By Hugo Martin Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Last week was tough for the Transportation Security Administration, but on at least one issue the federal agency may have scored a small victory.
The TSA was on the defensive at a congressional hearing last week on charges that it has wasted money by storing hundreds of pieces of screening equipment, including full-body scanners, in warehouses in Texas.
The TSA’s top financial officer, David Nicholson, defended the agency, saying it has cut its warehouse costs from $7.6 million in 2009 to $3.5 million in 2011.
But Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, suggested that the TSA consider what he said was a cheaper, more effective alternative to the scanners: bomb-sniffing dogs.
“People are going to die if you continue to make these kinds of asinine decisions,” he told Nicholson. “Go get the dogs.”
Meanwhile, the TSA last week uncovered weapons in children’s stuffed animals and the walker of an elderly passenger. The discoveries come after months of charges from TSA critics who say airport screeners performed unnecessary pat-down searches on children and elderly travelers.
At T.F. Green International Airport in Warwick, R.I., TSA agents last week discovered gun parts hidden inside three stuffed animals. A man traveling with his 4-year-old son claimed that he didn’t know the gun parts were in his son’s toys.
Also last week, TSA agents at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey found a knife mounted on a metal walker that an elderly passenger tried to bring on a plane.
TSA spokesman David Castelveter said he doesn’t think the criticism of his agency will lessen with the discoveries.
“It seems TSA is the convenient subject of criticism, but we have a real and important role in protecting the safety of passengers,” he said. “The number of items we find reflects that the system if functioning as it is designed.”
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