TSA Nominee Southers Withdraws Name Amid Controversy

By Matt Cover | January 20, 2010 | 11:45am EST

This undated photo provided by the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department shows assistant police chief Erroll Southers. Southers, the Obama administration's choice to lead the Transportation Security Administration, issued a statement on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010 saying he was withdrawing his nomination. (AP Photo/Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, File)

(CNSNews.com) – Erroll Southers, nominated by President Obama to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday, saying his nomination had become a target of those with a “political agenda.”
“I was extremely excited about the opportunity to lead the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and fulfill Secretary [Janet] Napolitano's objective to develop it into the best organization of its kind in the world," Southers said in a statement released by the White House. “However, it is apparent that this path has been obstructed by political ideology.”
Southers claimed his nomination had “become a lighting rod” for those with a “political agenda.”
“It is clear that my nomination has become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of the safety and security of the American people," Southers said. "This partisan climate is unacceptable and I refuse to allow myself to remain part of their dialogue.”
Southers had come under fire, particularly from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), over concerns he might allow TSA employees to engage in collective bargaining with TSA officials. Southers was also controversial because of misleading accounts he gave to the Senate Homeland Security Committee about illegally accessing an FBI database to check up on his ex-wife’s boyfriend.
Southers originally told the committee he had asked a San Diego police officer to check the database but later admitted he had done it himself.
DeMint, in a statement on Wednesday, said he hoped Obama’s next TSA nominee would be “fully vetted” and could stand up to an “open and transparent debate.”
“The Senate could have had an open and transparent debate this week to approve Mr. Southers, but apparently, answering simple, direct questions about security and integrity were too much for this nominee,” the statement read. “I hope the President will quickly put forward a new nominee that is fully vetted and that will put the safety of the American people first.”
DeMint blamed Southers’ troubles on the White House’s refusal to turn over vetting documents to the Senate, and Southers’ refusal to rule out letting TSA employees engage in collective bargaining.
“Americans deserve a leader at TSA with integrity and with an unwavering commitment to putting security ahead of politics,” DeMint said. “The White House never responded to requests for more information relating to Mr. Southers’ false testimony to Congress and his censure by the FBI for improperly accessing files. And Mr. Southers was never forthcoming about his intentions to give union bosses veto power over security decisions at our airports.”
“TSA screeners can already join unions, but collective bargaining would force TSA officials to ask union bosses for permission to make critical security changes,” said DeMint.
Following Southers’ union and ethics problems, video of a controversial 2008 interview surfaced on the Internet. As reported by CNSNews.com, Southers made several troubling statements, including labeling the violent, anti-Christian racist group the World Church of the Creator as “Christian-identity oriented,” and saying that the war on terror should be given “parity” with other issues such as global warming and education.
“I do think, however, it deserves to perhaps have some parity with global warming, with education, with the economy,” Southers said when asked where terrorism should rank on the nation’s list of priorities.

Southers also said that the war on terror was not winnable, arguing that if the country elects to fight terrorists “we will never win that war,” saying instead the best that could be hoped for was to “contain” terrorism.
“So, if the war on terror means that we're going to mitigate terrorism from ever happening again, we will never win that war,” Southers said. “So I would like to say that we have an effort here to contain terrorism, to reduce the risk of terrorism.”
Southers comment that some white supremacist groups were “Christian-identity oriented” also attracted attention, due mainly to the fact that he claimed such groups were the nation’s most important domestic terror threat.
“Most of the domestic groups that we have to pay attention to here are white supremacist groups. They're anti-government and in most cases anti-abortion,” he said in the 2008 interview with the Web site Videojug.com. “They are usually survivalist-type in nature, identity orientated. If you recall, Buford Furrow came to Los Angeles in, I believe, it was 1999. When he went to three different Jewish institutions, museums, and then wound up shooting people at a children's community center, then shooting a Filipino postal worker later on.”
“Matthew Hale, who's the Pontifex Maximus of the World Church of the Creator out of Illinois, and Ben Smith, who went on a shooting spree in three different cities where he killed a number of African Americans and Jews and Asians that day,” said Southers. “Those groups are groups that claim to be extremely anti-government and Christian-identity oriented.”


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