FY-Eye: Bush's E-mails and TSA's 'Security Theater'
Before The Eye departs for his week-long Christmas vacation, he wanted to share two important pieces of reporting worth your time.
First off, in The Eye's household, if it's Sunday it's "Meet the Press," NFL football (when in season) and "60 Minutes." True to form, the nation's longest-running news magazine delivered a controversial Lesley Stahl report (video above) that explores whether the Transportation Security Administration's airport security efforts are merely "security theater" meant to calm the nerves of weary travelers.
From the report:
'Security theater,' It's a phrase I coined for security measures that look good, but don’t actually do anything," says [security expert, Bruce Schneier], referring to the security measures that irritate airline passengers every day and that have cost billions of dollars.
That assessment angers Kip Hawley, the Bush Administration’s outgoing head of the TSA. "This isn’t theater. This is war," he tells Stahl. Hawley argues that all the security and especially the technical improvements have made people safer.
But Hawley admits continued high failure rates on tests conducted by government inspectors who smuggle bomb parts through checkpoints. "Our results have improved," Hawley says. "Knives and guns do not present a big problem for us now. We have to continue to work to get at even the smallest pieces of an IED."
This Eyebrow-raiser is sure to stir emotions both at TSA checkpoints and in the minds of air travelers heading home to Grandma's house this week.
Meanwhile, The Post's R. Jeffrey Smith reported on Sunday that "The required transfer in four weeks of all of the Bush White House's electronic mail messages and documents to the National Archives has been imperiled by a combination of technical glitches, lawsuits and lagging computer forensic work."
As Smith writes:
Federal law requires outgoing White House officials to provide the Archives copies of their records, a cache estimated at more than 300 million messages and 25,000 boxes of documents depicting some of the most sensitive policymaking of the past eight years.
But archivists are uncertain whether the transfer will include all the electronic messages sent and received by the officials, because the administration began trying only in recent months to recover from White House backup tapes hundreds of thousands of e-mails that were reported missing from readily accessible files in 2005.
The risks that the transfer may be incomplete are also pointed up by a continuing legal battle between a coalition of historians and nonprofit groups over access to Vice President Cheney's records. The coalition is contesting the administration's assertion in federal court this month that he "alone may determine what constitutes vice presidential records or personal records" and "how his records will be created, maintained, managed, and disposed," without outside challenge or judicial review.
One of the most frustrating elements of this tricky situation is that while the National Archives and Records Administration is supposed to help oversee Bush's record, it has no enforcement powers over the administration's current records management practices, meaning the situation could drag on for months, perhaps years.
"Speaking of the missing e-mails, Archives' general counsel Gary M. Stern said in an interview last week that 'we hope and expect they all will exist on the system or be recoverable,' even in coming weeks. 'We can't say for sure.'"
While both Stahl and Smith's reports are well-reported and highlight interesting elements of the federal bureaucracy, they also speak to the legacy of the Bush administration's relationship with and expansion of the federal government.
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