On a Christmas Day flight from Amsterdam, a 23 year old student from Nigeria attempted to detonate an explosive on a flight to Detroit. This event is serving as more of a wake up call to politicians and national administrators than a panic stirring terrorist attack. One thing resulting from the attacks is the investigation into why we do not have a head to Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The attempted Christmas attack brings up a slew of questions that demand immediate answers.
“The president is looking for answers on this,” Denis McDonough, chief of staff of the White House National Security Council, told reporters Monday in Hawaii. McDonough said officials have begun to assemble information related to watch list procedures. As yet, no one has been named to oversee the watch list review, he said.
There is one major road block for the appointment of a TSA administrator: the Senate. Each and every appointment coming from the executive office or any administrative office has to go through the Senate. Currently, the TSA appointment has been delayed until the return from recess. After waiting eight months for the appointment from the White House, the Senate has yet to even set a date for the nomination hearing.
One Senator has even gone far enough to block further proceedings over a fear that the new selection would allow TSA workers to unionize. Former FBI agent and police detective Erroll Southers is the president’s pick for TSA chief. These appointments should be routine, yet are being delayed by politics.
TSA has been operating without a head for almost a full year. The result is an agency unable to muster the political pull to effectively change security standards. The revolving door standard of leadership has been dismissed in nearly every industry, why do we expect it to work in a government agency?
Others disagree with this assessment, suggesting that even if TSA had an activley appointed head the attempted attack on Christmas would still have happened.
Whether the attempted attack could have been prevented or not is no longer the issue at hand. The technology of TSA needs to take huge steps to catch up. The metal detector system used in airports dates back to the 1980’s.TSA receives copious amounts of data from and about passengers with no real way of categorizing or storing this data. Technology such as full body imaging scanners that looks beyond clothing would upgrade our current metal detectors. While overstepping privacy issues, these scanners would allow for complete security, even detecting underwear bombs. In reaction to the attempted attack, most airlines are restricting the last hour of flight time mandating passangers to be in their seats.
In addition to photo imaging sensors, a passenger database can be constructed to hold information about passengers. As citizens, we should begin to understand that while traveling privacy is second to security. We willingly give up information to Facebook and other social networking sites with less motivation and less consideration for safety.
The current Acting Administrator Gale D. Rossides, a Bush appointee, has been holding the train to the tracks. She is competent and knows the system well but is unwilling to take any chances. Her unwillingness to risk combined with her lack of political ties to the current administration makes her a sitting duck.
So now, after the Senate has voted on history making health care legislation should they not enable other agencies to make necessary changes as well?