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TSA author wants agency disbanded

Florida Representative John Mica (R), author of the legislation that created the Transportation Security Administration, has now called for its dissolution ten years later.

Rep. Mica is Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and has also been in the news of late owing to his role in the brief shutdown of the FAA last month over the costs involved in the Essential Air Services program.

He now believes that the TSA should be shut down and replaced by private sector employees, a condition that prevailed prior to 9/11 and was blamed for lax enforcement that made the attacks possible. Citing the TSA’s 9 billion dollar cost and payroll of over 62,000 he commented that “They’ve failed to actually detect any threat in 10 years,” and he gives the organization a grade of D-.

Entirely reactive

In a statement that echoes the assessment of many others, he noted that, "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...It's an agency that is always one step out of step."

He is also troubled by the recent dismissal of TSA staff caught either failing to do a proper job or actually charged with crimes such as theft or abetting drug smugglers. He would replace the vast army of screeners with private employees while the government’s role would be to have a much smaller force, perhaps only 6000, fully committed to intelligence and threat assessment.

Not fully trusted, even by aircrews

It is also clear, given the number of false alarms of late, some even involving the diversion of aircraft, that passengers and crew still are suspicious. While all the “threats” have been incorrectly identified and innocent passengers have been embarrassed and falsely accused, it is clear that by raising alarms after departure, airline staff don’t trust that TSA methods are adequate.

While no one would assume that big changes will be forthcoming in the near term, new emphasis on both fiscal restraint and ongoing complaints of civil right violations may make the agency untenable as it now exists.

Embarrassing soul-searching ahead

Given the decade-long call for increased measures to “make flying safe”, it will take both political will and some clever explanations to dismantle the TSA. However, the fact that one of its authors now feels it has become unworkable and a liability will certainly move the process along.