Disclosure : This post is a personal view point editorial
Since I began covering aviation security on the 15th of September 2001 I have spent a considerable amount of time dealing with the federal agencies that were involved with protecting airports and commercial aviation. When the primary responsibility of aviation security in the United States was turned over the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), under the Department of Transportation … and later the Department of Homeland Security … answers were always provided. Sometimes the answers have been “No Comment” or “We can’t answer that,” but at least there was some answer.
In my coverage of the TSA I have always worked hard to provide balanced coverage. While many see the TSA as an easy target, I have gone out of my way to ensure all sides of a story are covered. When the TSA is wrong, I write about it, when the TSA has been wronged, I write about. It is easy to take pot shots at the TSA, it is easy to paint the agency with a broad brush, but that is not why I cover the TSA. I cover the TSA because I have a significant interest in aviation security and the facts surrounding aviation security. This is why when others consistently write negatively about the TSA, I balance it, researching stories that are not designed to create an easy “sound bite” but to report what is really occurring.
Despite my balanced coverage of the TSA, the Office of Strategic Communications has recently taken to refusing to answer my question. For the past ten days there have been no answers from the Transportation Security Administration. Not one answer to my 45+ phone calls and emails seeking statements from the Office of Strategic Communications. The one phone call I received was to tell me I needed to contact a different department for a specific question.
I do not need the TSA Office of Strategic Communications to write my stories, I have enough contacts able to provide me with information, but I contact the Office of Strategic Communications to get the TSA’s official statement or point of view. I do this to ensure my coverage is responsible coverage.
Sometimes official statements lines up with the information I have, sometimes it does not … but now as TSA Administrator Pistole takes heat on The Hill for his actions regarding denying airports the option to opt out of using TSA screeners; the Administrator facing further challenges on The Hill regarding unionizing Transportation Security Officers; the agency testing new software in its advanced imaging technology scanners that it claims to have ‘developed’ despite L3 systems having already had the software in place for more than a year; Administrator Pistole facing potential internal conflicts and the agency moving forward in developing a three-tiered threat assessment program that facing significant hurdles …
… the TSA has gone silent.
Is it the TSA’s policy to ignore those who simply become inconvenient when asking questions? If so … why have my questions only now gone unanswered?
Why didn’t the TSA leave my questions unanswered after the TSA served me with an illegal subpoena regarding an “SSI” Security Director that was later dropped by the TSA in December 2009? Why not after I wrote about a TSA Security Directive that was SSI, three days before it was announced to the public? Why not after I pointed out massive holes in commercial airline cargo screening months before bombs were found in commercial cargo? Why not… well there are many times I have to wonder why the TSA didn’t turn a cold shoulder to answering my questions … but why now?
My questions to the TSA over the past ten days have primarily focused on the legality of Administrator Pistole’s blanket refusal to accept additional applications from airports, as well as the TSA’s new AIT scanner software they claim to have developed … despite L3 Communication Systems having already developed it, the potential backlash Pistole faces not only from The Hill but internally as well.
So … to the folks at the TSA’s Office of Strategic Communications who I have praised publicly so many times, at times by name … you have my number.
PS: Next time I call and ask you to confirm a meeting is underway … and tell you I have a first hand source who is at the meeting confirming it … don’t deny the meeting is taking place while you’re drafting a press release regarding the meeting. Just say “we can’t confirm that.”