Air Scared: The Truth about the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security [Excerpt]

June 29, 2012

A new book co-authored by former Transportation Security Administration Administrator Kip Hawley and Nathan Means explains Hawley's record as head of the controversial agency from 2005 to early 2009 and the genesis of "security theater"

The following is an excerpt from Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security, by Kip Hawley and Nathan Means(Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

One day in 2007 Stephanie Rowe, who was in charge of the identity- based programs at TSA, including Registered Traveler, accompanied me to a meeting with Ted Olson, one of the most respected and powerful lawyers in the country. Stephanie, who normally poured her considerable energies into solving TSA’s mission challenges rather than political issues, had no idea who he was at the time, but one glance at the marble and dark wood accents in Olson’s downtown Washington office told her that she was definitely in one of the preeminent halls of DC power.

We sat down opposite Olson and his client, Steve Brill, the founder of the CourtTV cable channel and American Lawyer magazine. The subject of our meeting was Registered Traveler, a proposed public-private partnership that would allow frequent flyers to submit a background check and pay $100 to move more quickly through airport checkpoints. Brill was a major investor in the program, and while I had green-lighted the program in 2005, it had floundered as companies offering the service had done little other than take the money and let “members” cut to the front of security lines.

Continuing reading 

Link: Scientific American

Russian airports to ease security checks

June 13, 2012

Waiting times for passengers at Russian airports are expected to be cut by 25pc under new security screening regulations for clothing and liquids.

Many travellers flying out of major Russian airports will no longer be required to remove belts and shoes at security, under new regulations. Rules on carrying liquids on board are also to be relaxed. But travellers heading for the United States and other countries that enforce stricter screening rules may still have to go through the more stringent checks.

The new regulations, which are expected to reduce the time passengers spend queueing to clear security by 25pc, will come as a relief to many travellers. “It will make it a little bit smoother,” said Owen Kemp, an Austrian who has been flying in and out of Russia for two decades.

Read the entire article

Link: Russian airports to ease security checks

Interview with "CBS This Morning"

June 8, 2012

(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.

Read the entire article

Link: CBS News

The Never-Ending Challenge Of Securing Our Air Transport Sector

June 5, 2012

(Huffington Post) "... TSA is wisely working to deploy its resources more effectively. The head of TSA, John Pistole, is promoting a "risk-based" security paradigm that includes a program called PreCheck that vets very-frequent fliers and lets them keep their shoes and coats on when they go through security, allows kids under 12 and seniors older than 75 to keep their shoes on and puts greater reliance on intelligence in general.

Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley has an equally intriguing and worthwhile idea in his new book: getting rid of the long prohibited items list so screeners are looking for terrorists, bombs, guns and knives not nail clippers, matches and snow globes."

Read the entire post

Link: Huffington Post

Aviation International News Reports on LASP

June 2, 2012

(AINonline) Despite its unpopularity with business and general aviation, the Transportation Security Administration’s proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (Lasp) was created based on actual risks and intelligence, according to Kip Hawley, the agency’s chief from 2005 to 2009.

“There was real concern that a large business aviation aircraft would be used in attack,” said Hawley in an interview to promote his new book, Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security.

In 2008, when Lasp was first proposed, the TSA was concerned that terrorists could see GA aircraft as more vulnerable, thus making them attractive targets. If hijacked and used as a missile, the TSA surmised, these aircraft would be capable of inflicting significant damage.

Read the entire article


TSA Mission: Impossible? Insight From Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley

May 25, 2012

(Huffington Post - Steve Ressler) As we head into a holiday weekend in which millions of travelers are expected to take to the skies across the U.S., it's hard to fathom the task at hand for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA): keep travelers safe without causing long, annoying lines and bringing holiday travel to a grinding halt.

This week, former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley sat down for a podcast interview with Chris Dorobek to discuss what TSA has done right and wrong over the past 10 years and what it can do to improve security in the future.

Read the entire article

Link: Huffington Post

Review of Permanent Emergency in Washington Post Opinions

May 25, 2012

"... Kip Hawley and Nathan Means’s “Permanent Emergency” provides a more upbeat story by focusing on one piece of the national security apparatus. In memoir fashion, Hawley’s narrative traces the story of the the Transportation Security Administration, created in the immediate wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and charged with improving airport security. In matters of transportation, Hawley demonstrates, the trade-off is not security vs. American values and constitutional protections, but security vs. efficiency, effectiveness and public approval."

