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TSA Is 'Far Behind The Curve' On Security, Lawmaker Says

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TSA Is 'Far Behind The Curve' On Security, Lawmaker Says


TSA Is 'Far Behind The Curve' On Security, Lawmaker Says

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Congressman John Mica, of Florida, is among those who say that TSA security measures are overly intrusive. He is the Republican leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and he's expected to head that committee when the new Congress is sworn in. I asked congressman Mica to respond to something TSA administrator John Pistole told me last week.

Pistole said: We know these threats to airline security are real. And he considers full body scans and pat-downs an appropriate response. Not so, says congressman Mica.

Representative JOHN MICA (Republican, Florida): First of all, I think Mr. Pistole knows that what they're doing really doesn't even address the current threats. We've gone beyond this. This is the diaper bomber, and this is the Chechen bomber from some time ago.

The threats now - you've got this group who's pretty sophisticated, that's done some of these things. They can surgically implant this equipment; our pat-down will not detect that. And they're already looking at other means - for example, exploding cargo aircraft over populated areas. So they're so far behind the curve, I don't even like to think about it.

BLOCK: Do you accept, congressman Mica, though, that some level of privacy will have to be sacrificed for airplane screening?

Rep. MICA: Well, I think the people who should be exposed to that are not the average American fliers. It has to be a very targeted, limited group that we're going after. We're spending all of our time screening and re-screening some of the same people: pilots, crews, frequent fliers.

BLOCK: Congressman Mica, you mentioned that one thing you want is more targeted screening of airline passengers. The concern there, of course, is that that inevitably leads to profiling of the entire group.

Rep. MICA: Yeah, it doesn't have to. Incidentally, most of the terrorist threats have started in foreign locations, where we only have a handful of personnel and equipment. Remember the shoe bomber; where did he start? The liquid bomber was from U.K.; the latest one, the diaper bomber - all started somewhere else.

Now, you got to keep your domestic effort up, but let's also target and use resources facility. I have 3,590 administrative personnel making $105,000 on average in Washington, D.C. Let's get those people out of those offices, use some of those resources where the threat is coming from and use some professional people who can spot the type of behavior, who can identify some of these individuals, or who can make a thinking decision that you don't have to grope a 10-year-old or somebody with a colostomy bag.

BLOCK: When you're talking about screening, domestically targeted screening, who would you screen for, then? What would that group be?

Rep. MICA: Well, again, we have a watch list. And I haven't been briefed on how bad that is, but I can tell you, we've had problems with it. So there's a limited number of people that we're looking for.

Secondly, I asked for a model - and again, this has been messed up - of behavior analysis, which we use with customs officials, which we use with other enforcement folks. But they took that model, and they distorted it. It's not the person who's inspecting the ticket and the documentation that is doing the behavior analysis; it's a stand-off person.

Now, we've made some of them, but they've distorted even the Israeli or European model of identifying bad guys, and subjecting those people who pose some threat through sometimes simple - question. You can identify who might need additional check rather than, again, bothering little old ladies, veterans and children.

BLOCK: Congressman Mica, I wonder if someone listening to this would say we are just minimizing a very real threat right now - that al-Qaida is known to want to target commercial aircraft, and that it's not necessarily a bad thing to have layers of redundancy when you're facing a threat of that magnitude.

Rep. MICA: Well, I think they're right. And I will be the first to tell you, these folks are intent on destroying some segment of our aviation industry. We've got to focus our resources, stay one step ahead of them. So we've got to look at what we're doing, see what makes sense and then also, the bang for the taxpayer dollars. I don't mind spending the money, but it's got to be spent -in whatever model we adopt - it's got to be the very best as far as performance. That's all I care about.

BLOCK: Congressman Mica, thank you very much.

Rep. MICA: Great to be with you.

BLOCK: That's congressman John Mica, of Florida. Hes the Republican leader of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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