Federal agency would be forced to consider applications to remove TSA screeners.
Following House approval of the measure on Friday, the Senate is set to vote today on legislation that would allow U.S. airports to replace TSA workers with screeners from private companies, a move that could spell the beginning of the end for the highly unpopular federal agency’s role in airport security.
“The U.S. agency must allow airports to switch to private companies for screeners unless it can show the move wouldn’t be cost-effective and would be detrimental to security, according to the legislation, which if passed will go to President Barack Obama for his signature,” reports Businessweek.
“They’ve been trying to force the door open for several years,” Jeff Price, a Denver-based consultant who has written a textbook on aviation security, said of U.S. lawmakers. “It reverses the burden of proof. It is definitely trying to checkmate the TSA.”
At the height of the anti-TSA drive in late 2010, which coincided with a national full body scanner opt out day, a growing number of airports such as Orlando Sanford International began to exercise their right to replace TSA workers with private screeners.
The TSA soon put a stop to this in January 2011 by freezing the number of airports that could use private screeners, a figure that had climbed to 16. Orlando Sanford is one of the airports whose vetoed application to remove TSA screeners will have to be reconsidered under the new legislation.
More private security companies are expected to start up if the legislation passes, providing the additional benefit of adding tens of thousands of private sector jobs to the economy.
“You’ll see companies make themselves known,” said Price. “They’ll make sure every airport operator knows the rules have changed.”
The TSA’s involvement in airport security has become highly unpopular over the last two years, with the federal agency mired in one controversy after another, from its agents constantly caught stealing from travelers, to its mistreatment of children and the elderly, to its habitual lies about the safety of naked body scanners.
In September last year, a petition on the White House website that called for abolishing the TSA received almost 32,000 signatures, forcing TSA chief John Pistole to issue a response.
When Texas lawmakers attempted to pass a bill that would have outlawed the TSA’s “advanced pat down” procedures last year, the feds threatened to impose a no fly zone over the state and the measure was ultimately defeated.
Congress recently gave the green light for $24 million dollars in extra funding for the TSA’s VIPR program, which was responsible for conducting 9,300 unannounced checkpoints last year alone.
For anti-TSA activists, kicking the federal agency out of the nation’s airports will merely be the first step given that TSA workers have now been deployed to staff a network of internal checkpoints. The TSA is now conducting searches of Americans at train stations, bus depots, ferry ports, on highways and even at high school prom nights.
The federal agency was also responsible for training hot dog sellers and other vendors to spot terrorists at the recent Super Bowl, a story that attracted yet more derision from the national media.
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