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Obama makes third TSA pick

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 6:00 p.m. ET
President Obama announced his third pick to lead the Transportation Security Administration on Monday, tapping FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole to lead the airport security agency.

Pistole has served as deputy director since 2004 and previously led the agency's counterterrorism division. He began his FBI career as a special agent in 1983, serving in Minneapolis and New York before moving to the organized-crime division at FBI headquarters, the White House said.

“The talent and knowledge John has acquired in more than two decades of service with the FBI will make him a valuable asset to our administration's efforts to strengthen the security and screening measures at our airports," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House. "I am grateful that he has agreed to take on this important role, and I look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead.”

Obama's statement of support for Pistole was much more reserved than the one he used for Robert A. Harding, his second choice to fill the TSA job. In March he said, "I can think of no one more qualified than [Harding] to take on this important job," but Harding withdrew his nomination on March 26 after senators questioned his business and personal dealings as a military contractor.

Obama first nominated Los Angeles Airport Police official Erroll Southers for the post last September, but Southers withdrew in January after he misled Congress about an incident in the late 1980s involving a background check of the boyfriend of his former wife.

But Pistole appears to have early Senate support. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Pistole "has a great law enforcement background and understands the threat of terrorism as well as anyone in the government.”

The panel's ranking Republican, Susan Collins (R-Maine), applauded Obama's choice of a "career law enforcement official" to lead TSA.

"While I will withhold my final judgment on this nomination until the committee's full examination and vetting processes are completed, I am pleased that the president has chosen an individual with such strong law enforcement experience," Collins said.

Republican lawmakers are likely to press Pistole on his potential support of collective bargaining for TSA workers. Transportation security officers can join unions, but lack the right to negotiate through a union.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said “The Senate needs to move quickly to ensure a qualified person is appointed to lead TSA.” His union represents about 13,000 agency workers.

Colleen M. Kelley, who leads the National Treasury Employees Union, said "there are multiple and continuing workplace issues that have been deferred pending nomination and confirmation of a full time administrator. TSA is a critical homeland security agency but it has yet to develop workplace practices that will permit it to recruit and retain the kind of stable and skilled workforce it requires."

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. voiced support for Pistole, noting he played a key role in "identifying and thwarting potential threats to the American people and in advancing the Justice Department’s national security goals.

“I am confident that John’s talent, integrity and expertise will make him a tremendous asset in our ongoing efforts to improve security and safety measures at our airports," Holder said in a statement.

The absence of a TSA administrator means that most airport security responsibilities have fallen to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The secretary has immersed herself in "the granular details of international aviation standards," as my colleague Anne E. Kornblut noted in a recent profile.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 17, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Revolving Door  
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It wouldn't matter if President Obama nominated Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe himself to head the TSA, the Republicans would still be determined to veto it.

Posted by: logcabin1836 | May 17, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Career officer. It's a safe pick. He'll have a clean background. On the other hand, don't expect much innovation or rocking-the-boat.

Posted by: ObamasGulfResponseIsMuchWorseThanKatrina | May 17, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

The TSA was founded ostensibly to "professionalize" the airport security inspectors.

Anybody seen any professionalism in the airport security lines lately? I've seen more arrogance, rudeness, and bullying. But professionalism? Not so much.

However, TSA has nonetheless served Official Washington's purpose: it provides highly visible "security theater" so the populace gets a warm fuzzy that they are "being taken care of", and it provides hundreds of millions of dollars to security-industrial complex contractors for expensive Buck Rogers gadgets of less-than-dubious value (e.g., the $170,000 nude-o-scope scanners than can be trivially defeated by hiding contraband in a body cavity).

The TSA is one of Osama bin Laden's greatest accomplishments. Terrorists could never TAKE away our freedom, but they certainly did a fine job of convincing us to GIVE them away.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 17, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

TSA is another useless Gov't Agency that provides little value at great expense. However if they are going to have a lead, then a career FBI guy is probably not a bad choice. I sure do feel for him though, having to give up the FBI for TSA!

As for Janet N having immersed herself in "the granular details of international aviation standards," That's the funniest thing I've read yet today. I can just picture the secretary sitting around reading FAR's and ICAO regs.

Posted by: WacoDave | May 17, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

If you truly want to know what is going on; Then you will have to accept these things as the TRUTH. Once you understand the following things; All things will be understood. So I tell you Obama is the Anti-Christ, Devil on Earth, or what ever else you want to call this Demonic Figure. His words describe him, He is a False Hope, If you listen to him you will love him. He carries a Bow without an Arrow. He will conquer all through his speech, his false hoods will capture all who sit and listen to him.

Posted by: makom | May 17, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Strike Three !

Posted by: dashriprock | May 17, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

It wouldn't matter if President Obama nominated Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe himself to head the TSA, the Republicans would still be determined to veto it.

Posted by: logcabin1836
I have just read this and it says the republican on the panel agrees with the pick. Sounds to me that you just spewed garbage before actually reading the article.Just like voting for something without reading it.Funny! must be in the genes.
PS I am not a republican either,just dont like trash.

Posted by: captgrumpy | May 17, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

OK it's time for Obama to stop, there is know way anyone could pick more stupid people than he can to be in his cabinet.

Posted by: samuellenn | May 17, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

OK it's time for Obama to stop, there is know way anyone could pick more stupid people than he can to be in his cabinet.

Posted by: samuellenn | May 17, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Now that Janet is an expert why should we hire anyone else?

Seems like such a shame to waste all that time she spent getting all granular with international aviation standards and everything.

Does that mean she knows all the official airport codes by heart?

I feel so safe now that Janet is all granular. Maybe next time there is an event she will say something sensible.

Posted by: krankyman | May 17, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

This is one of several TSA screeners finally caught and ruin the reputations of good employees there will always be bad apples in the workforce but I put the blame also on management personel FSD Afsd Dafsd ,supervisors screening managers not doing their job !this Tsa have fired innocent personnel who never fall in this catogory because they were doing their job ,lying is a trademark with upper management and they protect who they like and lack professionlism in their clan-click now in 8 years they still do not get it BIG SLACKERS get rid of them especially in San Antonio Texas, their has been alot of stealing but the cameras do not work ,the media did investigative reporting to proove the truth for false security and the FSD is still under homeland security along with his his kiss ass staff

Posted by: ARCANGEL541 | May 19, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I want to mention Napolitano is not doing her job compared to Michael Chertoff she has had so many BREACHES on her watch and the OBAMA administration always justify their is no mistakes and they are learning after 8 years WAKE UP HOMELAND SECURITY WITh AIRPORTS AND THE NO FLY LIST ,NAPOLITANO IS NOT DOING HER JOB JUST LIKE PELOSI GET RID OF THE INCOMPENCY OF THESE PERSONNEL FIRE THEM BEGINNING WITH NAPOLITANO SHE HAS NOT SECURE THISNATION JUST LIKE THE PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT FOR TSA

Posted by: ARCANGEL541 | May 19, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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