'Please Remove Your Shoes' pans TSA, FAA
Clip courtesy of Boston Aviation Services, Inc. in association with Black Pearl Productions
Many disgruntled workers file grievances with their union or write a letter to the editor, but a half dozen federal employees have turned to the big screen to raise concerns with the nation's airport security.
"Please Remove Your Shoes" uses the experiences of current and former employees of the Federal Air Marshals, Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration to argue that FAA officials frequently turned a blind eye to significant security threats in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The workers argue that lawmakers later compounded existing problems by reflexively establishing TSA.
"We took the same organizational template and same counterterrorist template verbatim and reapplied it under a new label and new people and threw some more money at it," said Fred Gevalt, the film's producer and a long time aviation industry observer. "But there are still some fundamental errors."
Gevalt and his team spent almost two years and “six figures” exploring the topic. The film debuts Wednesday evening at the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington, less than a week after the Senate confirmed FBI Deputy Director John Pistole as TSA administrator.
Brian Sullivan, a retired FAA special agent who narrates the film, said Pistole’s experience with intelligence and counterterrorism will lend well to his new role. And the documentary, though slanted, could help balance his early perceptions of TSA.
"He’s going to come on board and TSA management will give him in briefings, but their presentations will be equally slanted in terms of putting the best foot forward," Sullivan said.
The FAA declined to comment, and TSA declined Gevalt's invitation to participate in the documentary.
"TSA is a young agency and many of the allegations raised in the film are past issues that have been long since addressed," said agency spokesman Greg Soule. "TSA has significantly improved aviation security following the tragic events of 9-11."
The film's central focus in airport security, but it also chronicles the struggles commonly faced by federal whistleblowers, including threats, demotions and reassignments to the graveyard shift for speaking out.
"Raising issues and challenging management’s position on security issues, it sidetracks your career," said Sullivan, who spent years alerting FAA officials and lawmakers of potential threats. He's irked by suggestions that the film is a televised airing of his grievances.
“When I saw the two planes flying into the World Trade Center, I knew what it was instantly," Sullivan said. "I cried, I felt like throwing up. I criticized myself, I said, 'What the hell is the matter with me? Am I so inarticulate? Do I not know how to write or speak? Why couldn’t I have prevented this? I’ve gotten over that, I know I did what I could."
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| June 29, 2010; 11:06 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues
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