TSA procedures rule, even at airports with private security

The Charlotte ObserverNovember 26, 2010 

CHARLOTTE — In the uproar over security pat-downs at airports, Charlotte/Douglas aviation director Jerry Orr has expressed interest in handling security internally, opting out of the Transportation Security Administration. Orr said he believes Charlotte could do security cheaper and smarter than the federal government.

A handful of airports already aren't part of the TSA and use private contractors.

But the federal government still dictates security measures, including the controversial full-body scanners and pat-downs that have stoked so much anger.

The difference between the TSA and a private contractor primarily would be in customer service, said Mike Bolles, a senior vice president at Illinois-based Covenant Aviation Security, which handles security at San Francisco International Airport.

"I have been watching the YouTube videos that get posted (of confrontations between passengers and TSA employees)," Bolles said. "If they were one of our screeners, the only question would be - Do I want to fire them, or do I want to put them in disciplinary action? I have zero tolerance for that."

But some are skeptical that private companies can be effective. Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University who has studied the TSA, said "there's no evidence that the profit incentives can be removed from private companies."

He said that the security lapses that led to 9-11 were under the watch of private contractors, and he said the idea of them returning in a large way to airports should be a "nonstarter."

This month, the TSA expanded the use of full-body scans at a number of airports, including Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, where they were first used in March. The machines were installed in response to last year's Christmas Day "underwear bomber," a terrorist who had hid explosives in his underwear and tried to blow up a Delta jet bound for Detroit.

To read the complete article, visit www.charlotteobserver.com.

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