Ex-TSA head: Leftover screening rules "clogging up the system"

Transportation and Security Administration workers screen passengers at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

(CBS News) The former head of the Transportation Safety Administration defended recently enacted security protocols enacted by TSA, but said the problem with aviation security today is that too many ineffective procedures have been retained.

When asked on "CBS This Morning" if airport security procedures are reactive rather than proactive, former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley replied, "I think they are proactive. The problem is not that they're not proactive; the problem is they don't get rid of the old ones when they're no longer needed."

Hawley credited the current administrator John Pistole as being well-connected with the intelligence community, and being "hyper" about making sure necessary security measures are taken.

"But the problem is they have all this leftover security protocols that are clogging up the system and angering the public," Hawley told Erica Hill.

Hawley's comments come a day after Pistole faced a barrage of criticism on Capitol Hill, at a House Subcommittee hearing on aviation security.

"It's palpable - the American people are just really disgusted and outraged with the department that they see as bloated and inefficient," said chair Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich. "Progress at TSA has come at a snail's pace and in some ways has gone backwards."

Pistole defended the agency - pointing to improvements for travelers like relaxed screening measures for children and seniors - while admitting that with more than 630 million travelers passing through airport security in a year, "We are not going to have 100 percent customer satisfaction."

Pistole also bristled at suggestions that TSA cut back on staff (it has increased nearly 400 percent since 2001, from 16,500 workers to more than 65,000, reports Whit Johnson).

"I believe the personnel we have currently ... are necessary to provide the security the American people need to have today," Pistole said.

Lawmakers lash out at TSA chief over airport screening

Hawley - co-author with Nathan Means of "Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security" (Macmillan) - said Friday that streamlining pat-downs and screenings would allow TSA agents to focus on "the truly big threats."

Ex-TSA head: Focus on bombs, behavior, not knives and liquids

"Right now they've got so much congestion looking in bags for a laundry list of quote-unquote prohibited items, that the lines get long, people's tempers get short. I think the pat-down, the one they're doing today, is one that can be reduced and probably should have been reduced within about six months of when they put it in for an emergency. I think that would calm things down."

He also said the conversation between TSA and lawmakers has been ineffectual. "Mostly they're talking past each other," Hawley told Charlie Rose, "as TSA had positive programs like PreCheck. But then the congressmen see every weekend in their district how angry the public is."

"Why are they talking past each other?" Rose asked.

"Well, I think it really boils down to the administration (being the White House and DHS) has got to decide whether they want to have John Pistole make some changes, or whether they want to stand behind him," Hawley said. "But right now they're leaving him hanging out by himself where he just marches up with his talking points and the congressmen attack him. I think that the administration should say to TSA, 'Get this fixed. Take the prohibited items, reduce it, get another way to do the pat-down, start listening to the people rather than talking past them.'"

To watch the complete interview with Kip Hawley click on the video player above.