WASHINGTON -- Former Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said Wednesday that privatizing screening at airports -- a pet cause of a powerful Republican Florida congressman who oversees transportation on Capitol Hill -- would do nothing to improve security and would cost taxpayers more money for the same service.
"Privatization under the original law creating the TSA is: 'Do the same things that TSA does, pay your officers no less and here's a surcharge for your profit," said Hawley, President George W. Bush's fourth administrator of the TSA. "It really is outsourcing."
Hawley criticized Rep. John Mica's (R-Fla.) privatization idea during a stop at the conservative Heritage Foundation as part of a tour to promote his new book, "Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security." His assessment matches that of President Barack Obama's current appointee, John Pistole, who has opposed a wholesale transfer of responsibility to private contractors.
"There's no question the private sector can handle the security," Hawley told The Huffington Post in an interview before his appearance on Wednesday. The problem, he said, is that as currently configured, the outsourcing program "does not engage anybody in thinking, innovation, coming up with different ways to do it. All that is specifically excluded. You must do it exactly the way the TSA says to do it."
Hawley, who helped set up the TSA after the 9/11 attacks, ran the agency from July 2005 until the end of the Bush administration. It was during his watch, in August 2006, that British authorities broke up a plot to use liquid explosives to bring down as many as 10 trans-Atlantic flights. That foiled plot led to much-hated restrictions for carry-on liquids.
Nearly six years later, though, Hawley said it's time to allow all liquids on board and give passengers the choice as to whether they are willing to wait a little longer on a separate line to bring on a bottle of wine or soda.
Hawley also said it's time to lift the ban on most items that are currently prohibited and guard only against those items that could cause the catastrophic loss of an airplane and bring all air traffic to a halt.
"Knives, baseball bats -- everything except guns, explosives and toxins that can kill a lot of people quickly or take over an airplane" should be allowed on board, he said. "Nobody with a knife, no five people with a knife, are going to be able to take over an airplane today because of all the security that's in place. So the fact that we're still fishing through bags looking for things, it needs an adjustment in our attitude."