EDITORIAL: TSA needs a new chief

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Even as Osama bin Laden threatens future terrorist attacks, Washington is playing politics with airport security. The Transportation Security Administration has been without a permanent leader for a year, and last week the man President Barack Obama nominated in September withdrew from consideration. Washington should stop the jousting and fill this critical post.

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The appointment of Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and homeland security specialist, was blocked by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) because he feared Southers would support the unionization of TSA's 50,000 workers. About 12,000 are already union members, but they can't bargain collectively, a privilege the TSA administrator could grant. Southers also suffered a self-inflicted wound: He misled Congress about an incident from 20 years ago when, as an FBI agent, he inappropriately accessed a database for information about his estranged wife's boyfriend.

After all this time, Obama should have a new nominee at the ready. We were tested on Christmas when the underwear bomber attempted to bring down a Northwest Airlines flight. And bin Laden's recent audiotape praising that attempt and warning of more strikes just punctuates the need to have all hands on deck. The TSA is responsible for securing 450 airports and the nation's highways, railroads, ports and mass transit systems. It needs a leader. hN


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