TSA union chief calls for new class of agents to be armed at airports
The call for armed agents comes in the aftermath of Friday’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that left one TSA agent killed and two others injured.
Los Angeles Times
Relatives of suspect “shocked”
Relatives of Paul Ciancia, the suspect charged in last week’s Los Angeles airport shooting, offered sympathy Monday to the family of the TSA officer who was killed, saying they were “shocked and numbed” by the deadly rampage.
“Paul is our son and brother. We will continue to love him and care for him and support him during the difficult times ahead,” said the statement read by family lawyer John Jordan outside the town hall in Pennsville, N.J., a working-class town near Wilmington, Del., where Ciancia grew up.
The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — The president of the union representing more than 45,000 Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents urged Congress and the agency Monday to create a new class of officers that would be armed.
J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 45,000 TSA agents, said the “sad truth is that our TSA officers are subject to daily verbal assaults and far too frequent physical attacks.”
“At this time, we feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step in improving security,” Cox said in a statement.
“The development of a new class of TSA officers with law-enforcement status would be a logical approach to accomplishing this goal.”
The statement comes in the aftermath of Friday’s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) that left one TSA agent killed and two others injured.
The suspect in the shooting, 23-year-old Paul Ciancia, was targeting federal security officers, authorities said.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the investigation into the shooting will also look at security at LAX and other airports.
“The function of TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely and take flights safely,” Holder said. “The responsibility for protecting airport security is not a TSA function but something I think we need to certainly examine.”
At a news conference over the weekend, TSA Administrator John Pistole said his agency’s review will include the question of whether its agents should be armed (they are not presently).
The idea of arming TSA agents has been raised before, according to aviation-security consultant Stewart Verdery, a former Department of Homeland Security official who was involved with the creation of the airport-screening agency.
“We know that there are people that don’t like the government, and TSA is a whipping boy for people angry about the overreach of the government,” Verdery said. “And we also know that terrorists are fascinated with aviation. It puts them on the front lines.”
He said the decision not to arm agents was made because protecting the airport is not their primary mission. “You want to spend your time training TSA officers to look for dangerous weapons and dangerous people,” he said.
He noted that arming the agents would come at a high cost. The average annual cost of a TSA agent is less than half the cost of an armed law-enforcement officer.