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Rumor Alert: Conflict of Interest at TSA?

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blogger and pundit Annie Jacobsen published a piece titled, "Top TSA Officials in Cheating Scandal Also Ran Private Consulting Firm " on Saturday, March 15. This piece has been linked to from several blogs and other sites in the past day.

Below is a topic by topic comparison of suppositions and the truth. At the end of this post is an e-mail I personally sent to Jacobsen on Thursday, March 13th, three full days before the piece appeared, clearly answering her questions and explaining the rules concerning outside employment. Full e-mail addresses have been omitted.

Myth:
"...the TSA was caught encouraging colleagues to cheat on covert bomb detection tests being performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."

Fact:
Anyone remotely familiar with post 9/11 security knows that the FAA does not conduct covert security tests anymore and hasn't for several years. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, Government Accountability Office and TSA Office of Inspection do. The message in question was an attempt to notify federal security directors of the possibility of someone masquerading as a Department of Transportation official and was recalled 13 minutes after being sent. The individual that sent the e-mail was not familiar with covert testing at all.


Myth:
"Consulting in the private sector simultaneously is in direct conflict with federal policy and specifically prohibited by two statutes of Department of Homeland Security employment contracts..."

Fact:
As was written (see e-mail below) to Jacobsen three days before the article appeared, government ethics rules do not prohibit Federal employees from owning or operating a private business as long as it does not create any conflicts of interest for them. In other words, employees cannot participate in any government matter that could affect the financial interests of their own business. The law that restricts this type of conflict of interest is 18 USC § 208 . TSA is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of the consulting company McGowan and Restovich operated.

Jacobsen also referenced a regulation titled, ADM 3700. After checking with our attorneys, that regulation pertains only to federal air marshal personnel, not regular TSA employees. This was also clearly communicated to Jacobsen in the e-mail below.

Additionally, looking at the very document she references in the piece, it clearly states, "TSA employees may not engage in outside employment or an outside activity that conflicts with their official duties..." TSA has looked into this activity and is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of Group 2M. (as is written in the e-mail below).

Myth:
"Morris "Mo" McGowan took Restovich's place as security operations chief after the cheating scandal broke."

Fact:
While chronologically correct, these events are completely unrelated. Mr. Restovich left the top post in security operations to become a senior field executive.

Myth:
"Restovich did not show up and was instead dispatched overseas. TSA would neither confirm nor deny if in his new role as DHS attaché, Mike Restovich is a government employee receiving a salary and benefits, or if he is a paid consultant."

Fact:
Mr. Restovich was never "dispatched" overseas. He was selected to fill the position of DHS attaché to the United Kingdom. This was in no way related to any scheduled hearing.

During conversations and e-mail correspondences with the reporter, the question, "is Mr. Restovich a government employee receiving salary and benefits?" was never asked. If it had been asked, we certainly would have provided this information. As the e-mail below shows, we did answer all questions pertaining to Mr. Restovich's assignment in England and his predecessor in the position.

Myth:
"TSA's Office of Public Affairs declined to provide further information on Mike Restovich, Morris "Mo" McGowan, or the security consulting company the two men formed while working as TSA officials."

Fact:
As the e-mail below clearly shows, all the questions asked were answered in a very clear, straight-forward manner.

----- Original Message -----
From: White, Christopher
To: 'annie jacobsen' anniejacobsen@.com
Sent: Thu Mar 13 17:39:56 2008Subject:

RE: Two Questions

Annie, Below are answers to your questions. Also, going forward, you will be given the same access to information as other private citizens via our Freedom of Information Act office. They may be contacted at: foia@dhs.gov .

1) Did anyone hold the position, "DHS Attaché to the United Kingdom" before Mike Restovich? And if so, who.

Yes, David Tiedge

2) Do you have any updates you would like to share with the public regarding the Congressional investigation into the matter involving Mike Restovich last fall?

Congress would be a more appropriate source for updates on a congressional investigation. Suggest you contact the relevant committee.

Group 2M:

Government ethics rules do not prohibit Federal employees from owning or operating a private business as long as it does not create any conflicts of interest for them. In other words, employees at the Transportation Senior Executive Service (TSES) level and below cannot participate in any government matter that could affect the financial interests of their own business. The law that restricts this type of conflict of interest is 18 USC § 208. TSA is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of Group 2M. In response to your question regarding ADM 3700, that policy refers to Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) personnel only and neither Mr. McGowan nor Mr. Restovich are FAMS personnel.

Christopher

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Your defense is to state that senior executives in TSA have exempted themselves from the rules and regulations that they force their employee underlings to follow? Are you serious? That's your defense?

As a TSA employee, I was investigated for participating in outside employment. Want to know what my crime was? I owned a rental property. After a year, and I'm sure lot's of tax payer money to fund this investigation, the allegations were later found to be "unfounded and without merit".

If you expect all of America to believe that Resotovich having a security consulting business, while sitting in an executive service position with TSA, while holding a Top Secret clearance, is not a conflict of interest, then you really must think we are all STUPID.
And if you expect all of America to believe this was not a conflict of interest because other crony TSA managers "approved it", then you must be out of your minds crazy.

From your answer above the FACTS are obvious: TSA management has one policy we all understand. "Do as we say, not as we do"

Submitted by Anonymous on

So what do you expect from an organization that is above the law?

Submitted by Anonymous on
In other words, employees cannot participate in any government matter that could affect the financial interests of their own business. The law that restricts this type of conflict of interest is 18 USC § 208. TSA is not aware of any government matter that would affect the financial interests of the consulting company McGowan and Restovich operated.

