A memorandum dated 24 December 2010 signed by TSA Director John Pistole and Deputy Administrator Gale Rossides was sent to all Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, praising the advances made by the TSA this year. Not all federal agents who received this memo were in agreement with the reported strides made by the TSA as Pistole alleges, with some calling the memo “pure propaganda” and “boldly inaccurate.” One problem, according to the federal officials interviewed about this memo, is that Pistole and Rossides misrepresented the facts to his employees about the public support the TSA has received about their enhanced screening procedures.
The TSA, an agency that never stopped an attack on any airline in its nine year history, nonetheless boasted to its employees that they kept air travel safe in 2010. In particular, Pistole expressed pride in the “outpouring of support” from the public over the Thanksgiving holiday and in the professional manner in which the TSA workforce handled the national “opt-out” day, a day when many air travelers planned protests of the enhanced passenger screening procedures.
Specifically, a significant number of air travelers selected the day before Thanksgiving to refuse screening by the new “AIT” (Advanced Imaging Technology) scanners or subjected to enhanced pat-downs, in order to send a message to the TSA that they’ve gone too far. As excerpted from the memo, Pistole and Rossides praised TSA agents with getting passengers through the screening process without incident and safely to their destination:
What Pistole and Rossides did not mention was what supervisors at the various TSA checkpoints knew in advance of the opt-out day, and what the corporate media failed to report: passengers were not subjected to those standards during that period to avoid air travel gridlock and the subsequent embarrassment that would likely ensue. Instead, they reverted to older screening standards, using older detectors in place of the AIT units, while conducting less intrusive pat-downs when necessary.
Not only does the memo skew facts of the public perception, Pistole also praised the TSA under his own “wise financial stewardship” of one billion dollars to purchase, deploy and implement “cutting edge technology” to airports, including 500 AIT units to airports nationwide:
These measures are being funded and directed by the Obama/Napolitano Department of Homeland Security with funds from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. The stimulus money is being poured into the purchase of new technology despite legitimate health and safety concerns it poses and amid the Constitutional concerns over privacy and the rights of American citizens to be protected from unreasonable searches.
Pistole was sworn in as the TSA’s fifth agency head in July. He oversees about 60,000 federal workers and employees, and the operations of over 450 U.S. airports, the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), and the security for highways, railroads, ports, mass transit systems and pipelines. A former deputy director for the FBI, Pistole is a primary architect with DHS Secretary Napolitano to expand the national “see something, say something” campaign, which is gaining in controversy by critics calling the program Orwellian in nature. Pistole, along with Napolitano, is also involved in thecontroversial Stasi-style Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR for short.
Readers might recall that the memo’s co-author, Gale Rossides was at the center of controversy in 2009, while she was the acting head of the TSA before Pistole was appointed. At a hearing of a House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee, she was questioned about a TSA Standard Operating Procedures screening manual being found online by bloggers. Rossides stonewalled Congress, and refused outright to provide subcommittee members the current version of the SOP manual or answer questions about the scope of the breach caused by the publication of the manual. She drew the ire of not only House subcommittee members, but of TSA agents with direct knowledge of the manual contents who stated that the gaffe unnecessarily caused a significant compromise to air travel.
Joe Hagmann, research specialist contributed to this report.
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