By 2004, TSA employees, routinely demoralized by passenger resistance, were overcome by “hopelessness.” Meanwhile, the public was fed up, tired of delays and seemingly indiscriminate searches. In 2005, Hawley inherited an agency whose workers were disgruntled and whose work was thankless.

Hawley’s solution was to professionalize the work by making intelligence a central part of the agency’s mission. After his promotion to administrator, the TSA was newly included in the Department of Homeland Security’s morning intelligence telephone call. Armed with insights into the updated plans of al-Qaeda, Hawley used this information in part to update the agency’s policies and practices."

Read the entire review

Link: The Washington Post

Airplane Geeks Podcast: Kip Hawley on TSA

May 24, 2012

(Airplane Geeks Episode 198) Guest Kip Hawley was Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) from July 2005 to January 2009. He’s also just written the book, “Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security” available through his website (,, and many bookstores.

We talk with Kip about how he came to be the TSA Administrator, the risk that business aviation presents, and the Large Aircraft Security Program. Kip explains why the full TSA “body search” shouldn’t be necessary and he gives us some interesting details about the plot that led to the ban on liquids over 3 ounces. We consider calls to privatize the TSA, and discuss managing security and managing risk, the public perception of “the threat” and just how large it really is, security theater, the cost of technology, behavioral profiling, the effects of TSA security on the travelling public and thus on the commercial aviation industry, the history of Blogger Bob from The TSA Blog, and even a little peek inside the Bush oval office.

Listen to the podcast

Link: Airplane Geeks

Aviation International News Reports: Former TSA Head Criticizes “Broken” Aviation Security System

May 21, 2012

(AINonline) The U.S. aviation security system is broken because of an “unhealthy” separation between the traveling public and the Transportation Security Administration, according to former TSA chief Kip Hawley. “There’s always been some separation and disconnect when the public looks at security measures,” he said. “Even though the TSA is working on new risk-management approaches, I don’t think the public is willing to listen, and that needs to be fixed.”

Read the entire article

Link: Aviation International News

GovLoop Covers Permanent Emergency

May 21, 2012

(GovLoop's Emily Jarvis) Since 2001 the Transportation Security Administration has had an almost impossible job -- protect the 2 million people who fly in an out of US airports.

But how effective is this beleaguered agency, and is it really keeping us safe from terrorism?

Kip Hawley is the former TSA administrator and the author of a new book,
 Permanent Emergency.
 He sat down with Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program for an extended conversation about the agency.

He told Chris why he thinks TSA could be headed for disaster.

View the blog

Link: GovLoop

Firedoglake Hosts Permanent Emergency Discussion

May 20, 2012 Kip Hawley talks batteries, baggies, & all other necessary evils of travel today on Firedoglake Book Salon. Link: Firedoglake Book Salon

Bloomberg Businessweek: The TSA Needs to Adapt

May 18, 2012

Let’s hope the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) doesn’t overreact—as is its habit—and use the CIA’s recent thwarting of an attempt by al Qaida to bring down a U.S. airliner with “undetectable” underwear explosives as an excuse for draconian new measures that make air travel even more unpleasant and inconvenient.

Every frequent flier wonders why the TSA screening process lacks common sense. For example, I can take five 3.4-ounce bottles of liquid in a ziplock bag through security, but not one 4.5-ounce bottle. Go figure.

Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley, in a new book, Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security, says his old agency’s patchwork policies have created an “unending nightmare” for U.S. air travelers. His candor should give us hope.

Read the entire article

Link: Bloomberg Businessweek

Homeland Security Watch Reviews Permanent Emergency

May 15, 2012


(Homeland Security Watch's Chirstopher Bellavita) I have one chapter left to read in Kip Hawley and Nathan Means’ book Permanent Emergency.  The book describes Hawley’s term as TSA Administrator, from 2005 until 2009.

I don’t want the book to end.  It’s really good.

I’ve read Tom Ridge’s and Michael Chertoff’s after-office books.   Permanent Emergency is in its own class, at least when it comes to back-in-the-day homeland security memoirs.  Ridge’s book engages the reader.  Chertoff’s book challenges (ok, it’s a hard read).


