Monday, January 4, 2010

Jan. 4: TSA Appointment Needs More Scrutiny (But Not For DeMint's Reason)

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The issue of whether Erroll Southers would allow unionization and collective bargaining by Transportation Security Administration employees is no reason to disqualify him from becoming director of the agency.

The issue of whether Southers has told the truth about what he did with an FBI computer more than 20 years ago is another story.

Going into the weekend, the primary issue was the holdup of Southers' nomination by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina. DeMint has been putting up a stop sign over Southers' refusal to suggest he would stop TSA employees from unionizing.

Since unions have played a strong role in improving work conditions in this country, one wonders what DeMint has against them. The assumption here is that his primary opposition is that unions tend to favor Democratic candidates for political office. Tsk, tsk, Senator.

A bigger matter - which DeMint and his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle should look more closely at - is what Southers has said about what he did when he was an FBI agent two decades ago. Separated from his wife, Southers did two computer searches to access records of her boyfriend.

However, Southers recently seems to have suffered from that Iran-Contra-style amnesia that afflicted members of the Reagan Administration two decades ago. In Southers' case, he didn't come clean from the beginning when he testified to Congress in his TSA confirmation hearings. He said he didn't remember. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Southers.

Especially after the Christmas Day scare on Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the issue of who heads the TSA needs to be resolved quickly. But the Senate also needs to ensure that person is above reproach. How about calling Southers back for one more hearing before the vote?

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