Either you are being myopic or disingenuous. The fact is Restovich and McGowan have high level security clearance through the TSA and have a private consulting group specifically for "security and investigations." Conflict of interest is not a one-way street. If you can't see how people could easily perceive Restovich and McGowan as having a conflict of interest because they have security clearance and they are doing security and investigations" then you are sticking your head in the sand. These guys aren't selling Amway products on the side.

As to your dismissal of the claim that Restovich was "dispatched" to the U.K., I have no problem with your choice of another word. Tell me, then, how it is that an attache is such a lynch pin in the "War on Terrorism" that he can't hop a six hour flight back to Washington to testify before Congress? Bush has spent God knows how many days in Crawford and, surprisingly, the Republic hasn't been wiped out by the terrorists.
Submitted by Trollkiller on

While I am happy that a question by me and a couple of other posters rated a whole new thread. I would have preferred that my post, and the others asking the same questions, were not held until a defense was mounted.

I know it may seem you blog team folks can't win for losing, but we do appreciate the hard work you put forth on this blog. We know it can't be easy defending the TSA all the time but you guys are doing a great job.

Christopher wrote:

Myth:

“…the TSA was caught encouraging colleagues to cheat on covert bomb detection tests being performed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).”

Fact:

Anyone remotely familiar with post 9/11 security knows that the FAA does not conduct covert security tests anymore and hasn’t for several years. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, Government Accountability Office and TSA Office of Inspection do. The message in question was an attempt to notify federal security directors of the possibility of someone masquerading as a Department of Transportation official and was recalled 13 minutes after being sent. The individual that sent the e-mail was not familiar with covert testing at all.

From the Mike Restovich email dated April 28, 2006 to Federal Security Directors.

"Subject: Notice of possible security test.

This information is provided for your situational awareness. Several airport authorities and airport police departments have recently received informal notice of possible DOT/FAA security testing at airports around the nation. Here is the text of one such notification:"

The email goes on to describe the agents preforming the test and the method they are using to get past security.

As you can see in the email Mike mentions the DOT/FAA as the ones conducting the test. I can only assume that Mike Restovich is very familiar with post 9/11 security.

Now the only way I can see this lining up with the official explanation is someone broke into Mike Restovich's email account and sent out a bogus email.

Seeing that there has been no mention of anyone being charged with a computer crime in this case leads me to believe that the email was sent out by Mike Restovich in a clear attempt to alert Federal Security Directors.

Submitted by Christopher on

Anonymous said, "Your defense is to state that senior executives in TSA have exempted themselves from the rules..."

Ah, no one said or implied that anyone has exempted themselves from any regulation. Maybe comprehension is the issue.

Without being familiar with your situation but going from your own words, the phrase "unfounded and without merit" pretty well proves my point. Your rental property is unrelated to your official duties (unless of course you're renting to an airline) and you were, according to your comments, found to have violated no policy.

Simply operating a security and consulting business is NOT a conflict of interest. If this business was doing transportation security and consulting to regulated parties (airports and airlines), that would be another thing.

Also, conflicts of interest are not looked at by one's "crony manager" but by offices well outside security operations like chief counsel and inspection.

The facts are the facts. People have the right to own a business outside of work as long as their government employment does not affect their private venture.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team

Submitted by Christopher on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Christopher on

Thanks Trollkiller, appreciate the kind words.

As the link: "message in question" in the original post shows in greater detail, the system we use to communicate with federal security directors is called Nethub and is operated by a group of individuals. The message in question was sent from “Mr. Restovich” via Nethub by one of those individuals. When Mr. Restovich found about this message, 13 minutes after it was posted, he recalled it.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

I smell propaganda.

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

My issue here Christopher is that TSA has given me no reason to think that it is telling the truth about this or much of anything else it puts out there. I read the article and am in the process of doing what research I can to follow up on the information it presents.

I am also doing some independent investigation to see what evidence of cronyism and corruption I can find (i.e. no bid contracts going to well placed high dollar donors to the Bush Administration political machine -- not saying that there is any, but given the administration's track record in other government agencies, to find it in the TSA would be as surprising as finding a cheap plastic toy in a box of Cracker Jacks. When I find it, I'll be sure to make it public.

The thing is that when you guys actually come clean and really make what you do truly transparent, when you guys stop with the ridiculous security theater, and when you guys start doing things that really make sense to the traveling public you may enjoy a little more credibility. When we are finally blessed with an administration that does not engage in wholesale lying to the people it serves to prop up its corporate masters we may be able to believe it.

Until that happens Christopher, I'm afraid you have an uphill battle.

Now if you can show me some documentary proof that the article is not true (you didn't, you just effectively said "trust me"), maybe I might change my tune a bit.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Christopher said...

Thanks Trollkiller, appreciate the kind words.

As the link: "message in question" in the original post shows in greater detail, the system we use to communicate with federal security directors is called Nethub and is operated by a group of individuals. The message in question was sent from “Mr. Restovich” via Nethub by one of those individuals. When Mr. Restovich found about this message, 13 minutes after it was posted, he recalled it.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team

That may help to exonerate Mike Restovich personally, but unfortunately it indicts his team.

The fact still remains that the email was not a warning against a possible unknown "someone" masquerading as a DOT employee.

