AOPA President Phil Boyer told a gathering of some 400 pilots last night that the new TSA/FAA security rule goes too far. He vowed that AOPA would challenge portions of the rule that tread on pilot rights.
"We certainly support lawful efforts to prevent terrorists from using aircraft to attack the U.S.," Boyer said during an AOPA Pilot Town Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, "but this rule smacks of McCarthyism. The TSA has become judge, jury, and executioner. What's happened to due process?"
Last Friday, the Transportation Security Administration and the FAA implemented new rules that direct the FAA to revoke the airman certificate of anyone that TSA determines is a threat to transportation or national security. But the process provides no independent review. A pilot can only appeal the threat determination back to TSA, and TSA, because of national security concerns, doesn't have to reveal the information implicating the pilot.
"There was no discussion of the standards, procedures, or criteria by which TSA makes the threat determination," said Boyer. "And you can't refute the charges against you if you don't know what the 'evidence' is."
He said that AOPA legal and technical staff are already researching the new rules, noting that AOPA's legal counsel's preliminary opinion is that TSA had exceeded the authority Congress had granted it.
Boyer said that AOPA had immediately brought its concerns to TSA management. And Boyer will begin personally presenting those same concerns to members of Congress next week.
Boyer polled the audience members, asking, "With full regard to the nation's security concerns, should AOPA fight this rule?" Some 94 percent of the pilots attending said, "Yes!" Boyer said AOPA would file strong comments on the rule and urged pilots to make their own comments as well.
"With the power of our almost 400,000 members, we will make an impact," Boyer said.
[See also the final rules: Ineligibility for an Airman Certificate Based on Security Grounds ( text | PDF); Threat Assessments Regarding Alien Holders of, and Applicants for, FAA Certificates ( text | PDF); and Threat Assessments Regarding Citizens of the United States Who Hold or Apply for FAA Certificates ( text | PDF).]