Pistole Named to Head Airport Security Agency

The Senate has confirmed the appointment of John Pistole to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Pistole is a 27-year FBI veteran with significant experience in counterterrorism, but has been criticized for his lack of direct experience in aviation-related security. His confirmation ends an 18-month search that saw two prior nominees rejected by Congress. The issue of collective bargaining for TSA employees was cited as the stumbling point for the other nominees, but Pistole sailed through the confirmation hearings with strong support from both sides of the aisle. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, said, "As a career law-enforcement official, Mr. Pistole is the right person for this demanding post." The TSA, formed largely to handle airport security issues after the 9/11 attacks, has been criticized both for long security lines at major airports and also for its ineffectiveness in the case of the failed "Christmas Day bomber" on a flight to Detroit. The TSA is also under fire for the way it has implemented a new passenger screening program called "SPOT" in which agents are trained to perceive suspicious behavior. Cathal Flynn, former head of security for the FAA, said of Pistole, "He's going to really need to take stock: What do we know about how well the system is working?"

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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