When John Pistole was tapped to become the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Administrator, while serving at the Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), many had high hopes for his leadership of the controversial and poorly guided agency.
Prior to joining the TSA, on the 25th of June 2010 Pistole was highly respected in law enforcement, known for his civil rights stance and for standing up against coercive interrogation tactics at Guantanamo Bay’s detention facility. Pistole’s credentials to lead the TSA were ideal in almost every way. However less than half-a-year after taking office as the TSA’s Administrator, many who believed Pistole would lead the agency in the direction of regaining the trust and respect the agency desires, many have come to believe Pistole was merely using the TSA as a stop gap to wait until the FBI Director position became available.
With Pistole’s eyes set on the prize of desiring the FBI Director position he set into motion a series of actions and comments intended to show his strength and power as the leader of the TSA, but instead these actions are coming at a high price. The price for Pistole’s comments and actions are pushing public opinion against him and angering the very people on The Hill who unanimously appointed him to his position as TSA Administrator.
It appears as if Pistole has almost given up trying to retain his reputation of standing up for civil rights. Public comments from the TSA Administrator, such as “Submit or don’t fly,” and his November 16th 2010 public statements to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that TSA Transportation Security Officers at the nation’s airports are not going to back down in the face of complaints that techniques are invasive, did not endear him to those who have the power to remove him from his position.
Following Pistole’s stance that his tactics are the most effective tactics, despite experts questioning his actions and policy, along with substantial research that other techniques may be more effective. Pistole’s professional swan song may be his last action in stating that he decided to not review any further applications of airports seeking to privatize their security screening. Pistole’s comments regarding airports applying for private security, instead of TSA security, appear to go against an Act of Congress. Further fueling the back lash in the wake of Pistole’s decision regarding airports being allowed to opt out of TSA security, is that this important and divisive decision appears to have been made without consulting or notifying a number of key people in the TSA.
Pistole’s cowboy attitude as the TSA Administrator calls his judgment into question, as well as also his character as a person able to effectively lead a major national agency.
Administrator Pistole has been through a lot in these past seven months … can he now salvage himself from the image he has created for himself? Not only is Pistole’s professional future on the line … but so is the future of the very agency he oversees.