Intense lobbying from pro TSA unions influences board

Steve Watson
Jan 9, 2013

After pledging to evict the TSA last Summer, Sacramento International Airport has done a strange 180 turn around, announcing that it will stick with using the federal agency for security at the airport.

Last July, the airport was set to become the third largest in the country to ditch the TSA and hire private security, after Congress passed legislation earlier in the year, opening the door for the widely loathed federal agency to be marginalized from aviation security altogether.

Officials at the airport announced that they would drop the TSA and replace all security screeners with private contractors, following approval to opt out of the TSA program from the federal government.

At the time Airport Director Hardy Acree told reporters that he believed private screeners would do a better job than federal employees. “I think there is going to be a higher level of customer service”, Acree said.

“It’s a win-win for everything has no bearing on security procedure or the processes the public has become accustomed to,” another Sacramento Airport official told CBS News.

It seems that Acree was the force behind the move, however, given that the airport’s decision to change its mind has coincided with his retirement last month.

The Sacramento Bee reported that Intense lobbying from airline flight attendants, TSA union representatives and other local leaders, including Sacramento Assemblymen Roger Dickinson and Richard Pan also influenced the county Board of Supervisors’ decision to withdraw the county’s federal request to be allowed to use private screeners.

The Sacramento panel voted 4-1 Tuesday to reverse the earlier decision.

American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox said “AFGE is very pleased that the Sacramento board recognizes the value in a federal workforce at TSA and has revoked its previous approval for privatization.”

“The Sacramento airport authority’s attempt to abandon its public servants in favor of corporations with only profit in mind was short-sighted at best.” Cox added in a press release, which was disputed by airport officials.

The Sacramento board said it was also influenced by a U.S. Government Accountability Office report released last month, that found “insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions of improved performance under SPP  (Screening Partnership Program) when compared to federal screening services.”

In a statement relating to the report, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, advised the TSA not to accept any more SPP applications from airports until the issue has been looked at.

Thompson wrote “…some privatized airports do not perform passenger screening as well as their federalized counterparts.”

“TSA does not have the proper controls in place to regularly monitor private screener performance and does not validate data on attrition, absenteeism, and injury rates for privatized screeners.” he adds

“GAO also shows that under the current system, it is impossible to accurately measure any system cost-savings or efficiencies by moving to the SPP model. Therefore, I would urge Administrator Pistole to refrain from approving additional SPP airports until the costs and possible benefits can be accurately assessed and we can more closely monitor the program.” Thompson’s statement read.

Screeners employed by private companies are already used at 16 airports under the SPP. Republican Representatives John Mica of Florida, Darrell Issa of California and Jason Chaffetz of Utah have pressed TSA head Pistole to implement the mandate and accept applications from other airports. Mica has personally written to 200 airports advising them of the opportunity to op out of using TSA screeners.

“It’s critical that TSA get out of the business of running a huge bureaucracy and human resources operation and refocus its attention on security, analyzing intelligence, and setting the highest risk-based security standards. TSA needs to focus on going after terrorists — not little old ladies, veterans and children.” Mica has said.

The TSA has been keen to downplay the opportunity for airports to dispense with their screeners, fearing a mass exodus that could undermine the justification for the agency’s continued existence, especially given the fact that its reputation has been repeatedly savaged by a number of scandals.

A previous GAO report in November found that the TSA does not have an adequate system to measure passenger complaints, has failed to factor in many complaints in its evaluations, does not consistently inform travelers of how they can file complaints, and could be ignoring complaints altogether because the agents investigating the cases are in the same chain of command as those being investigated.

Scores of airports throughout the country have now applied to evict the TSA, forcing the TSA to reconsider applications after it arbitrarily suspended the SPP program in 2010.


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, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

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