Reading the email it is plain to me, by not only the subject line but the body, the email was an attempt to warn of an official covert test. I see absolutely no indication that this was an attempt to warn against unknown security risks. (if you do, please point them out)

This Nethub setup sounds like another disaster waiting to happen. Allowing someone else to use your official channel without explicit over site is irresponsible. Nothing should ever leave his office with his name on it without his approval first.

As Mike has learned, you can't unring the bell. Recalling an email is as futile as trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.
Submitted by Anonymous on
Simply operating a security and consulting business is NOT a conflict of interest. If this business was doing transportation security and consulting to regulated parties (airports and airlines), that would be another thing.

Really? And how would you or anyone else know what the exact nature of the security and consulting business was without testimony? Unfortunately, Mr. Restovich was too busy drinking tea with the Queen or something similar and couldn't bother to testify before a Congressional hearing.

The facts are the facts. People have the right to own a business outside of work as long as their government employment does not affect their private venture.

Because Rstovich and McGowan would never use their government security clearance to further their business interests.

And if you believe that, I have some beachfront property in Kansas you might be interesting it.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Christopher,

Although I'm going to give you an "A" for effort, and I hope that TSA pays you a very large sum of money to do this (at least your doing something albeit it covering people's butts), Your not fooling me. Through all this myth-fact mumbo jumbo smokescreen of yours, you still haven't answered the main question in Ms. Jacobsen's article that has been left unanswered by TSA. Let me see if I can try and get it answered here once and for all, Okay?

Here it goes:

Since Mike Restovich accepted the Position of DHS Attache´to the United Kingdom, has he received a U.S. Government employee salary or any employee benefits while in this position, or in any other government position to date?

Now Christopher, this is not a difficult question. Your answer does not need to be drawn out with explanations. It is a very simple "Yes" or "No" answer.

So what is your answer?

Submitted by Trollkiller on
winstonsmith said...

...to find it in the TSA would be as surprising as finding a cheap plastic toy in a box of Cracker Jacks.

Winston my friend you are showing your age. It has been a long time since Cracker Jack put anything as cool as a plastic toy in the box. Now they just put in paper puzzles and crap like that so the little snowflakes don't choke.

Anonymous said...

I smell propaganda.

Is that the new fragrance from Calvin Klein? I can see the commercial now. Opening scene shows a TSA screening station, soft focus, beautiful girl in a sun dress and smiling TSOs.

The beautiful girl does that float walk towards the metal detector. The detectors goes off. A smiling TSO wands her, but instead of being the standard wand it is a bubble wand. Bubbles surround the girl as soft 60's rock plays.

"Propaganda by Calvin Klein" is super imposed on the screen.

Hope you all enjoyed the touch of silliness, but back to business.

I too would like to see some documentation supporting the TSA's version of the story. Maybe the email recalling the first email.
Submitted by Christopher on

Yes anonymous, Mr. Restovich is a federal government employee. As DHS attache to the UK, he does receive a salary every two weeks. He even gets benefits like sick time off, annual leave and can even participate in our version of a 401k (thrift savings plan).

The point is that any TSA employee can operate a private business as long as it doesn't benefit from his government position.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

As with all of your posts, even though I disagree with some of your organization's methods and the extent of your organization's purpose, I greatly appreciate the effort you and your fellow bloggers spend trying to give citizens information on the TSA. Openness in government is a wonderful thing, so I praise you for that even though I think removing one's shoes is reactionary and absurd.

(And I used an anonymous proxy to post this because I honestly don't trust that some nut-job in the TSA won't add me to some magic unadministered no-fly-list for posting this. Sorry.)

Submitted by Anonymous on
"The point is that any TSA employee can operate a private business as long as it doesn't benefit from his government position."

While it may not involve his personal position (transportation security) I do feel this is a breach of the Executive Branch Federal Code of Ethics that TSA Employees are to uphold. Specifically EXECUTIVE ORDER 10939 2(a) which states "

2. No such official shall engage in any outside employment or other outside activity not compatible with the full and proper discharge of the responsibilities of his office or position. It shall be deemed incompatible with such discharge of responsibilities for any such official to accept any fee, compensation, gift, payment of expenses, or any other thing of monetary value in circumstances in which acceptance may result in, or create the appearance of , resulting in:

(a) Use of public office for private gain;"


It is clear what this private business creates the appearance of which is conflict of interest. Also it should be duly noted that his public office is used for private gain in the business. By noting the DHS Attache title or any affiliation with the government he is USING PUBLIC OFFICE FOR PRIVATE GAIN which is a clear violation. Also if this business didn't benefit from his government service then why did he wait until he was with the TSA to start the business?
Submitted by Trollkiller on

You know the fact Mr. Restovich did not return for the Congressional hearing bugs me way more than the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The warning email was generated by his office in his name. So I would assume that would make him a very valuable witness.

Maybe we are reading too much into it, maybe he just did not want to go through security at the airport. ;-)

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Mr Anonymous: At the risk of being slightly off topic here (although since we're on the topic of corruption in general I think it ties in) I just wanted to take a moment to comment on your statement and open up the discussion a little wider:

(And I used an anonymous proxy to post this because I honestly don't trust that some nut-job in the TSA won't add me to some magic unadministered no-fly-list for posting this. Sorry.)

March 16, 2008 10:06 PM

How sad is it that you fear your government in that way? How sad is it that my family fears that I'm going to suffer harrassment on my next business trip, which is coming up soon because of my frequent posts to this blog that are critical of the TSA (although should I see the magic SSSS at the bottom of the boarding pass I'm going to start to wonder myself -- never been screened before like that -- why start now?) How sad is it that the terrorists we need to fear are not running around Afghanistan and Pakistan so much as around the executive and legislative offices in Washington DC?

