|TSA Creator Says Dismantle, Privatize the Agency
Event | September 12, 2011
By Audrey Hudson
They’ve been accused of rampant thievery, spending billions of dollars
like drunken sailors, groping children and little old ladies, and making
everyone take off their shoes.
But the real job of the tens of thousands of screeners at the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) is to protect Americans from a terrorist
Yet a decade after the TSA was created following the September 11 attacks,
the author of the legislation that established the massive agency grades
its performance at “D-.”
“The whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats,” said Rep. John
Mica (R. -Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
“It mushroomed into an army,” Mica said. “It’s gone from a couple-billion-dollar
enterprise to close to $9 billion.”
As for keeping the American public safe, Mica says, “They’ve failed
to actually detect any threat in 10 years.”
“Everything they have done has been reactive. They take shoes
off because of [shoe-bomber] Richard Reid, passengers are patted down because
of the diaper bomber, and you can’t pack liquids because the British uncovered
a plot using liquids,” Mica said.
“It’s an agency that is always one step out of step,” Mica said.
It cost $1 billion just to train workers, which now number more than
62,000, and “they actually trained more workers than they have on the job,”
“The whole thing is a complete fiasco,” Mica said.
In a wide-ranging interview with HUMAN EVENTS just days before the
10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Mica said screeners should be privatized
and the agency dismantled.
Instead, the agency should number no more than 5,000, and carry out
his original intent, which was to monitor terrorist threats and collect
The fledgling agency was quickly engulfed in its first scandal in 2002
as it rushed to hire 30,000 screeners, and the $104 million awarded to
the company to contract workers quickly escalated to more than $740 million.
Federal investigators tracked those cost overruns to recruiting sessions
held at swank hotels and resorts in St. Croix, the Virgin Islands, Florida
and the Wyndham Peaks Resort and Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.
Charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made for cash
withdrawals, valet parking and beverages, plus a $5.4 million salary for
one executive for nine months of work.
Other over-the-top expenditures included nearly $2,000 for 20 gallons
of Starbucks Coffee, $8,000 for elevator operators at a Manhattan hotel,
and $1,500 to rent more than a dozen extension cords for the Colorado recruiting
The agency inadvertently caused security gaps by failing for years
to keep track of lost uniforms and passes that lead to restricted areas
Screeners have also been accused of committing crimes, from smuggling
drugs to stealing valuables from passengers' luggage. In 2004, several
screeners were arrested and charged with stealing jewelry, computers and
cameras, cash, credit cards and other valuables. One of their more
notable victims was actress Shirley McClain, who was robbed of jewelry
One of the screeners confessed that he was trying to steal enough to
sell the items and buy a big-screen television.
In 2006, screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O'Hare airports failed
to find more than 60% of fake explosives during checkpoint security tests.
The sometimes rudder-less agency has gone through five administrators
in the past decade, and it took longer than a year for President Obama
to put his one man in place. Mica’s bill also blocked collective
bargaining rights for screeners, but the Obama administration managed to
reverse that provision.
Asked whether the agency should be privatized, Mica answered with a
“They need to get out of the screening business and back into security.
Most of the screening they do should be abandoned,” Mica said. "I
just don’t have a lot of faith at this point,” Mica said.
Allowing airports to privatize screening was a key element of Mica’s
legislation and a report released by the committee in June determined that
privatizing those efforts would result in a 40% savings for taxpayers.
“We have thousands of workers trying to do their job. My
concern is the bureaucracy we built,” Mica said.
“We are one of the only countries still using this model of security,"
Mica said, "other than Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, and I think, Libya."