Transport Committee says it cannot carry out oversight duties when “Maginot Line” agency is on a “path of non-transparency”

Steve Watson
Nov 30, 2012

House members, gathered at a hearing Thursday to discuss the role of the TSA in airport security screening, directed stern words toward the agency after it followed through on a pledge to boycott the meeting and declare itself outside of the jurisdiction of Congress.

Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, John Mica, described TSA head John Pistole’s decision to ignore an invitation to the hearing as “very sad.”

“Sadly the TSA Administrator is stonewalling this committee and refuses to work with us, and that’s part of the problem with this agency,” Mica said. “He and other agency officials are protecting one the biggest government bureaucracies, which has grown now to more than 66,000 employees.”

“Unfortunately, as this mushrooming agency has spun out of control, passengers have not been well served. We’ve had numerous security meltdowns, including in Honolulu, Los Angeles, Newark, Fort Myers, Charlotte and elsewhere.” Mica added.

“When I helped establish this agency, Congress intended it to operate a risk-based system, but the TSA is best known for shaking down little old ladies and others who pose no security risk.” urged the Committee chairman, who has railed against the TSA for some time now.

“They don’t want to respond to us. The sad thing about it is that the system doesn’t make us any safer.” Mica said.

Pistole had been invited to speak at the hearing regarding the TSA’s impact upon aviation commerce and passenger experience. However, the agency head’s statement on the TSA’s website made it clear that neither he, nor any TSA official intends to attend such hearings any longer:

Rep. Tom Petri, the Wisconsin Republican who heads up the aviation subcommittee, said the TSA is hell bent on pursuing a “path of non-transparency and arrogance.”

“Their actions today show why the public is so frustrated with the TSA,” he said. “These officials are public servants, and their attitude should reflect this fact.”

“If we want more government stove piping, the TSA’s attitude and actions regarding this hearing achieve that end. But if we want better government and more coordination between government activities, Congress must be able to fulfill its oversight responsibilities. In the case of this subcommittee, the TSA’s operations and policies clearly impact civil aviation, including commerce, safety, airport operations, airlines, and passengers.” Petri added.

The reason why the TSA boycotted the hearing is fairly straightforward. The Committee wants to see the agency’s budget and scope slashed. Rep. Mica has even pushed for airports to ditch the agency altogether and replace TSA personnel with private security screeners.

“We need to be closing down TSA as we know it and instituting a safer, more efficient, less bureaucratic system,” the Florida Republican said at the meeting.

The aviation subcommittee presented evidence that airline passengers were likely to travel more frequently if the security screening process were made less impersonal and more efficient. Rep. Petri noted that passengers were concerned about the increased use of enhanced pat-downs, radiation firing body scanners, and a lack of information on alternative screening procedures.

Petri noted that many passengers are unsure of their rights regarding such procedures and that the TSA has routinely failed to provide clarity on the matter.

In testimony, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, Charlie Leocha, added that “To much of the flying public, the TSA is a boogeyman.”

“TSA has become the butt of countless jokes. TSA is set up like the Maginot Line, the poster child for generals fighting the last war.” Leocha noted, suggesting that screeners should be made to appear “less threatening”.

Stephen M. Lord, homeland security director at the Government Accountability Office, also testified, specifically on the level of complaints that the TSA has received and how inefficiently they have been dealt with.

“They need to make the process more effective [and] more selective,” Lord said, noting that it had been impossible to tally the volume of complaints because local divisions of the TSA report them in different ways and file them at their own discretion.

Video of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee’s website here.


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’, and He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham in England.

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