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Sat, Dec 17, 2011

Pistole Responds To 'We The People' Petition To Abolish TSA

Defends Agency To The 30-Thousand Plus Who Have Electronically Signed The Document

An online petition created on the White House 'We The People' site in September calls for the dismantling of TSA, and it's shown to be one of the most popular petitions on the site. After gathering more than 30-thousand signatures, the head of the agency, Robert Pistole, has responded on the TSA blog.

The petition, which was created September 22, states:

The Transportation Security Administration has been one of the largest, most expensive and most visible blunders of the post-9-11 homeland security reformation. It has violated countless constitutional rights of average Americans, caused miserable and expensive delays in an already-overburdened air travel system, and allowed multiple known instances of harassment, theft, extortion and sexual abuse by its employees. It has failed approximately 70% of undercover efficacy tests, and for all its excesses, has been unable to catch even a single terrorist since its creation. In our current economic situation, we can no longer afford to continue wasting taxpayer dollars on this kafkaesque embarrassment. Let us instead invest in saner, more effective solutions.

TSA Administrator John Pistole responded on the site this week, saying The men and women of the "have a challenging, but critical mission, and they take their jobs very seriously. TSA understands that the terrorist threat remains real and continues to evolve, as evidenced by the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day 2009 and the disrupted air cargo bomb plot last year."

Pistole says TSA was created two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. Over the past 10 years, he says, "TSA has strengthened security by creating successful programs and deploying technologies that were not in place prior to September 11, while also taking steps whenever possible to enhance the passenger experience."

Pistole writes that TSA uses intelligence in real-time to strengthen security and share key information with state, local, and international partners, to ensure they can respond to evolving threats. He says that 100 percent of passengers flying to, from, and within the United States are prescreened against terrorist watch lists under TSA's Secure Flight program. In addition, employees with access to airports and ports, and those who transport higher risk materials, are vetted to ensure a secure environment, and that 100 percent of carry-on and checked baggage are screened for dangerous items including explosives. TSA has also deployed explosives-detection canine teams. The teams are used to detect explosives and deter terrorism in aviation, mass transit, and cargo environments.

As part of its multi-layered approach to security, TSA uses Advanced Imaging Technology and Automated Target Recognition software to detect metallic and nonmetallic threats, including weapons and explosives concealed under layers of clothing on passengers. Using Advanced Technology X-ray, Bottled Liquid Scanners and Explosives Trace Detection (ETD) Technology, TSA can more efficiently and effectively screen checked and carry-on bags for potential threats.

Pistole says TSA is working to enhance its risk-based, intelligence-driven security initiatives to strengthen security while continuing to improve the passenger experience whenever possible. Current efforts include: changing the way TSA screens passengers ages 12 and under, evaluating the expanded use of behavior detection techniques, and piloting expedited screening for known travelers. Efficiencies gained by implementing more risk-based security methods allow us to make the best possible use of the resources to secure air travel.

Additionally, new software has been deployed to further strengthen privacy protections by eliminating passenger-specific images on Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. The new software has been installed on all millimeter wave AIT units currently in airports, with plans to test and deploy similar software for backscatter units in 2012.

"Our Nation is safer and better prepared today because of these and other efforts of the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, and our Federal, state, local and international partners," Pistole says. "TSA is constantly identifying ways to continue to strengthen security and improve the passenger experience and appreciates the feedback of the public."

FMI: www.tsa.gov, Online Petition

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