Hawley and Means’ work is a page turner.  I will not be surprised if Permanent Emergency is made into a movie.  A made-for-TV movie. But still, a movie. (By then, maybe the book can lose the melodramatic subtitle, “Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security.”)

Link: Homeland Security Watch

'NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams' Interview

May 8, 2012

Former head of the TSA, Kip Hawley, talks to NBC’s Brian Williams about the latest underwear bomber threat. 

Watch the interview

Link: NBC Nightly News

CBS News Reports: Ex-TSA chief: Full-body scanners would have caught new underwear bomb

May 8, 2012

(CBS News) At more than 180 U.S. airports, the Transportation Security Administration increasingly relies on full-body scanners. Their electromagnetic waves screen passengers for dense objects -- both metallic and non-metallic threats -- from guns to homemade plastic explosives.

Kip Hawley was the TSA administrator in 2007, when the agency rolled out these scanners.

He believes an alert transportation security officer at an airport security checkpoint would have caught the latest underwear bomb, which was revealed Monday had been thwarted by the CIA before it came near an airport.

Read the entire article

Link: CBS News

Watertown Daily Times Reports on Airport Screening

May 2, 2012

Airline passengers humiliated by intrusive patdowns and frustrated by lengthy waits in airport security lines have an ally: the former chief of the agency responsible for their frustrations.

Kip Hawley, who headed the Transportation Security Administration from 2005 to 2009, says that airport security procedures need to be revised. He told an audience at George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute what other critics have been saying — that airline security procedures are too rigid and should be changed to focus on high-risk threats, USA Today reported.

Read the entire article

Link: Watertown Daily Times

Canadian News Magazine Maclean's covers Permanent Emergency

May 1, 2012

Line up. Liquids in a baggie. Toss your water. Wait. Stuff your jacket in a bin. Empty your pockets. Take off your belt. Wait some more. Walk through slowly. Raise your arms. Stand still.

Is there any modern activity more frustrating, time-consuming and humiliating than the airport security line? Improved vigilance against terrorism may be a necessity in our post-9/11 world. But does it have to be so awkward? And is that bottle of water really a threat to global security?

In what might be considered a welcome breath of fresh air for air travellers, the former head of U.S. airport security is calling for an end to many of the most outrageous and bothersome aspects of airport check-in: liquid of all sizes should be allowed as carry-on, bans on non-weapons such as lighters should be relaxed and, in the name of improved security, airlines should be forbidden from charging checked baggage fees. Could it really be possible to fly like it’s 1999?

Read the entire article 


Security Info Watch Reports on Permanent Emergency

April 30, 2012

(Security Info Watch) Formed in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks to better secure the nation’s airports, the Transportation Security Administration has come to symbolize the nation’s constant struggle to balance privacy rights with security.

Whether it’s through the deployment of body imaging devices or "enhanced" pat-down procedures, the agency has suffered a huge blow to its image in the eyes of many Americans. It wasn’t that long ago, however, that travelers actually embraced having tighter airport security measures.

So, where did the agency go wrong and what can they do to get the flying American public back on their side? In a new book entitled, "Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security," former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley and non-fiction author Nathan Means address this issue head-on and discuss what the much maligned agency can do to get back on the right track.

Read the entire article

Link: Security Info Watch

Fierce Homeland Security Covers Permanent Emergency Event

April 27, 2012

(Fierce Homeland Security) The prohibited items list for air travel should only include guns, bombs and toxins, said Kip Hawley, former head of the Transportation Security Administration, on April 26.

Hawley, who served as TSA administrator from 2005 to 2009, spoke at the Homeland Security Policy Institute in Washington. He said the extensive list has outlived its usefulness and should be pared down to "things that can take down a plane or very quickly kill a lot of people."

Having other items on the list distracts security officers from more dangerous items, and that wastes TSA's resources, Hawley added.

Read the entire article

Link: Fierce Homeland Security

Forbes: Ex-TSA Chief Calls Airport Security Screenings 90 Percent "Clutter"

April 27, 2012

(Forbes) . America’s airline security system spends 90 percent of its effort looking for “clutter” and distracting agents from genuine threats. So says Kip Hawley, former Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration in a new book.

