Friday, November 19, 2010


Why not replace TSA with private contractors?

by Larry Geller

States can ditch TSA and their nudie scanners, replacing them with private contractors. An AP story reveals that there is a movement, headed by Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida, the expected head of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the incoming Congress, to do just that.

The trouble is, the issue has been corrupted by campaign contributions from companies that could provide private screeners:

Companies that provide airport security are contributors to Mica's campaigns, although some donations came before those companies won government contracts. The Lockheed Martin Corp. Employees' Political Action Committee has given $36,500 to Mica since 1997. A Lockheed firm won the security contract in Sioux Falls, S.D. in 2005 and the contract for San Francisco the following year.

Raytheon Company's PAC has given Mica $33,500 since 1999. A Raytheon subsidiary began providing checkpoint screenings at Key West International Airport in 2007.

Firstline Transportation Security Inc.'s PAC has donated $4,500 to the Florida congressman since 2004. FirstLine has been screening baggage and has been responsible for passenger checkpoints at the Kansas City International Airport since 2006, as well as the Gallup Municipal Airport and the Roswell Industrial Air Center in New Mexico, operating at both since 2007.

Since 2006, Mica has received $2,000 from FirstLine President Keith Wolken and $1,700 from Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security. Covenant works with Lockheed to provide security at airports in Sioux Falls and San Francisco.   [AP, Airports consider congressman's call to ditch TSA, 11/18/2010]

It’s not a slam-dunk solution because private screeners are supposed to follow TSA procedures, but at the same time they would, in theory, be responsible to the states that pay them, at least so the theory goes.

Given the intransigence of Transportation Security Administration leadership in recent Congressional hearings, the complete solution will likely require new legislation. If both Republicans and Democrats and aligned on the issue, that may be a possibility.

See also today’s Democracy Now:

National Outcry Over TSA Body Scanners and Invasive Pat-Downs

As one of the busiest travel seasons of the year approaches there is a public outcry over new airport security measures that include full-body scanners and invasive police-style pat-downs. We speak with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the ACLU as well as New York City Councilman David Greenfield who introduced a resolution to ban the use of the full body scanners in New York.


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