Our own government, by making the people it serves afraid to exercise their own rights or by suggesting that they ought to give up their rights in the name of some nebulous and ill-defined security -- even temporarily, is as bad or worse than any terrorist it purports to fight.

We as a people need to stop this type of domestic terrorist activity on the part of our government and stop it now. We need to turn those in power out while we still can by every legal and peaceful means at our disposal -- impeachment, censure, indictment and trial, starting with the President and Vice President and working our way down through the Cabinet and the Congressional Leadership who have to a person failed in their duties under the Constitution to check the power of this megalomaniac administration.

Would this extend to the TSA? Of course it would. It would extend to the NSA, the CIA, and every government agency and agency head that has said yes to the illegal activities of the past 7 years. It would see the people in power responsible for war crimes, constitutional breaches, treasonous acts, and putting the financial interests of a few wealthy campaign donors and corporate titans ahead of the long term stability and security of the USA put on trial. These people would in turn have to answer in public for their actions and equally important, their failures to act in the public interest.

I stand by my earlier statement that I have no faith in the TSA's assertion that there is no corruption going on here. Christopher finds himself in a difficult spot here. He's defending the indefensible. I've been researching but from what I've been seeing on the blog, so have a bunch of other people. Assuming the allegations are true, and I have every reason to suspect that they are, the TSA has a great deal of explaining to do.

Submitted by Anonymous on
The point is that any TSA employee can operate a private business as long as it doesn't benefit from his government position.

What evidence is there Restovich and McGowan have not used their position in the government to further their private business interests?

Let me guess: Because they pinkie swore they didn't or wouldn't?
Submitted by V on

People should not be afraid of their government. Government should be afraid of its people.

Submitted by Anonymous on

winstonsmith, To you sir I kindly and most graciously say, Get a Life. Persons of your ilk only serve to ruffle a few feathers and sing to all who would listen, the sky is falling... However odd it may seem, you sir and your ilk are the same folks who will scream bloody murder and blame this very administration if , God forbid anything does happen here in the homeland. I see your moniker on each and every blog on this site and it is always the same, except this time you exposed yourself as a true kool-aid drinking member of the looney left. I defend your right that is protected by the Constitution to question the Government, a very healthy thing, but constantly abusing that right makes you out to be nothing more than a whiner. This site was set-up to foster an open and honest dialog with the administrators for the TSA to help promote changes in procedures to help them help us, the travelers by pointing out problems that we see and by suggesting ways for improvment. Boldly asking for the abolishment of this agency and all that it is trying to do to protect us from an enemy that is hell-bent on our destruction serves no purpose, except maybe to grandstand. Please, winstonsmith, quit complaining and offer meaningful suggestions or find some other way to vent your personal diatribe than on this blog, I and many other travelers (and I assume the moderators) would appreciate it. Good Day Sir!

Submitted by Peter A Stinson on

There are plenty of people who have side businesses and are government employees. And, as you note, there's nothing against it so long as there is not a conflict of interest.

There are also plenty of people who leave government service -- either retiring from or just leaving -- to go work with government contractors. There are some rules against this, but, again, they are mainly focused on conflict of interest.

For those who are irate, I recommend writing to your elected congressional delegates and ask them to pass new laws restricting other employment while serving as a government employee and the revolving door between government work and contractor (or lobbying) work. In truth, this type of legislation will never happen because the powers that be all benefit from the lax restrictions.

In the mean time, we all must be vigilant to ensure that conflicts of interest don't collide. I've read the Pajamas Media story, and I don't see the conflict of interest; I must be dense, unlike Ms. Jacobsen. So long as they didn't use any government time or assets while doing private business and so long as they didn't influence any contracts made to the consulting group, they appear -- at least from my read as a civil servant of more than a decade -- to be in the clear.

Sure, it may not be pretty, but it's the system as it is set up now. As I noted, don't like it? Change the law.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To quote Anonymous
[i]The point is that any TSA employee can operate a private business as long as it doesn't benefit from his government position.

What evidence is there Restovich and McGowan have not used their position in the government to further their private business interests?

Let me guess: Because they pinkie swore they didn't or wouldn't?[/i]

What evidence is there that they didnt use their position? What a silly thing to write. What evidence is there that YOU have not commited some unspecified crime? How does anyone prove a negative?

Why must Mr. McGowan and Mr. Restovich, or anyone else, prove their innocence? Is it not the role of the reporter to provide some evidence that improper conduct took place? Once again, all the media has to do is imply something and everyone assumes wrong doing. This is nothing but a sloppy media hack's made up story.

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Mr Anonymous:

Thank you for taking the time to voice your opposition to my opinion below. I would like to take a moment to answer just a few of your points.

winstonsmith, To you sir I kindly and most graciously say, Get a Life. Persons of your ilk only serve to ruffle a few feathers and sing to all who would listen, the sky is falling,

Clearly I have ruffled your feathers, and the sky is still above us. And if I have ruffled your feathers, then I have succeeded in what I have been trying to do. Also, I would caution you about making statements such as "persons of your ilk." You have no idea who I am or anything about me other than that I do not approve of the TSA. Painting a group with a broad brush is a dismissive and condescending tactic.

I see your moniker on each and every blog on this site and it is always the same, except this time you exposed yourself as a true kool-aid drinking member of the looney left.

