TSA’s John Pistole: all propaganda all the time

by Lisa Simeone on November 24, 2012


TSA Administrator John Pistole periodically conducts what are euphemistically called public relations campaigns. 

These PR onslaughts follow a predictable pattern: credulous reporters ask namby-pamby questions, take everything Pistole says at face value, don’t follow up, and gush their thanks when the interview is over.

Two years ago, when Pistole implemented the scanners and the gropes (what I call the Reign of Molestation), he was, amazingly, asked if TSA workers should ever be allowed to stick their hands down people’s pants. He said no. But, of course, we know from evidence that this happens all the time.

On November 16, 2010 Pistole took to the airwaves for an interview on NPR that was so inane, so incomprehensible, it was practically a work of art (perhaps of the Dada variety, apologies to Marcel Duchamp et les autres). As one listener, Margo Fesperman, commented at the NPR blog at the time (her comment and all others in that discussion since scrubbed from NPR’s site):

“Mr. Pistole should be on Dancing with the Stars. He tap danced around every question because there is no defense of the new policies. As Melissa Block pointed out, most of the policies are ‘after the fact’ and he could not identify how to get ahead of the game. I have not heard an interview in a very long time where the speaker was so verbose with so little content.”

Then, last year, just before Thanksgiving, Pistole conducted another PR campaign, with his usual obfuscating language.

This year, he’s busy again with his rote statements and mollifying blather about “layers” of security. And once again, he went on NPR to repeat his evidence-free (and often evidence-refuted) claims.

And how was he treated?

With the utmost deference and respect, and not a whiff of journalistic skepticism. Not a mention of the number of TSA employees who’ve been arrested and charged with serious crimes, ranging from theft to rape to child pornography. Not a single question about the continuing, documented instances of bullying, harassment, and assault. Not a breath about contractors hired by the TSA and DHS possibly committing crimes. Not a whisper about Blogger Bob disparaging passengers on our dime. Just lots of bromides and cutesy comments about shampoo. In fact, the interview ended on this cheery note:

“Well, John Pistole, thank you so much for explaining it all to us.”

Yes, thank you so much for explaining it all to us! Now we understand why your job is so difficult and so important and how you and your minions are so brave and protect us all from certain death at any moment!

The least NPR could’ve done, if they were just going to lob softball questions at Pistole, was to have someone else on the air after him, someone who is willing to critique this 8-billion-dollar-a-year agency that we all pay for and that continues to abuse the traveling public. Someone reputable and respected in his field, someone like Bruce Schneier perhaps.

But no. It’s much easier to play stenographer. To stick a microphone in front of somebody and let him rip, something that any 6th grader could do, and call it “journalism.”

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/ClownBurner)

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