The Transportation Security Administration chief-to-be Robert A. Harding said yesterday he wants to modify U.S. airport screening closer to the Israeli model to include more behavior detection to prevent terrorism plots, Reuters reported.
While the Israeli security system is smaller, it can offer a blueprint for trying to thwart terrorism plots in the aviation system, which has remained a target for militant groups such as al-Qaida.
“We should move even closer to an Israeli model where there’s more engagement with passengers,” Harding told the Senate Commerce Committee that is considering his nomination. “I think that increases the layers and pushes the layers out.”
TSA has about 2,000 behavioral-detection officers, and more training is needed, Harding said.
The top TSA position has been filled by an acting administrator since Obama took office in January 2009. His first pick for the job, Erroll Southers, withdrew from consideration when Republicans questioned whether he would try unionizing the personnel screening travelers and luggage at the nation’s airports.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the top Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, questioned Harding about the potential for the 48,000 screening officers unionizing.
“Previous TSA administrators have said that they would be very, very concerned about collective bargaining, not allowing the flexibility that you need to be able to deploy forces to a certain area of an airport or to a certain airport,” she said.
Harding said all sides agreed on the need for the TSA to have “flexibility” to move screeners fast to respond to a crisis and that he and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano agreed security was the primary priority.
“Again, we both agree, senator, that we would never bargain away security, but we probably also both agree that I would really need to do I think an in-depth and thorough review before I inform the secretary of my recommendation,” Harding said.