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Congressman: Secret Report On TSA Pat Downs, Body Scanner Failures Will “Knock Your Socks Off

Congressman: Secret Report On TSA Pat Downs, Body Scanner Failures Will “Knock Your Socks Off

Steve Watson


“Off the charts”
failure rate “sort of like the record of the Marx Brothers”

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which oversees the TSA, has asserted that the release of a classified report on TSA security failures will renew calls for the replacement of the agency with private airport security personnel.

The failure rate (for body scanning equipment) is classified but it would absolutely knock your socks off,” Florida Republican, Rep. John L. Mica told reporters during a briefing Monday.

Mica also asserted that recorded instances of pat downs failing to detect contraband are “off the charts.” This information is also currently still classified, but is due to be released within weeks as part of an upcoming committee report on the TSA’s first decade.

Mica suggested that the TSA’s performance report would read “sort of like the record of the Marx Brothers”.

The TSA has withheld results of its official security tests, despite repeated requests to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Department of Homeland Security has classified the results of the most recent random, covert “red team tests,” where undercover agents try to see what they can get past airport security. The reason they have done so, according to MIca, is because the results have been so shockingly and consistently bad for the past nine years.

Mica further slammed the TSA Monday, ripping into the agency’s latest experimental security “chat down” procedure.

The chairman referred to the pilot program of “behaviour detection” being tested at Boston Logan airport as an “idiotic mess”.

Describing the program as a poor man’s version of Israeli interrogation security techniques, Mica noted that that the pilot is merely an extension of an already existing program that the Government Accountability Office concluded had little scientific credibility and had cost “a quarter billion” in hiring additional TSA officers.

“This is no joke,” Mica told reporters at the briefing, adding that he had personally visited Logan airport and witnessed first hand the failures of the program.

“I put my ear up and listened to some idiotic questions,” Mica said of the “chat down” procedure, also noting that TSA officers expressed a lack of understanding of the program they had supposedly been trained to engage in.

“I talked to them about their training, which was minimal,” Mica said, adding “It’s almost idiotic… It’s still not a risk-based system. It’s not a thinking system.”

The program is set to be beta tested in Detroit next, before being rolled out nationwide.

Mica repeatedly argued that the TSA’s role at airports could be undertaken in a more efficient and less costly manner by private companies, albeit ultimately still under the supervision of the federal government.

Back in March, the Congressman charged that the TSA intentionally fixed data to ensure that federal workers were employed to screen airport passengers, rather than private contractors.

“TSA cooked the books to try to eliminate the federal-private screening program,” said Mica at the time.

The Congressman was referring to revelations from federal auditors that cost differentials between federal employees and private contractors were overstated by the TSA.

Though the agency contends it was an “error”, The TSA made it appear that it was more cost effective for airports to use federal government workers for security “by increasing the costs for private-contractor screeners relative to federal screeners,” government auditors wrote.

The 2001 Aviation Transportation Security Act, which created the TSA, contained an option written in by Congress allowing airports to choose between using TSA workers and private screeners. It is known as the Security Partnership Program (SPP).

Currently, sixteen airports throughout the country use private contractors under the SPP, however, the TSA has since actively prevented other airports from joining the program, as more and more express an interest in dropping the federal workforce in wake of an epidemic of TSA scandals and failures.

Mica, who helped create the TSA after 9/11, has repeatedly stated that he believes the agency is now completely out of control and believes it should be radically reformed.

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Why Obama Should Withdraw From The 2012 Race

Why Obama should withdraw

Steve Chapman

When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, his slogan was “Morning in America.” For Barack Obama, it’s more like midnight in a coal mine.

The sputtering economy is about to stall out, unemployment is high, his jobs program may not pass, foreclosures are rampant and the poor guy can’t even sneak a cigarette.

His approval rating is at its lowest level ever. His party just lost two House elections — one in a district it had held for 88 consecutive years. He’s staked his future on the jobs bill, which most Americans don’t think would work.

The vultures are starting to circle. Former White House spokesman Bill Burton said that unless Obama can rally the Democratic base, which is disillusioned with him, “it’s going to be impossible for the president to win.” Democratic consultant James Carville had one word of advice for Obama: “Panic.

But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he’s willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.

That might be the sensible thing to do. It’s hard for a president to win a second term when unemployment is painfully high. If the economy were in full rebound mode, Obama might win anyway. But it isn’t, and it may fall into a second recession — in which case voters will decide his middle name is Hoover, not Hussein. Why not leave of his own volition instead of waiting to get the ax?

It’s not as though there is much enticement to stick around. Presidents who win re-election have generally found, wrote John Fortier and Norman Ornstein in their 2007 book, “Second-Term Blues,” that “their second terms did not measure up to their first.”

Presidential encores are generally a bog of frustration, exhaustion and embarrassment. They are famous for lowest moments rather than finest hours. Richard Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace, Reagan had the Iran-Contra scandal, and Bill Clinton made the unfortunate acquaintance of Monica Lewinsky.

Administration officials get weary after four years and leave in droves. The junior varsity has to be put into service. New ideas are hard to come by.

Someone said that when a man is smitten with a beautiful woman, he should remember that somebody somewhere is tired of her. Likewise, the most inspiring presidents get stale after years of constant overexposure.

In the event he wins, Obama could find himself with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress. Then he will long for the good old days of 2011. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner will bound out of bed each day eager to make his life miserable.

Besides avoiding this indignity, Obama might do his party a big favor. In hard times, voters have a powerful urge to punish incumbents. He could slake this thirst by stepping aside and taking the blame. Then someone less reviled could replace him at the top of the ticket.

The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can’t be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president’s.

It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama’s reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.

As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she’s been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she’s never been accused of being a pushover.

Not only that, Clinton is a savvy political veteran who already knows how to run for president. Oh, and a new Bloomberg poll finds her to be merely “the most popular national political figure in America today.”

If he runs for re-election, Obama may find that the only fate worse than losing is winning. But he might arrange things so it will be Clinton who has the unenviable job of reviving the economy, balancing the budget, getting out of Afghanistan and grappling with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Obama, meanwhile, will be on a Hawaiian beach, wrestling the cap off a Corona.

Steve Chapman is a member of the Tribune’s editorial board and blogs at chicagotribune.com/chapman

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