More airports opting out from federal agency after scandals

Steve Watson
July 31, 2012

Sacramento International Airport is dropping the TSA and replacing all security screeners with private contractors after it was given approval to opt out of the TSA program.

The Airport will become the third largest in the country to ditch the TSA and hire private security. Only a few other airports have done so after Congress passed legislation earlier in the year, opening the door for the widely loathed federal agency to be marginalized from aviation security altogether.

Airport Director Hardy Acree told reporters that he believes private screeners can 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.

Linda Beech Cutler added that the move “Makes us more flexible for staffing, for peak times and not being so staffed up for not so busy times”.

Passengers notified of the coming change approved, suggesting that they would feel safer with private security on hand.

“It might be better, less intrusive on us. I don’t like how the government runs their business,” said one flyer.

In San Francisco, where TSA screeners have already been replaced, private security has been a success. “It’s been awesome in San Francisco.” said one flyer. “They get travelers through faster, they do a better job finding test devices, and the morale is better than the TSA.”

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Although the eviction of TSA screeners is growing, many will be concerned by the fact that in accordance with federal law, private contract screeners are still trained by the TSA, and must adhere to TSA procedures.

“They will issue proposals, evaluate the private security companies and ultimately choose the company that would operate here,” said Linda Beech Cutler .

The new security agents will still use TSA equipment (body scanners), will still wear TSA badges, and will still be overseen by TSA supervisors. Current TSA employees at the airport will also be able to apply to become part of the new private security team.

The TSA had frozen the ability for airports to apply to use their own private screeners. However, a law passed by Congress reinstated the right and now forces the TSA to reconsider applications to the Screening Partnership Program.

Sacramento Airport applied to opt out from the TSA program in April. Just one month prior to that application, another major airport, Orlando Sanford International, announced that it was also opting out of using TSA workers.

The agency has been slow to reissue the guidelines on the the rule change, prompting Republican Representatives John Mica of Florida, Darrell Issa of California and Jason Chaffetz of Utah to press TSA head John Pistole to implement the mandate.

Mica has personally written to 200 airports advising them of the opportunity to opt out of using TSA screeners.

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, alleged privacy rights violations and intrusive pat-down techniques.


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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