Gun-Shy TSA Gets Critic Booted From Congressional Panel
Bruce Schneier, the security expert who coined the term “security theater” to describe the Transportation Security Agency’s airport screening procedures, was uninvited from speaking on a Monday Congressional panel at the insistence of the TSA.
In a blog post, Schneier reports that he had been officially scheduled to appear at a hearing sponsored by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, but received word on Friday that he had been removed from the witness list.
“The excuse was that I am involved in a lawsuit against the TSA, trying to get them to suspend their full-body scanner program,” Schneier wrote. “But it’s pretty clear that the TSA is afraid of public testimony on the topic, and especially of being challenged in front of Congress.”
This is not the first time the TSA has engaged in brinksmanship to avoid having to appear on a panel alongside its critics. The TSA abruptly canceled a planned appearance before the same committee last year. The agency objected to sitting alongside a representative of EPIC, a privacy group that also had a pending lawsuit against the TSA.
The TSA’s refusal to participate at last year’s hearing prompted a public rebuke from subcommittee chairman Jason Chaffetz. The TSA eventually backed down and agreed to appear on a separate panel following the other scheduled testimony.
This year, the TSA’s threats apparently worked. Schneier’s name still appears on the official page for the hearing, but it is crossed out.
The TSA “wants to control the story, and it’s easier for them to do that if I’m not sitting next to them pointing out all the holes in their position,” Schneier wrote on Monday.
With Schneier booted from the panel, the remaining witnesses were all representatives of the Obama administration: two TSA officials, an admiral from the Coast Guard, and a member of the Government Accountability Office.
The TSA’s efforts to “control the story” were not completely successful. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight Committee, read a selection of 350 comments about the TSA submitted via Facebook. A marine complained that when he traveled in uniform he was “forced to remove his trousers in full view of passengers because the shirt stays beneath them were scaring a TSA employee.” Others with disabilities and medical devices complain of being groped by TSA officials.