A sharp question for the TSA

Al Kamen
Columnist May 7, 2013

Seems a serious fistfight broke out in the first-class section of an American Airlines flight from San Antonio to Dallas-Fort Worth last week.

“They were actually throwing punches,” Army Brig. Gen. Jason T. Evans told a local television reporter. “It was actually a fight,” he said, according to the station’s Web site, WFAA.com.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Evans and a couple of other passengers stepped in to break it up, but not before some punches apparently landed — one of the men had blood on his face and shirt. The extent of injuries could not be determined. Alcohol was said to have been a factor.

Might have been worse if they’d pulled out their knives, but of course knives aren’t allowed on airplanes — for now.

Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole announced in March that, to move people faster through the hated airport security checks, he would allow small pocketknives on board as long as the blades were under 2.36 inches long. Get out your rulers.

Other changes could include allowing golf clubs, ski poles and such on board.

We’re told the TSA wants the rule changes, which were to take effect April 25, to put the United States in line with the rules in European countries.

But an uproar from flight attendants, air marshals, some airlines and members of Congress temporarily stalled the move.

And now the chatter is that the TSA may decide to put the new rules into effect over the Memorial Day weekend. The agency had asked for public comments on the changes, with that input due by May 22, we understand. We’ve been told TSA officials are planning to brief folks on the Hill the next day. The Memorial Day weekend begins May 24.

TSA did not respond to an inquiry on whether or when the new rules would be put into effect.

Nothing’s new

Like skinny ties or handlebar mustaches, what’s old is new again. Amid the current talk of better coordination among intelligence agencies in the wake of the Boston bombing, we got a reminder of what such efforts looked like in their infancy — and it turns out, they look much the same as they do today.

Our pals at the OSS Society dug up what they say might be the first-ever memo about intelligence reform. And it sounds some mighty familiar notes.

The society’s president, Charles Pinck, discovered the 1945 missive from Gen. William Donovan, the founder of the OSS — the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA — to President Harry S. Truman, in documents from the Truman Library. In the memo, Donovan expresses concern about splintering off intelligence functions from the OSS to other agencies. “Whatever agency has the duty of intelligence should have it as a complete whole,” he wrote. “To do otherwise would be to add chaos to existing confusion in the intelligence field.”

Hmm. Sounds like a warning against creating those infamous “stovepipes” that some modern-day lawmakers say may have allowed the Boston bombers to slip through intelligence cracks.

A fresh start

Jason Weinstein, former deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s criminal division and a former federal prosecutor, has joined Steptoe & Johnson as a partner. He will be a member of both the firm’s white-collar and criminal defense practices, a firm news release advised.

What the release doesn’t mention is that Weinstein’s career at Justice was derailed when he got caught up in Operation Fast and Furious — the gun-tracking program that went seriously awry — and became a target of criticism by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Justice’s inspector general.

The IG’s report didn’t call for Weinstein to resign and Lanny Breuer urged him to stay on the job, but Weinstein left anyway, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction to the department and needed the freedom to clear his name.

The partner he’ll be working closely with at Steptoe is Reid Weingarten, an old buddy of Weinstein’s former boss, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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