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Blunt amendment would preserve private non-TSA airport screeners
Blunt amendment would preserve private non-TSA airport screeners

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 3, 2011) — U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt offered an amendment on the U.S. Senate floor today that would require the federal government to approve the use of private security screeners within 30 days of a request and preserve airports' ability to choose the screening that they determine to be the best fit for the need of their airport and passengers.

The amendment, which was introduced under the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Bill, ends the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) new arbitrary cap on the private screening program and allows the program to continue to operate as it has for the last decade. Currently, the TSA has arbitrarily placed a self-imposed cap of 16 on the number of airports nationwide that can employ private screeners. Blunt helped negotiate and author the original legislation creating TSA in 2001 in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Congress clearly intended that this opt-out would be open to all airports," said Blunt. "I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the hardworking TSA screeners at the Springfield airport, but the law doesn't say that the TSA Administrator gets to stop the program whenever he decides he wants to."

As David A. Lieb of the Associated Press reported (click here for details), "Private contractors currently are used at just 16 of the nation's roughly 460 commercial airports... A woman in a wheelchair recently was left at a security checkpoint for 15 to 20 minutes by TSA employees, causing her to miss her flight, said airport spokesman Kent Boyd... Airport officials had expected it would take 12-18 months for the TSA to decide upon its request to use private screeners. Instead, the request got shot down in a matter of weeks."

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, KOLR/KSFX reported (click here for details), "The airport wants to opt out of TSA security and go to a private company... All of the federal guidelines will stay the same. You will still have to remove your shoes, get screened, and even patted down. TSA would oversee the private company financially, so it wouldn't cost the airport any money."

But two days later on Friday, Jan. 28, KOLR/KSFX noted TSA Administrator John Pistole's explanation for stopping the program (click here for details), in which he simply "decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time."

Recent reports have emerged in Florida and Montana that TSA has rejected applications from airports in Orlando (click here for details), Tampa (click here for details), and Glacier Park (click here for details).

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