TSA: Just say no to private screening
The Transportation Security Administration plans to stop allowing airports to hire private contractors to conduct passenger screening, according to recent statements on the agency's Web site.
A Monday post on The TSA Blog said the agency "is still accepting applications, but unless a clear and substantial advantage to do so emerges in the future, the requests will not be approved."
TSA Administrator John Pistole recently issued the following statement on the contractor screening program.
"Shortly after beginning as TSA Administrator, I directed a full review of TSA policies with the goal of helping the agency evolve into a more agile, high-performing organization that can meet the security threats of today and the future. As part of that review, I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time. The airports that currently use contractor screening will continue to be regulated by TSA and required to meet our high security standards."
Some of the nation's biggest airports responded to recent public outrage over security screening by weighing whether they should hire private firms to replace the Transportation Security Administration. Sixteen airports, including San Francisco and Kansas City International Airport, have made the switch since 2002.
However, employees of private contractors are required by federal law to undergo the same training, use the same pat-down techniques and operate the same equipment - such as full-body scanners - that the TSA does.
Airports that choose private screeners must submit the request to the TSA. There are no specific criteria for approval, but federal officials can decide whether to grant the request "based on the airport's record of compliance on security regulations and requirements." The TSA pays for the cost of the screening and has the final say on which company gets the contract.
Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), the new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, had written to 200 of the nation's largest airports, including the body that oversees Dulles and Reagan National, urging them to consider switching to private companies.
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