TSA post mired in politics
An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — if there were one. The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.
Al-Qaida claim: A group called al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates in Yemen and was the target of a recent airstrike facilitated by the United States, asserted that it had sponsored the thwarted attack on Christmas Day on an American passenger jet. U.S. government officials said they considered the statement, which was posted on a jihadist Web site, credible. The Yemeni government said Monday the suspect in the failed bombing had spent four months there before leaving earlier in December.
Obama acts: Speaking in Hawaii where he is vacationing, President Obama said he had ordered his national- security team "to keep up the pressure" on terrorists and vowed to "use every element of our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us, whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks on the U.S. homeland."
Suspect's lawyer: The lawyer defending Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused of trying to blow up the Christmas Day flight, is no stranger to terrorism cases. Miriam Siefer, chief federal defender with the Federal Defender Office in Detroit, represented James Nichols when he was a suspect in the Oklahoma City bombing for which his brother Terry was convicted. Abdulmutallab, who is being held at the federal prison in Milan, Mich., is not due in court until Jan. 8, when U.S. District Judge Paul Borman is to hear arguments on whether the suspect should remain locked up pending trial. In Detroit, a scheduled hearing was canceled without explanation, but prosecutors continued their efforts to get a DNA sample from Abdulmutallab to match against evidence recovered from the plane.
International efforts: In Amsterdam, authorities acknowledged they are investigating claims that an accomplice may have helped Abdulmutallab board without a passport, possibly by claiming to be a Sudanese refugee. In Nigeria, authorities continued to gather information — and criminal evidence — after interviewing Abdulmutallab's family and friends and searching several locations. In Britain, Scotland Yard searched for clues as to who might have helped radicalize Abdulmutallab during his years there as an engineering student, ending in 2008.
Seattle Times news services
An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) — if there were one.
The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.
As al-Qaida claimed responsibility Monday for the thwarted attack and Obama made a public statement about it, Democrats urged DeMint to drop his objection and allow quick confirmation of nominee Erroll Southers, a counterterrorism expert, when the Senate reconvenes in three weeks.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announced a hearing to be set for next month to examine how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian whose name was in a terrorism database, boarded a plane with explosive material.
Meanwhile, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said in a statement that the TSA had grown lost and bloated in bureaucracy and called for a review.
Mica also said Congress "must change the process by which TSA administrators serve. There has been no TSA administrator for nearly a year, and the next one will be the fifth in eight years. Running a security agency with a revolving door is a recipe for failure."
Janet Napolitano, the head of the Department of Homeland Security, of which the TSA is part, made the rounds of morning television news programs Monday, backing away from her initial stance that the system had worked in averting attack.
She told NBC "our system did not work in this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."
Southers, a former FBI special agent, is the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence. He also is the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, and he served as a deputy director of homeland security for California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Two Senate committees have given Southers their bipartisan blessing. An acting administrator is in place pending his confirmation.
Marshall McClain, the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said the Senate should have acted sooner to confirm Southers.
"Friday's terrorist attack on U.S. aviation makes it all the more imperative that there be no further delays in filling this crucial position," he said.
DeMint said in a statement that the attempted attack "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA." He wants Southers to clarify his stand on unionizing the TSA, a shift Democrats support.
Without collective bargaining, DeMint said, the TSA has "flexibility to make real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security measures in response to this attempted attack."
If organized labor got involved, DeMint said, union bosses would have the power "to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports."
He urged Obama to "rethink" supporting unionizing the TSA "and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."
DeMint also wants a Senate floor debate and roll-call votes, not confirmation by consent as the Democrats sought.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hadn't scheduled a floor vote for Southers before the Senate left town Christmas Eve.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said Monday that the majority leader is working with the White House to get Southers confirmed "as quickly as possible" and charged that "Republican obstructionism has prevented TSA from having the leadership in place that the organization deserves."
DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said Obama didn't nominate Southers until September, and he charged that Reid was preoccupied "trading earmarks for votes on health care."
DeMint's objection creates a procedural hurdle that could take three days of debate and test votes to overcome, or could potentially be limited if Democrats offered DeMint a compromise. No one was taking a conciliatory stance Monday, however. Manley called DeMint's opposition "disgraceful."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(Courtesy of LeMay — America's Car Museum) New LeMay exhibit to look at NASCAR LeMay — America's Car Museum in Tacoma will look at the wil...
Post a comment