Were there compelling factors—other than improving aviation security—at work in the passing of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) of 2001? Yes, says attorney James Slepian, who as a law student in 2003 penned the first legal analysis of three key sections of the act, including the little-known “Section 108.” (James is the son of Charles Slepian.)
The responsibility for federalization fell to the newly-formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA). By 2003, some $12 billion had been spent on the hiring and training of 60,000 new federal workers. Slepian observes that by setting the hiring bar low, individuals who worked as screeners before 9/11 could be re-hired under the supposedly elevated standards.
If federalization of screeners was key to securing commerical aviation, why did Congress create an "opt-out" provision?
But more importantly, if federalization of screening was so critical to securing air travel, Slepian asked, why did Congress include an “opt-out” provision allowing all airports to revert to private screening within two years of the bill’s passing and after billions of dollars would be spent in training new federal screeners?
After studying the law, analyses of the law, and interviews with government officials, Slepian concludes that the rushed legislation was passed “primarily to project an image of security rather than to initiate significant and lasting change…” and therefore appeared to be an “act of political deception.”