The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and I conducted the interview. We’ve been long-time critics of the TSA’s strategy and tactics, and we wanted to hear “the other side” from the person in charge. Jeff Goldberg gives a brief intro to the interview here, and I do here.
I think Pistole’s comments as a whole are illuminating for one main reason: they show that he has at least thought about the major lines of criticism of what the TSA is and does. That sounds like nothing, but it’s significant in itself, since over the years so much of the “explanation” emanating from the national-security state has boiled down to “we can’t tell you” or “because we say so.” (Is that unfair? Think of the “Oh, this is crucial to our safety” rationalizations given for the idiotic “Threat Level is Orange” announcements, until all of a sudden color-coded threat alerts were dropped last month. Or the insistence that air safety would be imperiled unless uniformed pilots went through exactly the same security procedures as everyone else — until last month that rule changed too.) At no point in our discussion did Pistole seem defensive or insistent on a straight party line — think of the typical White House briefer fending off journalists if you want an idea of how he did not seem — and he gave evidence of having actually thought about most of the issues we raised.
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