In a climate of Internet campaigns to shun airport pat-downs and veteran pilots suing over their treatment by government screeners, some airports are considering another way to show dissatisfaction: Ditching TSA agents altogether.
Federal law allows airports to opt for screeners from the private sector instead. The push is being led by a powerful Florida congressman who's a longtime critic of the Transportation Security Administration and counts among his campaign contributors some of the companies who might take the TSA's place.
Furor over airline passenger checks has grown as more airports have installed scanners that produce digital images of the body's contours, and the anger intensified when TSA added a more intrusive style of pat-down recently for those who opt out of the full-body scans. Some travelers are using the Internet to organize protests aimed at the busy travel days next week surrounding Thanksgiving.
For Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida, the way to make travelers feel more comfortable would be to kick TSA employees out of their posts at the ends of the snaking security lines. This month, he wrote letters to nation's 100 busiest airports asking that they request private security guards instead.
"I think we could use half the personnel and streamline the system," Mica said Wednesday, calling the TSA a bloated bureaucracy.
Mica is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Once the new Congress convenes in January, the lawmaker is expected lead the committee.
Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mica's call have helped fill his campaign coffers. In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports.
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