I see several people who are frequent contributors to this blog including myself who are also detractors of the TSA. I also see frequent contributors who support the TSA. I have never made a claim to come from the left or the right as the terms are commonly understood today (despite what you may read into what I write, which is really based in your own perception, over which I have no control). You are making an assumption based on the fact that I vehemently oppose nearly everything the current administration has done. I would suggest you read the Federalist Papers and some of George Washington's writings if you really want to know where I'm coming from.

I defend your right that is protected by the Constitution to question the Government, a very healthy thing, but constantly abusing that right makes you out to be nothing more than a whiner.

I appreciate that you defend my right to free speech as much as I defend yours. That freedom of speech I remind you comes at the risk that you may be exposed to ideas you find offensive. If you don't like what you are reading, you have a choice not to read it.

This site was set-up to foster an open and honest dialog with the administrators for the TSA to help promote changes in procedures to help them help us, the travelers by pointing out problems that we see and by suggesting ways for improvment.

Well, the TSA has certainly stated that they want to have an open and honest dialog with the traveling public. However, so far there has been little actual dialog and what there has been neither particularly open and of debatable honesty. Many people, not just me, have asked some very pointed and direct questions about TSA policies that seem very reasonable on their face and the TSA has yet to provide direct answers. The TSA has, on the other hand, provided some lovely attempts at PR, which have largely fallen on their face.

Boldly asking for the abolishment of this agency and all that it is trying to do to protect us from an enemy that is hell-bent on our destruction serves no purpose, except maybe to grandstand.

I defy you Mr. Anonymous to find one post where I have suggested that security is not necessary. I have suggested that the TSA is no more effective at providing the security we need than the agencies we had prior to 9/11 and that it provides this security at an enormous cost in terms of dollars and surrendered rights and liberties. As to your suggestion that there is an "enemy" who is "hell-bent" on our "destruction" all I can say is that is a matter of perception. Who is this enemy exactly? Why does this enemy want to hurt us? Did we do something to this enemy or does this enemy think we did something to it that makes it so upset with us? I know I have my own thoughts on this subject and I suspect that you have yours and the only thing of which I'm sure is that those thoughts are not at all the same. I am also sure that this is not the appropriate forum in which to have that debate.

Please, winstonsmith, quit complaining and offer meaningful suggestions or find some other way to vent your personal diatribe than on this blog, I and many other travelers (and I assume the moderators) would appreciate it.

I do not write what I write to please you, to please other travelers, or to please the moderators of this blog. I have offered what are, in my view good suggestions (i.e., returning checkpoint security to what it was pre-9/11 and in private hands, screening 100% of cargo, and keeping the doors bolted tight). If you do not appreciate what I write, you are not required to read it. I actually give the TSA moderators big kudos for having the stones to publish comments such as mine and those of the other detractors. So, Mr. Anonymous, to your request, I respectfully say "no."

Submitted by Ibored on
Why must Mr. McGowan and Mr. Restovich, or anyone else, prove their innocence?

Because Mr. McGowan and Mr, Restovich expect me to do so when I get on an airplane.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Since you have demoted Ms. Jacobsen, a recognized pundit and media person, to the same level as Joe Smith off the street, how quickly would you have responded to her had she used the FOIA@DHS address? That is probably the most disturbing part... to force people to wait months or years for their FOIA response to be answered.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Why must Mr. McGowan and Mr. Restovich, or anyone else, prove their innocence?

They don't. However, since their salary comes from my tax dollars, I have every right to question what I think is impropriety on their part.

Two men with top secret security clearance open a private security and consulting firm and just because the TSA says everything is on the up and up, we are supposed to just accept that.

They gave the look of impropriety, so any hand wringing over people asking questions is nothing more than theater.
Submitted by Anonymous on

So, is it true that the TSA execs have founded http://www.flyclear.com/enrollment/ to allow travelers to escape screening for $128 for the first year? I think a lot of people will pay that to avoid the harrassment. I will.

Let them make some money. This is government, afterall. They would take the jobs unless they could skim.

Submitted by David Nelson on

OK, Christopher -- Let me try to steer you in the right direction. As an aside, it's interesting, despite the numerous issues and topics people have raised on thie blog, that the TSA leadership moved responding to another blog and defending its SES employees right to the top of the list! As if it wasn't obvious before, we now certainly know your where your Administrator's priorities lie.

I have two comments. To refresh your memory, I'm coming from my now-32 year experience in the military and federal civil service, which I trust will put my remarks in context. You have tried to combine two distinct and separate issues, albeit involving the same individual(s). So, I will separate them for purposes of discussion:

1. "The Restovich email"... I saw the email in question several months ago when it first was revealed. Yes, it was clear to me that it was a Help Desk or something that sent it out over Restovich's inbox, which gave the appearance it came from him personally. That's Problem #1. If it went out over his "signature," he's accountable whether he likes it or not regardless of how you try to spin it. Problem #2: There was obviously nobody in the release chain with the experience and common sense to say, "Wait a minute!" Problem #3: along the lines of common sense, why in blazes do these types of messages go out over an UNCLASSIFIED system? For as much paranoia as you have with your sacred SSI, here was clearly a case of a class of information that SHOULD be classified! If you absolutely can't hook up all your FSDs within a classified network, common sense says you need to develop a series of unclassified nicknames suitable for message traffic.

Summary: "The email" incident was such a poor example OPSEC and overall management practices that should be personally embarassing to your Administrator.

