WASHINGTON — The third time was the charm for President Barack Obama to fill the top job at the Transportation Security Administration.
The Senate Friday confirmed John Pistole, the former deputy FBI director, to head the TSA. The vote was unanimous. Obama's first two choices to run the agency dropped out during their confirmation processes over the past year.
Pistole had a 27-year career with the FBI and rose through the ranks of its counterterrorism division. His background was touted as bringing an enhanced law enforcement perspective to the agency whose primary mission is to shore up the nation's defenses against terrorist threats in the air, on roads and rails.
The TSA was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and it's most well known for screening passengers at airports – a job that includes asking travelers to take off their shoes and for tossing liquids weighing more than 3.4 ounces. In 2008, TSA screeners got new uniforms and police-style metal badges, a move some say was intended to improve their image as law enforcement officers.
Obama's first choice for the post, Erroll Southers, withdrew his nomination after it became apparent he would have trouble winning confirmation. Questions were raised about a reprimand that Southers, a top official with the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, had received for running background checks on his then-estranged wife's boyfriend two decades ago. He acknowledged giving Congress inconsistent answers.
Obama then nominated Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, but he too took himself out of the running in March. Harding had extensive intelligence experience that Obama hoped to tap in fortifying security against attacks such as the Christmas Day airliner attack. But Harding's past as a defense contractor raised complications for his nomination.