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Jan 11, 2002

Top air security official resigns
Man in charge of federalizing airport screeners lasts just 2 months, leaves 'for personal reasons'

Posted: March 25, 2002
5:00 p.m. Eastern

By Paul Sperry
© 2002 WorldNetDaily.com

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Department official in charge of federalizing security-checkpoint screeners at the nation's 429 commercial airports has resigned after just two months on the job, WorldNetDaily has learned.

Kevin Houlihan in January was named associate deputy undersecretary for aviation operations at the newly created Transportation Security Administration.

"He left last Monday for personal reasons," a TSA spokesman told WorldNetDaily.

His resignation comes at a critical time for the Bush administration, as it tries to meet a Nov. 19 deadline to rehire 28,000 screeners – making sure they're all U.S. citizens with no criminal backgrounds – and recruit security directors for each airport. So far, only eight directors have been named.

The deadline was imposed by a federal aviation-security law enacted after the Sept. 11 hijackings.

The news also comes on the heels of reports that screeners failed to detect weapons at checkpoints nearly half the time during undercover tests conducted from November through early February.

TSA officially took over aviation-security management from the Federal Aviation Administration on Feb. 17, at the same time taking control of the airport-security contracts held by the commercial airlines.

Houlihan, a 25-year Secret Service veteran, came aboard after TSA chief John Magaw, also a Secret Service veteran who headed former President Bush's protective detail.

"A six-month learning curve just walked out the door," lamented a former FAA special agent, who says he hopes Houlihan will be replaced by an aviation-security specialist "who can hit the ground running."

Phone calls to Houlihan's home were not immediately returned.

For now, another TSA associate deputy undersecretary, Mike Robinson, will move over and fill the vacancy left by Houlihan, a TSA spokesman says. Robinson had headed the Michigan state police.

No permanent replacement for Houlihan has been named, however.

"We're going to take this one month at a time," a TSA official said.

TSA has hit some rough patches since taking over airport security.

A group of field agents has charged that supervisors looked the other way when they highlighted flagrant security violations at Salt Lake International Airport during the Olympics. And a recent rash of unplugged metal detectors at checkpoints has led to evacuations at major international airports.

TSA has tried to solve the problem by adding screw-in safety plugs.

But agents say the real problem is a lack of supervision at the checkpoints. They say magnetometers should never go unplugged for the lengths of time they have in recent incidents.

For one, they say checkpoint supervisors, now under TSA management, are supposed to test the metal detectors at the start of each new shift using dummy items that will trigger the alarms.

And during shifts, supervisors – if they're doing their job and actually monitoring the checkpoint procedures – can easily see if the machines are working, even from a distance, agents point out.

Every time a passenger walks through the magnetometer, they explain, a red light blinks on the other side – the side of the checkpoint that supervisors are on. Supervisors don't need to wait to hear an alarm to figure out the machine is working, agents say. The red light tells them it's activated.
I think the guys got cancer or something serious like that (I can't remeber specifically what it is.) Too bad, they could have used his expertise.

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