"Conflict of Interest" ... I'm sure everyone from Mr. Hawley down to you guys clearly understand that there are two fundamental and equally-weighted principles of ethical government conduct:

1. An ACTUAL conflict of interest or other unethical conduct; AND,
2. The PERCEPTION thereof.

You can be propped up and sent out there to spin the story that there was no unethical conduct among these two guys as related to outside employment. But, the fact is clear that there is a PERCEPTION of unethical conduct, which is just as bad (legally and managerially) as the actual conduct itself. It's clear to me that perception was not at all considered when Mr Hawley approved outside employment for these two individuals. Again, this is another huge error in judgment by either the DHS Ethics attorney or by Mr. Hawley himself.

Because these individuals were SES employees, they are in a category of federal employees required to file a PUBLIC financial disclosure form each year. (Here is a link to that form: http://robins.jag.af.mil/Forms/Ethics/sf278.pdf). I encourage anyone who wishes to dig into this case further to FOIA the SF 278s that these individuals were required to file and, as the saying goes: "Follow the money." to determine for yourself whether there was an actual conflict of interest in addition to a perceived COI.

For further research, I encourage readers, and TSA bloggers/employees themselves, to look at the Office of Government Ethics web page: www.usoge.gov.

Just out of curiosity, could one of the bloggers describe for us what ethics training you receive?

Submitted by Annie Jacobsen on

Dear Christopher White:

Going forward, I will continue to address my questions to you in your official capacity as TSA Spokesperson. If you continue to ignore my questions, or paint a false picture of answering them, or leave out pertinent conversations that you and I have had (including your convenient claim not to remember being asked certain questions by me), then I will continue to report that "TSA declined to provide information" as asked. Considering that I am still waiting on a TSA FOIA filed more than 100 days ago (tracking Tracking # 08-0163), I trust you will understand why the FOIA is not the best way in which to get the information to the people. I might remind you that you are a public servant, Mr. White. Getting the information to the people in a timely manner is part of the deal.

With regards to your half-hearted attempts to attack my ethics as a journalist, I find it amusing, Mr. White, that in doing so, you too have been caught cheating!

Readers will note that "Group 2M" section in your email "response" to me slid in with out a prompt. I am of course referring to the email that was sent to me 27 hours after a deadline I made clear to you, and to which you agreed (but missed).

On this TSA Blog, you published only your response to my email, you are forgetting that I have the other half of the thread. I am attaching it below to illustrate your duplicity.

"Group 2M" appears no where in my email question to you. This is, of course, because my questions about "Group 2M" were part of our later conversation on March 11th beginning at 12:11 p.m., the conversation in which I clearly asked you, "is Mr. Restovich a government employee receiving salary and benefits?" but which you claim not to remember. A witness here in my office is quite clear about hearing me ask them of you.

Having read your readers' comments, and those on Pajamas Media, as well as Boing Boing (the most popular blog in the world that re-published part of my article), it's quite clear that the great majority of Americans have lost all semblance of public trust in TSA. Bravo, Mr. White, you've officially earned your place.

Sincerely,
Annie Jacobsen

Begin forwarded message:

From: annie jacobsen
[address deleated]
Date: March 10, 2008 9:59:19 AM PDT
To: "White, Christopher TSA PA"
[address deleated]
Subject: Two Questions

Christopher:
Kindly respond to the following questions, thank you.

1) Did anyone hold the position, "DHS Attaché to the United Kingdom" before Mike Restovich? And if so, who.

2) Do you have any updates you would like to share with the public regarding the Congressional investigation into the matter involving Mike Restovich last fall?


Thank you,
Annie Jacobsen
[END EMAIL]

Submitted by Trollkiller on

To winstonsmith:

Winston sounds like such a conservative name. Looks like if we ever do get together to debate we need to pick a place that is open 24 hours and serves food. I suggest Denny's.

I doubt you will be subject to extra screening on your next trip, if the TSA does bother to track our IPs we will most likely be placed on a "do not disturb" list.

Submitted by Christopher on

Annie, thanks for visiting our blog and for participating in this debate.

While we certainly can agree to disagree on the timing of my answers to your questions or your ability or inability to update your posts, I stand by the facts presented in our original post.

Concerning the Group 2M response, it is true your original e-mail did not include that question but was discussed in a conversation. Out of an abundance of caution, I choose to capture my response to you in writing so there wouldn’t be any misinterpretation. This seems to have been the right thing to do, all things considered.

I will leave you with the below comment concerning Mr. Restovich’s status as a federal employee. It was posted at 9:25 last night.


Yes anonymous, Mr. Restovich is a federal government employee. As DHS attache to the UK, he does receive a salary every two weeks. He even gets benefits like sick time off, annual leave and can even participate in our version of a 401k (thrift savings plan).

The point is that any TSA employee can operate a private business as long as it doesn't benefit from his government position.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team
March 16, 2008 9:25 PM

Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Heh Trollkiller... love it.

Winston sounds like such a conservative name.

Actually, Winston Smith was the main character from George Orwell's 1984. He was a devotee of the truth and was willing to put himself on the line to challenge Big Brother. But yes, it does sound kinda conservative, doesn't it.

Looks like if we ever do get together to debate we need to pick a place that is open 24 hours and serves food. I suggest Denny's.

Ordinarily wouldn't be my first choice, but they make surprisingly good coffee for a greasy spoon.

I doubt you will be subject to extra screening on your next trip, if the TSA does bother to track our IPs we will most likely be placed on a "do not disturb" list.

