Tuesday, 18 April 2006

TSA picks new propagandist and privacy director

This month the USA Transportation Secuirty Administration (TSA) has announced the appointment of new directors of its public relations and privacy offices. (The actual effective dates of the appointments weren’t announced.)

It’s hard to find people willing to lie for a living, as has been routine for TSA and DHS public relations and privacy officers, and even harder to keep them on the job once they start getting called on their lies in public. The choices of personnel reflect the politics of who would be willing to take on such a task, as well as the continued “batten down the hatches” mentality and para-military culture at the TSA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.

Ellen Howe, TSA’s new Assistant Administrator for Strategic Communications/Public Affairs appears to have both the requisite political credentials and the experience as flack-catcher for a government program mired in a history of secrecy and designed for failure:

In the early 1990s Howe served as deputy press secretary for the Republican National Committee, and managed media relations activities during the clean-up of Rocky Flats, a U.S. Department of Energy Superfund site that was part of the nuclear weapons complex.

Readers are invited to comment on whether they’d rather have to explain to local residents the mess the military made at Rocky Flats, or explain to the travelling public the mess the TSA has made of transportation security.

To date, TSA and DHS privacy officers have functioned mainly as privacy invasion apologists. But at least the initial privacy office appointments at the TSA and DHS were of people who could claim to be outsiders from the civilian privacy protection community. Not so with Peter Pietra, the TSA’s new Director of Privacy Policy and Compliance , decribed in the press release announcing his appintment as an “agency veteran” and insider from a military background. There’s no mention that Mr. Pietra has any experience with privacy protection or public interest work:

Pietra served as a Field Artillery Officer with the U.S. Army…. He has also served as an attorney with the U.S. Coast Guard before joining TSA. Pietra has been with the TSA’s Office of Chief Counsel since 2003, where he served as TSA’s Assistant Chief Counsel for Information Law.

Link | Posted by Edward on Tuesday, 18 April 2006, 07:32 ( 7:32 AM)
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