TSA’s approach, Hawley says, “writes down rules and says ‘these things are prohibited and must be confiscated.’ Al Qaeda terrorists get a hold of that list and learn how to make bombs out of things that are not on it. Then we put in security measures against the new threats, but we don’t go back and see whether the old security measures are still needed.”

Read the entire article

Link: Forbes

'Lou Dobbs Tonight' Interview

April 27, 2012

Former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley discusses steps to improving airport security with Lou Dobbs of Fox Business News. 

Watch the interview

Link: Fox Business News: Lou Dobbs Tonight

Government Executive: Ex-TSA chief suggests letting security screeners take more initiative

April 27, 2012

...In his new book, Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security (Palgrave Macmillan), Hawley, who ran TSA from 2005 to early 2009, offers a series of reforms that some would consider radical: ending all bans on air passenger carry-on items except for obvious weapons like guns, toxins and explosives; doing away with airport baggage fees, which encourage more carry-on items; and randomizing security by making it less predictable and leaving more to the judgment of screeners.

Read the entire article

Link: Government Executive

USA Today: Former TSA chief says airport security is broken

April 26, 2012

(USA Today) WASHINGTON – Kip Hawley, the former head of the Transportation Security Administration, says airport security is broken and should be fixed.

Hawley, who headed the agency from 2005 to 2009, contends that TSA became too rigid after its creation a decade ago and blanketed airline passenger with too much unnecessary screening.

Instead, Hawley said Thursday, the agency should focus more on high-risk threats that could cause a catastrophe.

For example, he said, knives no longer pose a threat because cockpit doors on airline planes are hardened and locked. So the list of prohibited items should drop to guns, bombs and toxicants, he said.

He also would encourage airlines to drop baggage fees in exchange for lower government taxes so that fewer bags are carried on.

Read the entire article

Link: USA Today

The Daily Caller's Coverage of Permanent Emergency

April 26, 2012

(The Daily Caller) Former Transportation Security Administration Administrator Kip Hawley told The Daily Caller that the threat of terrorism “is not going away” and that widespread public mistrust of TSA agents is “dangerous.”

“The fracture between the common traveller and the people providing the services is broken,” said Hawley, “and I’ve used the term ‘toxic,’ and I think that is dangerous to security when neither side are particularly listening to the other and I think that is what needs to be fixed.”

Hawley was speaking at an event at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., to mark the launch of his new book, “Permanent Emergency,” which was cleared for publication by national security agencies including the FBI and the CIA.

Read the entire article

Link: The Daily Caller

Interview with NBC Nightly News

April 26, 2012

Kip Hawley sat down with NBC’s John Yang to discuss airport security and Permanent Emergency.

Watch the interview

Link: NBC Nightly News

Kip Hawley, Former TSA Chief, Opposes Privatizing Airport Security

April 25, 2012

(Huffington Post) WASHINGTON -- Former Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said Wednesday that privatizing screening at airports -- a pet cause of a powerful Republican Florida congressman who oversees transportation on Capitol Hill -- would do nothing to improve security and would cost taxpayers more money for the same service.

"Privatization under the original law creating the TSA is: 'Do the same things that TSA does, pay your officers no less and here's a surcharge for your profit," said Hawley, President George W. Bush's fourth administrator of the TSA. "It really is outsourcing."

Read the entire article 

Link: The Huffington Post

MSNBC Morning Joe Interview

April 25, 2012

Former TSA administrator and author Kip Hawley joins Morning Joe to discuss his new book Permanent Emergency.

Watch the interview 

Link: MSNBC Morning Joe

Q&A with MSNBC Overhead Bin

April 25, 2012

MSNBC's Overhead Bin caught up with Hawley — on an Amtrak train, for what it’s worth — and asked him about the TSA's future. 

Read the article 

Link: MSNBC Overhead Bin

CNN Interview with Erin Burnett

April 25, 2012

Former TSA chief Kip Hawley tells CNN's Erin Burnett why airport security should no longer focus on weapons.

Watch the interview 

Link: CNN - Erin Burnett Out Front

Kip Hawley Urges Airport Security Reform on WNYC Radio

April 24, 2012

In an interview on WNYC's "The Takeaway", Kip Hawley discusses fixes for TSA's broken airport security. 

