The TSA has given preliminary approval to Orlando's Sanford International Airport to employ private security screeners, the Washington Post reports, making it the 17th airport in the country to break the TSA's monopoly on airport security.
“I hope this opens a new era of reform for TSA operations, not only at Orlando Sanford but across the nation,” said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “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.”
The Washington Post continues:
Democrats and the union representing TSA officers, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), have opposed privatization of the workforce that screens people and luggage at the nation’s airports.
In February, AFGE President John Gage told Congress: “The mission of corporations is to make profits from the shareholders and that is in direct conflict with the single focused mission of air travel security for Americans.”
At a House hearing earlier this month, TSA Administrator John Pistole rejected an assertion by Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the Homeland Security transportation subcommittee, that TSA “could reduce its ranks by 30 percent to 40 percent and still be able to do the job just as effectively.”
Said Pistole: “No, I don’t agree with that. That’s a huge number.”
The TSA cautions that it still must approve a plan that "does not compromise security or detrimentally affect the cost-efficiency or the effectiveness of the screening of passengers or property at the airport," before allowing the massive change.
Following his own run-in with the agency, Senator Rand Paul proposed two bills last week that, if passed, would fundamentally transform how the TSA operates.
The Kentucky Republican introduced legislation that would gut the Transportation Security Administration’s government-operated screening program and establish a passenger bill of rights. One bill would require that the mostly federalized program be turned over to private screeners and allow airports — with Department of Homeland Security approval — to select companies to handle the work.
The second bill would permit travelers to opt out of pat-downs and be rescreened, allow them to call a lawyer when detained, increase the role of dogs in explosive detection, let passengers “appropriately object to mistreatment,” allow children 12 years old and younger to avoid “unnecessary pat-downs” and require the distribution of the new rights at airports.
That legislation also would let airports decide to privatize if wanted and expand TSA’s PreCheck program for trusted travelers.
“While aviation security is undoubtedly important, we must be diligent in protecting the rights of all Americans, such as their freedom from being subjected to humiliating and intrusive searches by TSA agents, especially when there is no obvious cause,” Paul explained.