Balking At The TSA

  • Share
  • Read Later
The uniformed screeners from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have become familiar sights to air travelers across the country. But not all airport officials are happy to have them around. Nevada's Elko Regional Airport last week became the first airport in the country to apply to get rid of TSA screeners altogether and return to private employees. The airport, which handles just 15 flights a day, has 14 screeners. Elko director Cris Jensen said there were no problems with the government screeners, but he feels his airport can do the same job more efficiently by better matching its personnel with demand. Dozens of other small airports are expected to apply for a similar exemption in the coming weeks.

The nation's airlines, meanwhile, are bridling under a new directive from the TSA that takes effect this week. In what the TSA says is an effort to gather all security information in a central clearinghouse to track trends, the agency is demanding that carriers "immediately" report to the TSA each incident that could be considered a security threat. The airlines already report security concerns to the TSA. But they say that being forced to report even minor incidents—and first to the TSA rather than the FBI, which has both the legal jurisdiction to handle crimes aboard aircraft and more experienced aviation-security agents—is unnecessary and will add delays. "The TSA has no idea what they are getting into," says one airline-industry source. "The airlines get thousands of crank calls a year, and there are thousands more disruptive passengers who turn out to be drunks, not terrorists." Ken Maxwell, a former counterterrorism official who is now vice president of security for JetBlue Airways, says he is "very concerned" that the new TSA rules will hinder security.

The TSA says the move is part of an ongoing effort to refine its system for dealing with potential security threats. "It is important that concerns be shared quickly," says Mark Hatfield, a TSA spokesman, "and the TSA is the agency responsible for the security of the entire transportation system."