- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
More than 47,000 federal recruits in the fight against terrorism will be in place this coming week as newly trained security screeners begin working at 424 airports nationwide.
Steven Kelman, professor of public management at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the eight-month rush to meet a congressional deadline was probably one of the biggest mobilizations of a civilian government agency in history.
Robert Johnson, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, compares the massive effort to processing troops for World War II.
"This was an enormous task, and one that people said couldn't be achieved," Mr. Johnson said. "The deadline will be met."
Not everyone is impressed. Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, sees the TSA as a bloated agency with far more airport screeners than needed.
Mr. Rogers cited two examples. Each screener at Kentucky Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, which he uses on flights home from Washington, checks only four passengers an hour on average.
It's worse at Groton/New London Airport in Connecticut, he said, where a screener checks an average of one passenger every four hours.
For security reasons, Mr. Rogers can't say how many screeners are posted at each airport, but he can reveal the ratios of passengers to screeners and to what he calls "a standing army of staff."
"It's wasteful," he said. "Anybody that travels knows that we have excessive screeners out there."
TSA's Mr. Johnson said the staff should level off. Some screeners are being trained on the job, he said. Others are awaiting the arrival of the explosives-detection equipment they'll operate.
"Flying is safer today than it's ever been because of the new screener work force," he said.
A federal judge in Los Angeles temporarily blocked as unconstitutional a new rule mandating the screeners must be American citizens.
The ruling issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi will affect as many as 8,000 airport screeners, most of whom already have lost their jobs, said Ben Wizner, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which brought the case.
A Justice Department lawyer, Elizabeth Shapiro, declined to comment and said it was not clear the injunction would apply nationwide.
The first TSA screeners went on duty April 30 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and their ranks have slowly grown elsewhere.


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