Key security agencies lack permanent leaders
WASHINGTON (AP) — Two federal agencies charged with keeping potential terrorists off airplanes and out of the country have been without their top leaders for nearly a year.
It took the Obama administration more than eight months to nominate anyone to lead the Transportation Security Administration and the Customs and Border Protection agency.
President Barack Obama has ordered a review of U.S. security policies following the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam. He vowed Monday to "do everything that we can to keep America safe."
The acting heads of the TSA and CBP - both created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks - will be at the forefront of these efforts.
Bogged down with health care reform, the Senate has yet to set a date to hold hearings for the Customs position. And Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has placed a hold on the president's choice to head the TSA over the senator's concern that the new leader would let TSA screeners join a labor union. This has some Democrats blaming politics for the vacancy.
Former U.S. attorney Alan Bersin is nominated to run CBP, and former FBI agent and police detective Erroll Southers is the president's pick for TSA.
On Christmas Day, alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who spent time in Yemen, was able to sneak an explosive device aboard his flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, only to be thwarted by the device's apparent failure to work as designed, and aggressive action by other passengers.