12.31.2009 0

WSJ: White House Restarts Search for TSA Head

  • On: 01/25/2010 09:50:51
  • In: Appointments
  • ALG Editor’s Note: In the following featured article, The Wall Street Journal reports that Erroll Southers has withdrawn himself from being appointed to the head of the TSA. As many of our loyal readers know, Americans for Limited Government strongly opposed Mr. Southers because he wouldn’t answer Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) question on TSA unionization:

    White House Restarts Search for TSA Head


    WASHINGTON—The Obama administration is starting a new search for a nominee to head the aviation security agency amid intelligence warnings that al Qaeda still wants to target air travel.

    Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is trying to fill the gap at the Transportation Security Administration by devoting much of her attention to aviation security in the wake of the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day, according to aides. She met in Spain Thursday with European justice ministers to press her case about increasing air security. European officials are divided over the use of the full-body scanners being deployed this year across the U.S.

    President Barack Obama had nominated former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Erroll Southers to head the TSA. But Mr. Southers withdrew earlier this week in the face of Republican opposition to collective bargaining rights for the agency’s workers. There were also concerns that Mr. Southers had misled Congress in answering questions about a reprimand he received more than 20 years ago, a charge his backers disputed.

    White House officials declined to say what comes next for the TSA, saying they don’t publicly discuss potential presidential nominees or timetables. The agency’s day-to-day operations are being run by career staff. It took the White House nearly eight months to nominate Mr. Southers, and it was unclear Thursday how easy it would be to find a replacement.

    “It’s a heck of a time for this to happen, given that TSA has already been rocked onto its heels by a string of incidents,” said Clark Kent Ervin, a former Department of Homeland Security inspector general who now heads the Homeland Security Program at the Aspen Institute think tank.

    The TSA is also coming under pressure for a string of high-profile missteps. In December, it was revealed that the agency had posted a copy of its operating procedures for security checkpoints on the Internet, a manual that could serve as a guidebook for terrorists. Earlier this month, a man breached a TSA security checkpoint at New Jersey’s Newark airport, causing chaos and prompting a shutdown of the terminal. Critics, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), pounced on TSA in the wake of both episodes. Mr. Lautenberg is now pressing for legislation to mandate fixes.

    Mr. Southers’ nomination was derailed in part by objections from Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), who had blocked Mr. Southers. Mr. DeMint is opposed to granting collective bargaining rights to TSA workers, including airport screeners nationwide, and wanted a commitment that Mr. Southers wouldn’t back collective bargaining. That decision will likely be made by Ms. Napolitano.

    The agency is also grappling with a nationwide push for tighter passenger screening following the failed attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day. Among other changes, hundreds of new full-body scanners are supposed to come on line this year at airports.

    Last week, intelligence agencies ratcheted up the pressure, warning of al Qaeda’s continuing interest in launching attacks against aviation, concerns that were passed to commercial air carriers, according to government officials.

    Ms. Napolitano will be meeting Friday in Geneva with members of the International Air Transport Association, the trade group for airlines world-wide. Combined, members of the organization are responsible for about 90%of the world’s air traffic.

    Write to Cam Simpson at [email protected]

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