I know it's an incendiary headline, but I believe it's warranted. It's amazing what politicians say sometimes.
Yesterday I watched a Congressional hearing on the TSA's Screening Partnership Program (SPP) in front of the House Committee on Homeland Security's Subcommittee on Transportation Security. Basically, the conversation was about new language in the FAA reauthorization act that could make it easier for airports to hire private companies to provide security screening services in lieu of the TSA.
My jaw dropped at what Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, had to say about private security companies and their role at airports. She asked TSA Administrator John Pistole, who testified at the hearing, if the change means all 450 airports in the country could attempt to privatize their security screening. When Pistole said that could "hypothetically" happen, Rep. Lee made the following remark: "So then my comment [is]: We are looking forward to returning to 9/11."
Watch it yourself here. Rep. Lee's comments are at 30:21.
Public-private cooperation when it comes to airport security is nothing new. Before 9/11, airports were tasked with hiring private companies to provide their own security screening. But even after the events of 9/11 lawmakers saw the need to not completely shun private security from the airports. At the same time lawmakers created the TSA to federalize airport security, they also created a pilot program that would allow five airports to have private companies providing security. This pilot grew into the SPP, a program 16 airports currently participate in.
I'm going to put aside my journalistic objectivity for a minute and use this space to editorialize. For a politician to claim that private-sector security officers are so inferior to their federal counterparts that their use at airports would lead to another terrorist act on the scale of 9/11 is ridiculous and stinks of fear mongering. Her comments are even more comical because we're talking about private sector security officers versus TSA's security officers, who Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) points out during the hearing are recruited by the TSA via advertisements on the top of pizza boxes and about the pumps at discount gas stations.
Am I way off base or do people agree with me? What would you say to Rep. Lee if you had her ear?
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