
It is the harshest reaction to date on the new searches from key leaders in Congress.
"The entire focus of TSA’s efforts to improve aviation security needs to be revisited," Mica and Petri wrote in the letter. They accused TSA of reacting to old threats — in this case, the so-called "underwear bomber" who attempted to blow up a jet last Christmas — while failing to be "proactive."
Mica wants to wholly privatize airport screening again and is against the Opt Out day this Wednesday, urging today on CNN for passengers to be patient by arguing, “I think the public needs to work with us. We will get it right.”
I have one word for the Congressman: hurry.
4. Newspaper Coverage is highligting the TSA problem to the non-traveling public
Although the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post ran op-eds last week supporting enhanced pat-downs and full body scanners (I’ll get to those later this week), other newspapers have not been so charitable to the TSA. Since most Americans do not fly and are therefore not exposed to the TSA, it is essential that the "Fourth Estate" step in and educate these members of our society.
It’s going to be an interesting week!