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Context of 'February 2002: Transportation Security Administration Takes Over Airport Security, but Is Heavily Criticized'

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), created in late 2001 in the wake of 9/11, takes over passenger screening duties at US airports from private contractors. This step will come in for some criticism; for example journalists Joe and Susan Trento will write: “The $700 million annual business was replaced by a $6 billion budget in a new federal agency. Instead of twenty thousand low-paid private screeners, the country ended up with fifty-five thousand well-compensated government screeners.” They will also point out: “The law that President Bush signed included a provision that only American citizens would be allowed to work for the TSA. This meant that even legal green-card holders waiting for citizenship could not be hired. Thousands and thousands of competent and experienced screeners who had protected airline passengers over several decades were told they were no longer trusted.” Ed Soliday, former head of security at United Airliners, will comment, “The congressional nationalization of security at our nation’s airports turned out as everyone who had experience in providing security predicted—very expensive and ineffective.” Former head of security at the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Cathal Flynn will say: “Firing those Indians, South Americans, others who were doing good jobs was wrong.… When you think about it, the illogic of it is fierce.” Another security expert will say, “Thirty-five thousand people lost their jobs for no reason whatsoever other than the majority of them were minorities and foreigners and did not look and speak the way Americans would typically like, which would be a white male West Point cadet standing at every screen.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 165-6] A 2004 review will find that the new, better-paid screeners are worse than the old ones who are fired at this time (see Spring 2004).

Entity Tags: Joseph Trento, Ed Soliday, Susan Trento, Transportation Security Administration, Cathal Flynn

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

At a Congressional hearing, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials admit that almost half of the background checks for US airport screeners have still not been completed. Of the 30,000 screeners who have been checked, 1,200 were fired. Even scores of federal air marshals have been put on leave for discrepancies in background checks. [Time, 7/8/2003]

Entity Tags: Transportation Security Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Five undercover agents posing as passengers and would-be terrorists manage to get weapons through security checkpoints at Logan Airport in Boston. The agents, sent by Department of Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin, take knives, a bomb, and a gun through checkpoints in different terminals. The Transportation Security Administration says that such exercises are useful for spotting holes in airport security, but the Boston Globe writes, “The fact that such weapons made it past checkpoints two years after an overhaul of airport security is likely to be seen as a serious indictment of the government’s efforts to protect air travel from terrorists.” Ervin then orders similar tests at 15 airports, but the problems are also apparent at some of these other airports. For example, at Newark, from which Flight 93 departed on 9/11, screeners miss one in four test bombs or weapons. [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 171-2]

Entity Tags: Clark Kent Ervin, Transportation Security Administration, US Department of Homeland Security

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Following tests of the standard of security at US airports (see October 9, 2003), the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and a private company provide a series of classified briefings to the House Aviation Subcommittee, saying the security is currently lax, bureaucratic, and no better than it was 17 years ago. After the briefings, committee chairman John Mica (R-FL) says, “We have a system that doesn’t work.” Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who supported the federal takeover of airport security, says, “The inadequacies and loopholes in the system are phenomenal.” A 2006 book by investigative reporters Joe and Susan Trento will say that the new federal screeners are “much worse” than the old private ones. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official will say that the “private sector was held to a standard of somewhere between 80 to 90 percent” for weapons detection, but now at one airport “they ran eight [tests] and we missed four of them.” He will add, “But what is really alarming to me is that they said we’re above the national average so they recognize you for a job well done.” Another official will complain about the lack of testing in the federal system, saying that the new screeners even have difficultly recognizing explosives when they appear on a screen, “And when you run an actual [improvised explosive device], they don’t know what it is.” The Trentos will attribute some of the blame to the way the security staff are trained, noting, “the TSA certifies and tests itself and classifies the results as secret.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 172-4]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Office, US Department of Homeland Security, Susan Trento, Transportation Security Administration, Clark Kent Ervin, John Mica, Joseph Trento, Peter DeFazio

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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