May 17th, 2010
03:55 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama nominates FBI official to head Transportation Security

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 Two previous Obama nominees have withdrawn from consideration due to Republican opposition and controversial issues.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."

Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano immediately endorsed Pistole, calling him uniquely qualified for the job that involves counter-terrorism efforts.

"John's national security and counterterrorism expertise will be a great asset to the Department in our efforts to enhance the security of our vital transportation systems," Napolitano said in a statement.

Two senators involved in security issues - Republican Susan Collins of Maine and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut - also praised Pistole as a sound choice.

"Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, he has been on the forefront of our nation's fight against terrorism," Collins said in a statement, while Lieberman said Pistole "understands the threat of terrorism as well as anyone in the government."

The TSA, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, oversees national aviation safety. It has 60,000 employees, including the approximately 50,000 Transportation Security Officers who provide security at airport screening checkpoints and elsewhere.

Napolitano's statement said that if confirmed by the Senate, Pistole would oversee the Homeland Security Department's "ongoing efforts to secure the nation's aviation networks, railroads, ports and mass transit systems, security operations for 450 federalized airports throughout the nation, and the Federal Air Marshal Service."

The position has proven difficult to fill for Obama. His two previous nominees, Los Angeles Airport police department official Erroll Southers and retired Maj. Gen. Robert Harding both removed themselves from consideration for the post.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, put a hold on Southers' nomination after Southers declined to say whether he supported unionization of airport screeners. Southers eventually withdrew his name from consideration after another controversy erupted involving a decades-old personnel matter.

Harding, withdrew his name from consideration in March after acknowledging that his security company overbilled the government for work performed in Iraq in 2004.

At that time, the head of the 25,000-member Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Jon Adler, said the TSA "cannot continue to operate on autopilot."

On Monday, Adler said his organization fully supports Pistole's nomination.

"Since the last two nominees withdrew, we re-emphasized to Secretary Napolitano the need to select someone who combines a national law enforcement background with credible intel[ligence] experience," Adler said in an e-mail to CNN. "We are appreciative of her responsiveness to our recommendation. Deputy Director Pistole possesses the necessary skill set to lead TSA forward from a position of strength."

Updated: 7:12 p.m.

- CNN's Mike Ahlers contributed to this story.

Filed under: Homeland Security • Obama administration • TSA
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Doesn't matter, some gutless senate republican will put a secret hold no the nomination.

    May 17, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Great. Just what we need. A deputy director of what amounts to the American Gestapo in charge of who gets to fly in America.

    ("Gestapo" was an acronym for the German phrase "Geheime Staatspolizei" or "Secret State Police." Not an exact translation of "Federal Bureau of Investigation," but not far from it.)

    May 17, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    The Greedy Obstructionist Purifier (DeMented) will put a hold on it.

    ALL US security positionsand laws backlogged because Demented wants Obama's waterloo. NATIONaL SECURITY sidetracked by Demented.

    May 17, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. sewingsailor

    Hey whiners – quit 'cher whining and get back to work - work HARDER - there's 20 Mil more depending on you! "Yes you did!"

    May 17, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    Like all of the Obozo appointments, I am sure this one has a criminal past, or is some marxist, dedicated to protecting the rights of his dope smoking, non working constituents, rather than protecting working Americans, but that won't make any difference to the libertards that CNN provides a lunatic home for in these pages.

    May 17, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Henry Miller PHD is an idiot

    Henry, you are a complete dope. i am assuming your PHD is in interpretive dance since you tend to lack any real coherent thoughts. loved your garbage regarding the tax rates. your numbers were so far off and misleading it was scary. now you are trying to do some quotes out of Nazi Germany? please, put your dance shoes back on and leave the heavy lifiting to those who actually have real degrees. thank you very little. your intelligence is underwhelming.

    May 17, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  7. Marlene

    Oh great, another nomination for a position in the current administration that the GOP can add to the over 100 "holds", it has in place for other position nominees. The Senate GOP'ers carry the secret holds to far. I hope the voters continue to scrutinize the GOP obstructionists and send them the message that we want our government to work, not to wait on the GOP to regain control. The "Party of NO" has clearly stated their message, I just hope voters can give them a clear answer. Marlene in Mich

    May 17, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Wisconsinite


    Are you really as hate-filled as all of your posts make you sound? Because if you are, you are one sorry S.O.B. I'd be willing to bet every dime I have that you don't even know one thing about this man and yet you've already started the hate-filled garbage you constantly spew . . . "criminal past" . . . "dope smoking" . . . "marxist". You represent every thing that is wrong with this country and I, for one, am ashamed to call you a fellow American!

    May 17, 2010 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  9. John Gracchi

    Blame John You Say, Why? Is He A Terrorist 2? Why do you say that,? Because I know the Game and who could bring the Pain*

    May 17, 2010 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. roland

    it's time we get a top man on this difficult post. The administration needs someone with poise and knowledge. Experience is an ongoing process.

    May 17, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  11. Charlotte

    "awaitingliberalizationbyCNN " proves through his puerile rhetoric that he is one of the most ill-informed, and deliberately ignorant, folks out there. If you had a brain in your head you would first not use all these inappropriate terms that have no basis in fact, and second would actually bring some sort of logic or knowledge to the discussion. No, you're a hate-filled, fat, white guy whose brain has been so twisted by the NRA, Palin, Limbaugh and all those other worthless un-American blights on society that you can't even put together a proper sentence. Why not go back to the cesspool you crawled out of.

    May 17, 2010 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans reject appointees but none of them want a job that requires work. It's time they are removed from those cushy jobs that allow them to determine how and why someone isn't qualified for a job they don't know and don't want.

    May 17, 2010 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |