June 12, 2010

TSA Director Candidate

As anyone who’s been visiting Hard Astarboard for a long time knows, The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is one of Seth’s “pet peeves”.

Well, before he began his temporary absence from these pages, he made it known among friends that he supports the nomination of John Pistole to head up the TSA, himself registering surprise that the Obama Administration was actually able to produce a nominee who doesn’t seem to have any legal or ethical baggage to bring with him.

Since Seth, da boss hereabouts, is concerned both professionally and patriotically with security, I figured we should post this article from Homeland Security Today:

FBI Deputy Director John Pistole impressed members of the Senate Commerce Committee in his first of two confirmation hearings Thursday with his knowledge and experience with terrorism concerns in his bid to become administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

His long career at the FBI left such a positive impression on lawmakers that even Republicans seeking an outright declaration of opposition to collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners–which they did not receive–were left acknowledging they would support his nomination.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who derailed the nomination of Obama’s first pick to become TSA chief earlier this year over the issue of collective bargaining, again raised it Thursday.

DeMint insisted that officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must question how collective bargaining rights for TSA screeners would improve security. He was unsatisfied with an earlier reply from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that security and collective bargaining weren’t mutually exclusive.

“When the secretary of homeland security can’t tell us how something would improve security, it should stop us in our tracks,” DeMint protested.

Collective bargaining for TSA screeners “would have a direct negative impact on security” by applying a 19th century industrial era model to a 21st century information age environment, DeMint argued. Transportation security officers (TSOs) could jeopardize national security if they demanded changes in their workplace, through the use of collective bargaining, that restricted rapid redeployment or changes in work schedules due to threat information, he said.

Pistole acknowledged that Napolitano asked him to conduct a review of the issue if he is confirmed. That review would involve collecting as much information as possible from relevant stakeholders to make an informed judgment or recommendations.

As the FBI has no unions or collective bargaining rights, Pistole emphasized that he was “attuned to safety and security issues” as a priority.

DeMint warned Pistole that he would face intense political pressure to grant collective bargaining rights to TSOs. While DeMint endorsed Pistole’s credentials to lead TSA, the senator said he would question his competence if he caved to that pressure.

“If we see you yielding to political pressure, that would suggest to us that priorities have changed,” DeMint stated.

DeMint was visibly disappointed by Pistole’s position on the issue, however.

Although Pistole said collective bargaining would not work at the FBI because it would impair the agency’s ability to surge resources and to deploy people worldwide at a moment’s notice, he could not commit to the same status at TSA because he had not yet conducted his review of the issue.

Lacking a firsthand knowledge of how TSA managers work together, Pistole could not say for certain if TSA would benefit from a third party such as a union facilitating discussions. He also declined to promise that his review of collective bargaining would be made available to the committee.

Despite those positions, DeMint conceded, “I will trust your judgment until proven otherwise.”

Other issues

If confirmed, Pistole said he would immediately examine intelligence to assess soft targets that may provide attractive opportunities to al Qaeda and other terrorists seeking to strike the United States.

Successful attacks in Europe and India against rail networks and a thwarted plan to attack the subway system in New York City have demonstrated terrorist interest in hitting passenger rail systems because they are not protected as well as airports, Pistole said.

Security at general aviation airports also requires a second look, Pistole said, as the spring attack on a federal building in Austin, Texas, underscored the vulnerabilities involved with privately owned aircraft. Fiscal restraint may restrict how much attention those airports receive from TSA, however, he said.

As for aviation security, Pistole vowed to be guided by threat information to ensure the best use of the “latest intelligence, latest training, latest techniques, and latest technology” at TSA.

To that end, Pistole endorsed the use of advanced imaging technology (AIT) at US airports, saying it was the best means to detect the sort of sophisticated explosive carried by suspected Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Pistole provided some of the most detailed public comments to date on the bomb allegedly carried by Abdulmutallab, noting that it used an initiating charge of acetone peroxide (TAPT) with a main charge of pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN).

PETN also was the explosive used by shoe bomber Richard Reid in his attack on a US-bound airliner in December 2001, Pistole noted, but Abdulmutallab carried almost twice as much PETN as Reid did.

Reid’s PETN would have caused a manhole-size hole in the airplane had it detonated, so Abdulmutallab’s charge “would have caused catastrophic damage” to Northwest Airlines Flight 253 had it worked, Pistole noted.

Given the level of the threat, TSA must continue its rollout plan of AIT and strive to engage foreign partners to adopt standards similar or better to the United States for aviation screening, Pistole said.

Pistole identified his top priority at TSA as making certain that TSA has the latest intelligence and threat information. The major failing of the Christmas Day bombing attempt was that information sharing did not occur in a fashion timely or robust enough to trigger a visa revocation or watchlisting for Abdulmutallab, he commented.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chair of the committee, predicted that Pistole would receive Senate confirmation as early as next week in a vote to occur after his second confirmation hearing June 16 with the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Soon after, Rockefeller revealed, the Commerce Committee will unveil a TSA authorization bill as well as a port security bill, both of which will have a great deal of impact on TSA operations.

