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TSA Administrator John Pistole Speaks At National Homeland Security Conference

Max Schwartz |
June 6, 2013 | 11:28 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter


Administrator Pistole spoke at the National Homeland Security Conference Thursday morning. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)
Administrator Pistole spoke at the National Homeland Security Conference Thursday morning. (Max Schwartz/Neon Tommy)
On Thursday morning, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John S. Pistole spoke at the 2013 National Homeland Security Conference - which also included heads of foreign security agencies - on the topic of “TSA’s Risk-Based Security Initiatives.” 

Pistole spoke at the start of the conference's third day, held at the Westin Bonaventure in Downtown Los Angeles. Pistole spoke about what the TSA paractices are at the present time and what the agency plans to do to move to a "Risk-Based Security Initiative."

The speech came one day after the TSA announced that they would not be lifting the ban on bringing knives, bats and gold clubs, among other objects, onto airplanes. Pistole, who was introduced by Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, was confirmed as the fifth administrator  of one of the most publicized agencies in the country in July 2010. 

   SEE ALSO: TSA Delays Allowing Small Knives On Planes

The conference discussed how federal government agencies can work with state and city governments to go after threats and stop terrorist attacks before they happen.

Pistole stated that in the three months sine the September 11, 2001 attacks, terrorists transitioned to using improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

Pistole also discussed the TSA’s work with the private sector, which had some representatives at the conference. He remarked that the administration, “…is working with technology companies…” to build new devices that would allow passengers to bring liquid onto airliners. This is in response to the 2006 incident in which liquid explosives were planned to go off during a flight.

Al-Qaeda's presence in the Arabian Peninsula, specifically relating to Al-Qaeda’s “master bomb maker” Ibrahim al-Asiri, was another terrorism topic. Al-Asiri was the terrorist who developed the underwear bomb that did not detonate over the skies of Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 and who has been working on a “non-metallic IED,” which will not set off a metal detector. He mentioned that this is the reason advanced imaging is now used.

To adjust to all of the changes in weapon and bomb technology, Pistole said,  " The TSA had to recalibrate equipment and retrain dogs.” Pistole also said, “The concern that we have…” is when do they look at “softer targets.” By softer targets the administrator meant train stations and other transportation hubs aside from airports.

Pistole listed “the three key deterrents for terrorists” as, “uniformed officers, K-9s and CCTV.” CCTV means closed circuit television. He did note, however, that CCTV does not work for suicide bombers. He said that the question is “how do you deploy those to act as deterrents?"

A recurring theme during his speech was that the TSA is “moving away from the one size fits all approach.” Pistole noted that he wants to focus on what local law enforcement believes is the “most valuable.”

Pistole also discussed changes that are going on within the TSA. He said that “risk based security” is happening within the TSA. An example of this type of security is the TSA’s Pre✓ program and he said the goal is to broadly expand it. This program allows certain travellers to apply for approval for express security screening. Those that are approved get to use a different TSA line and are allowed to keep their shoes and jackets on and do not have to throw away small bottels containing liquid.

The Administrator ended his speech with his the ultimate goal of "twenty-five percent of the travelling public to go through expedited screening.”


Reach Staff Reporter Max Schwartz here; follow him on Twitter here.



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