Airports are being asked to consider private screeners to replace TSA

TSA officers give a demonstration of the first Advanced Imaging Technology unit at John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal 8 passenger security checkpoint on October 22, 2010 in the Queens borough of New York City. The new backscatter X-ray full-body scanners, which are optional, can see through clothing and will screen passengers for metallic and non-metallic threats including explosives.

3>TEXT OF INTERVIEW

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: With the holidays coming up, it's about to get even busier at the nation's airports. That means long security lines with controversial pat-downs and full body screens. The vast majority of airport screeners are government Transportation Security Administration employees.

But Congressman John Mica, a Republican from Florida who's likely the incoming Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent letters to the some of the country's biggest airports asking them to request private security screeners instead. That would have a huge impact on air travel.

Congressman Mica is with us right now -- and coincidentally enough -- he's traveling today. Congressman, welcome to Marketplace.

JOHN MICA: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Where are you right now.

MICA: I just managed to make it through Ronald Reagan National Airport security screening to a gate without getting groped.

CHIOTAKIS: Is that your biggest beef with the TSA -- the patdowns -- these intense patdowns or the full-body screeners?

MICA: That's only the sort of tip of the iceberg. I'm very concerned about the blow to beurocracy. 67,000 people, 3,590 administrative personal just in Washington D.C. of the agency I see spiralling out of control.

CHIOTAKIS: What's the alternative, Sir?

MICA: First we've got to make certain that there's proper administration in place. Then we need to start taking apart the administrative beaurocacy -- start focusing our resources and our best efforts on what are security threats rather than shaking down little old ladies and putting new directives in place that may or may not make sense.

CHIOTAKIS: Why go with a private firm. Wasn't that a big complaint after 9/11 -- that security at airports was lacks because these screeners were from the private sector and didn't get paid very well?

MICA: The screeners didn't fail. It was the federal government who was messing around -- not putting any protocols in place. The federal government didn't ban box cutters so what's failed wasn't that model. It was again the federal government and they're doing the same thing all over again.

CHIOTAKIS: I've got to ask you this Congressman. What do you say to anyone who questions your motives given the money that you've taken from a lot of these private security firms.

MICA: First of all, that's a lot of junk that's put out. So what they did is take 18 years of contribution from two major corporations in my state that only recently have gotten in the business. I never have, never will, or never intend to recommend anyone for that kind of position. But that service is available and I think airports need to know about. And it could be part of I think a better model in the future.

CHIOTAKIS: Congressman John Mica, Republican of Florida, thank you very much for joining us today.

MICA: Good to be with you and thank you.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...