I have to agree with you. In point of fact even if I were to be selected for special screening, I never carry anything that would get me in trouble. I didn't before 9/11 and I don't now. I don't even dress funny. Not gonna find drugs, knives, or anything more incriminating on me than perhaps a copy of the New York Times or WSJ (well not so much the WSJ anymore since Murdoch took it over). It's my family and friends who think I'm in serious trouble here. On the other hand, if I all of the sudden disappear from the blog next week, you'll know what happened ;-)

Submitted by Trollkiller on

To Christopher:

I hope the TSA issued you some fire proof clothing when they tapped you for this blog, because you are taking some heat my friend.

So who was the DHS Attaché to the United Kingdom before Mr. Restovich?

What kind of security consulting did 2M engage in? (The answer to this could quickly end the question about conflict of interest)

By the way, I am still waiting on answers to the following questions.

Why do the TSOs not have full whistle blower protection?

What avenues do the TSOs have open to them to report the abusive acts of coworkers or managers?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said:

(And I used an anonymous proxy to post this because I honestly don't trust that some nut-job in the TSA won't add me to some magic unadministered no-fly-list for posting this. Sorry.)

I've even heard rumors that TSA wants to require commenters to register prior to posting. How stupid can they get?

Oh, and Mr. paranoid, there is no super-secret no-fly list. Just the TSDB.

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Anonymous said:

(And I used an anonymous proxy to post this because I honestly don't trust that some nut-job in the TSA won't add me to some magic unadministered no-fly-list for posting this. Sorry.)

I've even heard rumors that TSA wants to require commenters to register prior to posting. How stupid can they get?

Oh, and Mr. paranoid, there is no super-secret no-fly list. Just the TSDB.

When some TSOs think they are EXEMPT from the Constitution or when phone companies are on the hot seat for allowing Govt. spying without a warrant, the poster has every right to feel paranoid.

It is not a far stretch to think that some "nut-job" (a person of low ethics) at the TSA could use the force of the DHS to obtain a users physical address from their ISP.

It is also conceivable that the same "nut-job" could easily inform the FBI that Mr. Paranoid asked a question on the interwebs "in an attempt to find a weakness in the airport screening".

Bingo, Mr. Paranoid is on the TSDB.

From the FBI website.

Who gets included in the TSDB?

Per HSPD-6, only individuals who are known or appropriately suspected to be or have been engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism are included in the TSDB.

Don't you think a report from DHS would constitute "appropriately suspected"?

I just weaved an improbable tale, but a possible tale. Mr. Paranoid has every right to use a proxy in an attempt to hide his identity.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Chris,

You are a nice guy but in this case a little like Sec. Powell at the UN. He was placed in a position where his undying support for the administration cost him world credibility. There are 2 issues here I see.

1. In the past we have terminated STSO who were dating their subordinates due to the fact it is 1.) a conflict of interest, and 2.) unauthorized. Now no, I am not implying that Mike and Mo were dating but none the less the exact same issues of concern are at play here. As the FSD, Mike had direct control over the promotions, evaluations, leave approvals, etc, etc, etc for his AFSD-S (Mo) if Mo was at Dallas Love Field. IT IS INAPPROPRIATE AND STINKS OF SUCH!!! Hold your senior HQ personnel to the same standard as a 1st day TSO. Did Mike give Mo unfair favor.....who knows but it is somewhat ironic that people from Dallas seems to REALLY move up @ HQ.

Also, regarding the inappropriate email on Red Team testing. For the love of God man, admit it.....Kip testified in front of congress and was called everything but a lier. He defended the poor soul who unknowingly sent the email and good old Mike recalled it within 13 minutes...end of story??? NO - what Kip left out is the FACT that the entire issue of the testing was discussed on a nationwide FSD conference call about 2 hours before the email went out. Congress never got that part and I dare you to print this on the blog. People are so sick of it.

Mike Restovich has placed this agency in all kinds of liability with this as well as his comments to "old white guys" (OWGs) FSDs during the 2006 FSD conferences that the agency needs to cut their losses. So, Chris.....keep up the smoke screen and enjoy damage control.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Christopher said...

Thanks Trollkiller, appreciate the kind words.

As the link: "message in question" in the original post shows in greater detail, the system we use to communicate with federal security directors is called Nethub and is operated by a group of individuals. The message in question was sent from “Mr. Restovich” via Nethub by one of those individuals. When Mr. Restovich found about this message, 13 minutes after it was posted, he recalled it.

Hope this clarifies things a bit.

Christopher
EOS Blog Team


Not too fast - remember it was fully discussed on a nationwide FSD conference call just an hour or 2 prior to the email. If anything the email was just a reminder of what had been discussed....come on Chris...challage the OSO / HQ line and seek the "Whole Truth". Get past the email and see if you feel used?

Submitted by Anonymous on

If Mr. Restovich was the FSD and Mr. McGowan the AFSD, both at the same airport, wow! Who cares about the right to have a business it is all about a conflict.

Can one reasonably assume that two persons who were friends for years and have a private consulting firm together would not also help and/or give undue favor in TSA to their "partner"? This sounds ripe for conflict and appearance problems. What about the fact that Mike would have approved Mo's T&A, ANLV, SKLV, hold him accountable. Wow again - I am sure OCC is trying to see, speak, or hear no evil.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What I don't understand is why Mr. Restovich did not appear before congress as required. Is his job so crucial in London that he can't get on an airplane?

Only Mr. Restovich can answer questions about what his company is doing and if there is a conflict of interest, not Mr. Hawley.