Of course, given that we’re dealing with the Obam/Pelosi and Reid trimvirate, one never knows what ulterior information might be concealed beneath Deputy Director Pistole’s publicized personna, but from the looks of the man’s background and from what he says, he gets the benefit of the doubt here at Hard Astarboard.

by @ 12:38 pm. Filed under Homeland Security, TSA Concerns
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2 Responses to “TSA Director Candidate”

  1. Miguel Says:

    seth, i wanted to comment on ur comment of the upside down American flag with the Mexican flag over it. yes it was wrong, not unlawful, but completely against flag etiquette. I do agree with you that those kids are idiots and should be taught about American history to see what they are doing is wrong.i also wanted to point out that your views of Mexican economy are very wrong(and this is not opinion). you see Mexico has a very good economy, Mexico city is the largest city in the western hemisphere. Of course like in America there are places where poverty is very high. Another point is that the illegal immigrants that come from Mexico(or anywhere else for that matter) cannot collect benefits from the government, but they still have to pay taxes. So tell me how this hurts the American government/economy. I also have a question for you, how often do you see a Mexican out on the street asking for money?? they don’t, they ask for jobs. Most people on the street asking for money are Caucasian or African American. i realize you commented 4 years ago, but it’s never too late to learn something is it? Last thing, i am 17 years old, and in case you haven’t figured out by now, i am Mexican

  2. Chuck Says:


    It’s Chuck. Seth has been indisposed for awhile, and we’re not sure when he’ll be up and running at Hard Astarboard again — he will, but, anyway…

    He and I have talked about the issue you’ve brought up in your comment enough, both of us being in complete agreement, that I can pretty well sum up the contents of his reply were he here.

    First of all, Seth loves going to Mexico, likes the people, the country, the womenfolk, etc. I do too, I cruise down the coast aboard the boat I live on from time to time and make stops in some pretty rural places.

    We both perfectly well understand why people, desperate for work in order to feed themselves and their families, would sneak across the border to find that work.

    That said:

    When families are without any work down there, the Mexican government doesn’t seem to care enough that they provide any sort of help — both Seth and I have met women whose husbands had run out, leaving them with 4 and 5 small children, and the people in Mexico City could care less: That’s why first Fox, now Calderone, fight(s) so hard against U.S. immigration enforcement. They want the U.S. to pick up the slack.

    Over twelve million people being in the U.S. illegally is not, also, an indicator of a healthy Mexican economy. Why is the U.S. expected, at the expense of Americans working, hospitals going out of business (yes, around 100 hospitals in California have closed in recent years simply because the emergency room overloads of illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico and not covered, therefore, by U.S. social services venues all but bankrupted them.

    Next, and back to the employment situation.

    The “progressives” tell us that illegals only do the work that Americans won’t do.

    Unfortunately, that is a misstatement. Construction skills such as laying foundations, framing, roofing, masonry, painting, drywall, etc are livelihoods to Americans who are struggling to pay mortgages, raise children and put money away for their educations, pay property taxes and other expenses… Illegals from Mexico are taking those jobs away from people who have long worked at them as an only trade, by undercutting the pay to levels upon which an American could not survive in the current economy.

    These illegals can, because they “bunk in” with many people under one roof, even in one room, and so don’t have the expenses incurred in the poorest working American’s accustomed way of living.

    In a time when most of our manufacturing jobs have, thanks to overtaxation and overregulation by the government and blatant extortion by unscrupulous unions, been moved out of the country (including to Mexico), jobs are scarce enough for those people who are here legally.

    Next: Remittance incomes.

    Illegals who come up here send the bulk of the money they earn back home so their families can live well in Mexico. This is billions of dollars a year that is not going back into the U.S. economy, and that means less jobs stimulated by demand for goods and/or services are created or maintained.

    That hurts our economy, big time.

    Next: Amnesty.

    The Democrats endorse amnesty because they see each forgiven illegal as a new Democrat vote. One of their claims, and yours, is that this way these former illegals will be able to contribute by paying taxes.

    However, and you should have no trouble agreeing with me here, most Mexican families tend to have three or more children. I am not saying this out of any form of racism, merely out of truth. I have been all over Mexico and here in the L.A. area I know many Mexicans (legal ones, so to speak), and am stating a fact.

    There is a little item in our tax system called “earned income credit” that pays — not refunds, but pays anywhere from 3 to 5 thousand dollars a year, depending upon how many children a married couple or single parent has.

    Considering that most of these illegals, even amnestied, would be working at low end jobs, they would be receiving more money at tax time than they would pay if there was no earned income credit involved.

    As a U.S. taxpayer, that kind of enrages me. We Americans pay a lot more money in taxes than we should already, considering that most of what it is currently spent on is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. I don’t believe they teach it any more in school, since the educational system is these days run by far left Democrats who are more prone towards socialism.

    Our government’s responsibility is to consider the wellbeing of Americans, first, just as the Mexican government is responsible for the Mexican people.

    Then there’s the legality bit: You must know how strict Mexico is about immigration enforcement, why do so many people seem to think that the U.S. shouldn’t enforce our immigration laws?

    They state simply that if one does not have the proper, current, legal documentation authorizing him or her to be in the United States, work in the United States or both, then he or she is committing a felony by being here, working here, or both.

    That’s a very simple concept, when you come right down to it.

    As far as those people who hang the U.S. flag upside down or those La Raza members who believe that the southwestern U.S. still belongs to Mexico:

    The latter: Whatever went before, much of the territory was bought and paid for, other territory was won in wars a long time before any of us were born, and now belongs to America. Live with it.

    The former: Anyone who wants to be a citizen of this country needs to assimilate. We at Hard Astarboard do not believe in hyphenated Americans (Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, etc). Either one is an American or one is a Mexican, African, Asian, and so forth.

    Anyone who lives here and wants to hang our flag upside down needs to relocate to a country whose laws are more in tune with their preferences.

    I hope this reply has been of help.