Enforcement concerns at TSA for latest nominee, John Pistole

By: Jacob Goodwin

John Pistole with Eric Holder

If John Pistole, the current Deputy Director of the FBI and President Obama’s third selection to head the Transportation Security Administration, passes muster with the Senate and eventually takes the reins at TSA, he might want to look at some of the changes being woven into the fabric of the agency’s law enforcement and privacy activities.

Recent announcements by TSA reflect subtle shifts that have occurred in the past few years, which are now being formalized in the agency’s official record-keeping procedures:

TRIP -- TSA’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, or TRIP, which is intended to provide a one-stop mechanism for individuals to seek redress if they believe they have been unfairly denied or delayed boarding, denied or delayed entry into the U.S. or been identified for secondary screening, has begun to grow in popularity. In fact, TSA now estimates it will receive more than 32,000 such TRIP complaints per year, according to a Federal Register notice published by TSA on May 19.
ESCORTS – Revisions being made to TSA’s “Transportation Security Enforcement Record System,” which hasn’t been updated since 2004, will clarify that the agency plans to maintain records not only on all passengers who undergo security screening, but also on individuals who are not flying, but who are escorting minors or elderly passengers into the sterile screening area.
INDIRECT CARRIERS – TSA has for years listed a number of “routine uses” to which it might put its enforcement record system. It is now planning to add “indirect air carriers and other facility operators” to the list of recipients who might be given sensitive security information. That is because certain indirect air carriers and other facility operators may become involved in the effort to provide by August 2010 the 100 percent inspection of all cargo loaded onto passenger airlines that Congress has mandated.
PUBLIC RECORDS – The newly-revised record system will make clear that TSA plans to consult commercial and public record databases, as well as publicly-available Web sites, to gather background about individuals who wish to gain access to sterile areas at an airport or who want to become federal flight deck officers.
BROADER COVERAGE – Revisions to the record system will make it clear that TSA intends to maintain records of individuals who seek maritime or surface transportation facility access badges, as well as individuals seeking to become Certified Cargo Screening Program validators (a newly-devised position which will help TSA examine the worthiness of organizations seeking to screen cargo being placed on passenger aircraft.)
With decades of law enforcement experience behind him, Pistole is unlikely to be thrown by any of these low-key bureaucratic changes taking place at TSA, but it is never too early to get a pulse on the agency’s enforcement priorities.

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