In a news conference, President Barrack Obama admitted that the attempted Christmas bombing on Northwest flight 253 showed that a systemic failure had occurred. However, just a day before, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano stated that the system had worked. She later clarified that the system worked only after officials became aware of the event.
Accusations began to fly though out the beltway. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) was a recipient of one accusation for placing a hold on Transportation and Security Board Nominee, Erroll Southers. DeMint placed the hold on Southers following his clearing two committees. DeMint was among two Senators who voted to block him for not answering one specific question on whether Southers planned to authorized unionization, that would lead to collective bargaining, of the TSA. Since Southers refused to answer, DeMint placed a hold on November 29th until Sothers chose to respond to his questions.
Democrats pointed to DeMint’s hold as problematic. The said had a Southers been confirmed some of the security issues at TSA could have been addressed earlier. However, Southers nomination did not come until September; nine months after President Obama took Office. Republicans point to the Obama administration on not being interested in Homeland security due to the late nomination.
DeMint claims that since Homeland Security Director, Janet Napolitano told Senate leaders that since state and local law enforcement agencies practiced collective bargaining without any harm to security it would not sacrifice any layer of security if the TSA were unionized. He was sure that it was the Administrations policy to unionize all federal workers. DeMint knew that when Southers nomination was announced by the Obama White House, John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. Said, “the question of bargaining rights at TSA is not a matter of ‘if’ but ’when.’ We are confident that the appointment of Mr. Southers as administrator will help put that matter to bed."
Does DeMint have a reason beyond not liking unions and being a senator from a 'right to work' state? Tomorrow’s editorial in the Washington Examiner sheds some light of the issue. The article praises DeMint’s stand for three compelling reasons.
Collective bargaining would force TSA managers to share sensitive intelligence information with union negotiators every time new workplace procedures are needed, thus increasing the possibility of damaging leaks about those procedures.
TSA managers would no longer be able to reward high-performing screeners or fire those unable or unwilling to perform their duties in an efficient manner. Being able to do so is critical to the TSA's ability to defend American airline travelers against future terrorist attacks.
Hundreds of TSA screeners would have to be diverted from the jobs they were hired to do in order to set up the negotiating infrastructure required by collective bargaining.
Other republicans joined in DeMint’s concerns as well. One, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, told reporters, "Allowing screeners to bargain through unions could have serious consequences for TSA's mission," She further related that it is important that TSA screeners not be able to strike, as doing so would put America's airline transportation at a standstill affecting thousands of travelers.
Harry Reid, Senate Leader form Nevada said he would force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to lead the TSA when Congress reconvenes in three weeks. DeMint told CNN, "Unfortunately, the president has been downplaying the threat of terrorism since he took office. He waited eight months to nominate for this position and then he wanted him approved with no debate or no vote. The only thing I have asked for is limited debate and a recorded vote. Sen. Reid could have done that months ago, but the fact is, they've been working on other things and had not seen airport security as a priority."
Reid had a vote on Dec 24th to confirm many of Obama's nominees. Had DeMint lifted his hold, Southers would have been in office for less than 18 hours when the attack came. Many say it would have not been possible for Southers to make any of the changes necessary to have evaded the Nigerian bomber threat.
Today the news brought additional information that the President probably had yesterday when he abruptly scheduled a news conference. The Civil Intelligence Agency (CIA) had detailed information about a potential holiday threat from a Nigerian some eight weeks ago. The intelligence failure occurred because the information did not follow up the chain of command to the highest levels so they could take appropriate action. Had the information made it to the CIA Chief, the subject could have been transferred from the watch list to the no-fly list preventing travel to the United States. Since Napolitano, was not aware of this information, calls for her resignation are probably misdirected.
This we do know, DeMint will not lift his ‘hold’ until Southers responds to his questions
DeMint: TSA nominee isn't qualified, shouldn't be confirmed