Many American airline passengers may be surprised to learn the Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible with securing all modes of transportation in the country, currently has no leader.
Republican lawmakers have placed a “hold” on President Obama’s pick to head the TSA over concerns he could undermine safety by unionizing airport security. The nominee is Erroll Southers, assistant chief in charge of security and intelligence at the Los Angeles airport’s police department.
“It’s very simple. Giving union bosses control over security at our nation’s airports is dangerous and will harm our ability to respond to serious threats,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.
“If President Obama’s nominee will not commit to putting homeland security above the whims of union bosses, it should give everyone serious concern,” DeMint said last month when the conflict developed.
The Washington Times reported last month DeMint blocked a vote to confirm Southers due to the nominee’s ducking of questions about whether he would consider reversing current policy that barred the unionizing of airport security screeners.
Such a move would impose rules on union workers that could impede national security efforts in combating terrorist threats, critics charge.
Southers had avoided giving a “yes” or “no” answer in Senate hearings over whether he would unionize airport security workers.
Just today, the TSA imposed new rules on airlines that prohibit passengers on some flights from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing. Also prohibited are objects on the laps of passengers during a flight’s final hour.
Those rules are already being criticized today by blogs and newspapers.
“TSA has a long history with the flying public of little communication, scant explanation and seemingly mind-boggling rules. The same mistakes are repeating. The flying public deserves clear, logical rules about air travel and enough information to understand why steps are being taken,” complained the Wall Street Journal.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, however, defended the new measures as “designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere.”
The measures follow the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over the weekend and come as al-Qaida’s leader in Yemen issued a terrorist threat against the U.S.
In a tape released four days before the attempted destruction of the Detroit-bound Northwest plane, the leader of al-Qaida in Yemen, referring to his plans for attacks against America, declared, “We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God.”