Washington (CNN) - There was little debate about job qualifications and more talk about whether screeners at the nation's airports should be able to unionize during Thursday's confirmation hearing for the president's latest nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration.
John Pistole, currently deputy director of the FBI, generally received praise for his law enforcement experience, but several Republican senators - including South Carolina's Jim DeMint, who placed a hold on an earlier nominee for the same reason - pressed Pistole to oppose allowing airport screeners to unionize.
Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson told Pistole she is "adamantly against" allowing screeners to join unions.
"You can't have eight hour days," said Hutchinson. "You have to be able to respond to emergencies."
Pistole did not express an opinion on whether TSA workers should be able to unionize but told the senators that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has asked him to study the issue.
Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to become the new head of the Transportation Security Administration.
The position has been vacant since Obama became president in January 2009, with an acting head in place. Two previous Obama nominees have withdrawn from consideration due to Republican opposition and controversial issues.
Pistole has been FBI deputy director since October 2004, and previously helped lead the investigation of the Egypt Air Flight 990 crash off Rhode Island in 1999.
"The talent and knowledge John has acquired in more than two decades of service with the FBI will make him a valuable asset to our administration's efforts to strengthen the security and screening measures at our airports," Obama said in a written statement. "I am grateful that he has agreed to take on this important role, and I look forward to working with him in the weeks and months ahead."
Washington (CNN) - A key association of law enforcement officers urged the White House Tuesday to tap the country's federal air marshal director to head the Transportation Security Administration.
The TSA, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, does not have a permanent director. Two Obama administration nominees have withdrawn from consideration for the post. The second nominee withdrew his name from consideration last week after acknowledging that his security company overbilled the government for work performed in Iraq in 2004.
"TSA cannot continue to operate on auto-pilot," said Jon Adler, head of the 25,000-member Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. "The leadership void needs to be filled now by an experienced nominee."
Adler recommended Robert Bray, who has been head of the Federal Air Marshal Service since June 2008. Bray had a 20-year career with the Secret Service in which he was assigned to offices in Denver, Colorado; Palm Springs, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma and Washington D.C.
Bray "has the requisite aviation security skill set that the position of TSA administrator demands," Adler said.
Maj. Gen. Robert Harding, the White House's second nominee for the post, withdrew from consideration Friday shortly after acknowledging that he made "mistakes" when a company he formed overbilled the government in 2004.
(CNN) - Maj. Gen. Robert Harding said Friday that, "with deep regret," he has withdrawn his name from nomination to lead the Transportation Security Administration.
"This was a great honor, and I felt that I could bring some leadership, vision and intelligence expertise to that position," he said in a statement. "Ultimately, my goal was to improve the security of our nation's transportation systems. However, I feel that the distractions caused by my work as a defense contractor would not be good for this administration nor for the Department of Homeland Security."
The TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
White House Spokesman Nicholas Shapiro noted that Harding has more than 35 years of military and intelligence experience, and added, "The President is disappointed in this outcome but remains confident in the solid team of professionals at TSA."
At a hearing on Wednesday, Harding acknowledged "making mistakes" when a company he formed overbilled the government in 2004.
Washington (CNN) - Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's second nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration side-stepped questions Wednesday about whether he supports unionizing the nation's 40,000 airport screeners, but acknowledged the president's support for unionization of screeners and said any such plan should be done in a way that would not hurt national security.
Treading lightly on a topic that helped to derail the president's first nominee, Robert Harding likened his role to those of presidential appointees who are advising the president on closing Guantanamo Bay or allowing gays in the military.
"My recommendations would be very unbiased, they would be very factual and I think that's what I owe the secretary (of Homeland Security) and the president," Harding said.
Washington (CNN) - President Obama has tapped a former Army general to lead the Transportation Security Administration, sources have told CNN.
Obama plans to nominate Robert A. Harding, a retired major general with 33 years in the Army, to become the TSA administrator, sources said. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will announce the nomination Monday with Harding by her side, according to one administration official.
"The TSA administrator is the most important unfilled post in the Obama administration," one administration official said. "Mr. Harding has the experience and perspective to make a real difference in carrying out the mission of the agency."
"If there was ever a nominee that warranted expedited, but detailed, consideration in the Senate, this is it," the official said.
(CNN) - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, among those opposed to former TSA nominee Erroll Southers, issued the following statement on Southers' withdrawal:
"Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics. The White House never responded to requests for more information relating to Mr. Southers false testimony to Congress and his censure by the FBI for improperly accessing files. And Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports. TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes. The Senate could have had an open and transparent debate this week to approve Mr. Southers, but apparently, answering simple, direct questions about security and integrity were too much for this nominee. I hope the President will quickly put forward a new nominee that is fully vetted and that will put the safety of the American people first."
Washington (CNN) - The Obama administration's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, according to the White House.
Erroll Southers, assistant chief for homeland security and intelligence at Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, was nominated for the post by President Barack Obama in early September.
He came under fire from the GOP for testimony before Congress in which Senate Republicans claim he gave incomplete information about accessing a federal database for personal reasons. The move led to a censure from the FBI.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, also spearheaded GOP objections to Southers based on concerns over the TSA becoming unionized.
Washington (CNN) - Just days after serving subpoenas to two travel bloggers, the Transportation Security Administration late Thursday withdrew the subpoenas, saying its investigation into how they received a sensitive security directive "is nearing a successful conclusion."
With little explanation, the TSA withdrew subpoenas to bloggers Steve Frischling and Chris Elliott seeking information on how they obtained a December 25 security directive. The directive, which had been sent to every airline and airport in the United States, ordered precautions following the failed terrorist attack on Northwest flight 253.
The TSA acknowledged in a previous statement to CNN it was investigating the leak and publication of the document, saying "Security Directives are not for public disclosure."
Frischling, founder of The Travel Strategist blog, said TSA agents came to his Connecticut home Tuesday evening to question him about his source, leaving for a brief time to go to Wal-Mart to buy a hard drive in a failed effort to copy his hard drive that night.
The agents returned Wednesday morning and left with his laptop computer, Frischling said. Frischling said the agents threatened to call a client - an airline - and to have them sever his contract, saying that he was a security threat.