National answer not right
May 22, 2003
The government-employed airport screener who inspected the contents of your purse or briefcase at the security checkpoint may have a criminal record and either the government doesn’t know that yet, or has found out but hasn’t done anything about it.
Chalk it up as a consequence of nationalizing airport security.
According to recent media reports, federal officials are now scrambling to complete background checks on screeners who were rushed into the job so that federal control of baggage screening could be in place at the nation’s 424 commercial airports by Nov. 19.
But here it is some six months after that deadline and still 40 percent of the federal airport screeners — 22,000 of the 55,000 — have yet to undergo complete criminal background checks, according to the chairman of the House Transportation aviation subcommittee, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla.
Mica told The Associated Press recently that, “it’s part of the problem of establishing what’s turned out to be the biggest bureaucracy in the name of security since World War II.”
The fact that Congress created the biggest bureaucracy in the name of security since WWII is the problem.
Here’s how the federal system has been working. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Transportation Security Administration “lost background questionnaires, failed to run some employee fingerprints through a national crime database and was unable to complete background checks” of screeners at Los Angeles International Airport.
The Washington Post reported that 240 out of 650 screeners at Dulles International Airport are being called in for in-person background meetings. “It’s a 200-(person)-plus security breach,” a TSA employee told the Post.
WABC-TV in New York recently reported on several arrests of New York-area airport screeners for grand larceny and one for possession of a Mach-10 machine gun. One woman accused a TSA screener of stealing $6,000 from her during a security check.
A Port Authority Police union official told the station: “You’re not in sight of where your wallet is, or pocketbook or bags. If they’re good, they’ll do you, they’ll do you in a heartbeat.”
But even if screeners were found to have criminal backgrounds, it hasn’t necessarily meant they were fired. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said it was discovered that more than 50 screeners at JFK had criminal records, but only about two-dozen have been shown the door.
While the TSA says it’s moving quickly to cover its tracks on the lapsed criminal background checks for screeners already on the job in sensitive security areas, the agency also faces challenges from unions that want to organize screeners, even though they would be prohibited from collective bargaining.
It wouldn’t do much good to say this system never should have been federalized to begin with — that if private security agencies were doing the job with strict guidelines and oversight, this breach wouldn’t have been this astounding and if it did occur, heads would roll and someone would be held accountable.
But this is what happens when Congress and the administration rush to “do something” in the wake of a disaster and turn to more government control and more government spending for the answer. They just wind up creating other problems with dire consequences that get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.