January 27, 2004
Admiral David M. Stone
Transportation Security Administration
TSA Headquarters, West Building, 7th Floor
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 22202-4220
Dear Admiral Stone:
It was nice meeting you earlier this month and I hope you are enjoying both the messages and the candy in the AOPA CAN introduction campaign.
One of the issues that we briefly discussed happened before your watch and was one of the few times AOPA has been at cross-purposes with TSA. I am referring to the direct final rule released in January of 2003, "Threat Assessments Regarding Citizens of the United States Who hold or Apply for FAA Certificates." There is also a companion rule issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) entitled, "Ineligibility for an Airman Certificate Based on Security Grounds." The problem was not unique to AOPA. Members felt their civil rights violated, other certificate holders, such as repair stations, controllers, and the airline community all felt this had gone "over the line". The issue was not the concept of protecting the nation by revoking the pilot certificate of individuals deemed a terrorist threat to the United States, but the failure to have the opportunity for an independent review of an emergency revocation of a United States Pilot Certificate in the rule.
Compounding this was the fact that both the FAA and TSA rules were issued with no comment period or advanced notice. This combination of factors caused an overwhelming AOPA member outcry. Despite our good faith efforts to resolve this with the TSA counsel's office, we had to turn to Congress for help.
Congress included a provision in the FAA's reauthorization legislation, Vision 100 - Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act, which became law December 12, 2003, Public Law No. 108-176 providing the opportunity for a third-party review for U.S. Citizens. Section 601, Certificate Actions In Response to a Security Threat, allows a U.S. citizen, whose airman certificate has been revoked or denied on the grounds of security, an appropriate due process.
I ask that the TSA take action to implement changes to the TSA/FAA airman revocation rules as outlined in this new law.
While AOPA fully supports the goal of combating terrorism and has worked closely with the TSA in this effort, this should not result in undermining one of the most foundational elements of the nation by suspending the rights of U.S. citizens who hold pilot certificates to "due process." Prompt action by TSA is essential to implement this new law and eliminate any uncertainty for America's pilots.
I look forward to working with you and members of your staff to meet the intent of the rulemaking action, but in a manner that protects the interests of America's law abiding and patriotic U.S. citizens.