Listen here

Link: WNYC Radio "The Takeaway"

Permanent Emergency - CBS This Morning

April 24, 2012


(CBS News) Every day, nearly two million travelers pass through more than 450 commercial airports in the U.S. Former Transportation Security Administration head Kip Hawley says that, for most of them, flying is an "unending nightmare" because of TSA security measures.

"We ran so fast after 9/11 to put in measures to stop future attacks that we just kept moving," Hawley said on "CBS This Morning." He believes some of those measures are no longer needed.

Hawley's offers recommendations to revamp airport security in his highly critical new book,"Permanent Emergency: Inside the TSA and the Fight for the Future of American Security", co-written with Nathan Means.

Watch the video

Link: CBS This Morning

Former TSA Head Kip Hawley on Fixing Airport Airport Security

April 24, 2012

(Popular Mechanics) In the new book Permanent Emergency, Kip Hawley looks back on his 2005–2009 term as head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Hawley tells PM the closest the U.S. came to an attack during his term, why you still have to take off your shoes at the airport, and what he really thinks of the enhanced pat-downs TSA put in place after he left.

Read the article

Link: Popular Mechanics

The Economist Analyzes

April 21, 2012

(The Economist) “FLYING isn’t fun any more,” is a popular refrain among travellers. They recall wistfully a golden age when flying was glamorous, not an ordeal of long lines and intrusive pat-downs.

In America these are inflicted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was set up after the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001. It is now one of the country’s most hated institutions. Many passengers scorn its pettifogging rules. Many complain of ineffectual “security theatre”. In an Economist online debate last month, a crushing 87% of respondents agreed that the changes to airport security since 2001 had “done more harm than good”.

Read the  entire Economist article

Link: The Economist

Kip Hawley's suggested TSA reforms and Permanent Emergency

April 18, 2012

(Adfero Group Security Debrief Blog by Jeff Sural) Complaints about the TSA are numerous and perpetual. Everyone from the Congressional committees who created TSA to self-described security experts to the most recently inconvenienced passenger has a story, and an opinion, about what needs to be changed. But nothing much happens after the initial venting.

But when a thoughtful critique, and significant suggestions for reform, come from someone who led the agency for three-plus years, we may finally be getting somewhere. And by somewhere I mean on a more defined path to securing our transportation network more effectively and efficiently.

Read the entire blog post

Link: Adfero Group Security Debrief

MSNBC Overhead Bin Weighs in on Kip Hawley's WSJ Op-Ed

April 16, 2012

(MSNBC Overhead Bin) You can scan groceries at the supermarket and hardware at Home Depot. Now, it seems, TSA wants you to scan your own boarding pass.

Last week, the agency announced a new pilot program that uses machines to check IDs and boarding passes instead of having agents examine them with black lights and magnifying glasses. Currently being tested at Washington Dulles International Airport, the agency is touting the technology as another step in its efforts to move toward a system that targets passengers based on their perceived risk.

That effort got significant attention this weekend in an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal in which Kip Hawley, former administrator of TSA, went so far as to say that “Airport security in America is broken.”

Read the entire article

Link: MSNBC Overhead Bin

The Atlantic: I Opt In! And Other TSA News of the Day

April 14, 2012

(The Atlantic) Kip Hawley, who was TSA administrator during GW Bush's second term, has an important and eminently sensible-seeming big essay today in the WSJ on re-thinking airport security. I was out of the country during most of his time in office and have never met or interviewed him, so I don't know how what he says now matches what he did then. Also, I have not yet read his new book laying out his views at greater length. But at face value this essay makes convincing points about "security theater," which I hope will carry extra heft because of his background. 

Read the entire article

Link: The Atlantic

Why Airport Security Is Broken— And How To Fix It

April 13, 2012

As former administrator of the TSA, Kip Hawley helped administer the security measures aimed at preventing terror attacks in U.S. airports and on flights. He talks to Wall Stree Journal's Jessica Vascellaro about his new book, Permanent Emergency, in which he outlines why airport security needs to change.

Watch the video

Link: The Wall Street Journal


  • In this riveting expose, former TSA administrator Kip Hawley reveals the secrets behind the agency's ongoing battle to outthink and outmaneuver terrorists, illuminating the flawed, broken system that struggles to stay one step ahead of catastrophe.

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