Submitted by Randy on

"In the mean time, we all must be vigilant to ensure that conflicts of interest don't collide. I've read the Pajamas Media story, and I don't see the conflict of interest; I must be dense, unlike Ms. Jacobsen. So long as they didn't use any government time or assets while doing private business and so long as they didn't influence any contracts made to the consulting group, they appear -- at least from my read as a civil servant of more than a decade -- to be in the clear."

Another poster wrote this.

from a taxpayer's point of view there is more to conflict than the limited items you mention.

Are these men in positions to provide any kind of preferential treatment to entities that engage their firm?

Are they using knowledge (let's limit that to unclassified as there is nothing pointing to release of classified information) that they gained from their position to assist a paying customer? That could be as simple and seemingly inocuous as you need to talk to the "blogmeister" to find that out.

What did/do they say about their backgrounds in sales presentatations and other "advertising?"

I'm sure the lawyers on the congressional committee would add better questions.

Answers to those questions would inform considerably about whether there were any conflicts beyond the obvious appearances.

Submitted by Anonymous on

@Trollkiller:

I just weaved an improbable tale, but a possible tale. Mr. Paranoid has every right to use a proxy in an attempt to hide his identity.

I agree that everyone has the right to use a proxy and be anonymous, but for this blog I just don't think it's necessary. Kip's intent in rolling out the blog is to solicit passenger input, and sometimes nuggets of helpful information bubble to the surface, but for the most part most at TSA view the blog as a royal pain. Not because TSA is being constantly bombarded with hate, but because of the distraction. TSA employees are trying to do their jobs, not spend inordinate amounts of time responding to this newly empowered oversight group with lots of time on its collective hands.

Sorry for the rant. The blog would a good idea if commenters had a reasonable expectation of when to expect TSA responses.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Chris, still waiting to hear the explination for:

If TSA has terminated persons in their TSO ranks for inappropriate relationships (trust me they have) and the main reason being because of the appearence of the ripe enviroment for things such as favortism in areas such as leave, T&As, work schedules, work assignments....... then why is it fully acceptable that an FSD, who has all such oversight as described above plus more not doing any wrong when they enter into a partnership with a direct report subordinate? You might argue that it is off duty but I can alsoo argue that just because I might be dating a subordinate does not mean I have not held them to the same standard at work. For the record I have not ever done so but lets just suppose. If you have no issue and the agency sees none then TSA needs to go back and take a hard look at those they have held to a higher standard and make them whole. That is unless they really did use their position in an abuse of authority then let them remain fired. I find it very hard to believe that Mike and Mo did not discuss their private business venture on gov. time??

Submitted by Jim Huggins on
Most at TSA view the blog as a royal pain. Not because TSA is being constantly bombarded with hate, but because of the distraction. TSA employees are trying to do their jobs, not spend inordinate amounts of time responding to this newly empowered oversight group with lots of time on its collective hands.

A couple of responses, one snarky, one not:

1. Yes, customer service is a pain. Welcome to the world that the rest of us deal with on a daily basis.

2. There's years of built-up angst that is pouring out onto this blog. Eventually, over time, this will dissipate. But part of dealing with TSA's poor public image is acknowledging the existence of past (and present) problems.

There would be a lot less vehemence generated against TSA if the general public felt that its concerns were acknowledged, even if they weren't resolved to their satisfaction. This blog can be one step towards that goal.
Submitted by Winstonsmith on

Hi Mr. Anonymous:

but for the most part most at TSA view the blog as a royal pain. Not because TSA is being constantly bombarded with hate, but because of the distraction. TSA employees are trying to do their jobs, not spend inordinate amounts of time responding to this newly empowered oversight group with lots of time on its collective hands.

I have zero sympathy for those at the TSA who feel pained by the light that now shines into this organization through this blog. I only wish that more government agencies had this level of public scrutiny and people who were willing to hold their officials and spokespeople accountable to answer questions simple and difficult both directly and completely.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Most at TSA view the blog as a royal pain. Not because TSA is being constantly bombarded with hate, but because of the distraction. TSA employees are trying to do their jobs, not spend inordinate amounts of time responding to this newly empowered oversight group with lots of time on its collective hands.

Just remember that doing your job involves interacting with the public. After 6 years of the public dealing with uneven enforcement of rules, harassment, intimidation, and no ability to hold the TSA accountable we have a voice. Yes we all know you are protecting America, but at the same time I am tired of being treated like I am guilty of a crime every time I fly.

The Diamond Lane program is one example of what happens when you listen to feedback and respond positively. However if TSO’s feel like the poster above it’s only a matter of time before your employer starts reprimanding and firing employees who fail to treat the public with respect. Welcome to the world of customer service, the one the rest of us work in.
Submitted by Anonymous on

It is good to be the King.

Submitted by Anonymous on
Sorry for the rant. The blog would a good idea if commenters had a reasonable expectation of when to expect TSA responses.

We know that when all of the questions get answered, a very hot place will have frozen over. Ignore the questions and we will keep asking them. After a while those questions become embarassing.
Submitted by SeeSaw on

"I find it very hard to believe that Mike and Mo did not discuss their private business venture on gov. time??"

So what? Half the time that I spend at work, I am not talking about work! I can physically do my job, and talk about something else unrelated at the same time. What is your point?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...

However if TSO’s feel like the poster above it’s only a matter of time before your employer starts reprimanding and firing employees who fail to treat the public with respect.


That's the major problem with TSA, they make it impossible to get rid of the dead wood. Until that changes we'll continue to see an overwhelming negative response to TSA on this blog in regard to customer service.

JMHO

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