White House Mum on New DHS Secretary

 - September 2, 2013, 5:10 AM

As Janet Napolitano departs Washington for sunnier climes in California, some names have begun to surface on her replacement as Secretary of Homeland Security. One of those mentioned is Boston police commissioner Edward Davis.

Although the White House would neither confirm nor deny whether Davis is on a list of candidates, he has more than a passing knowledge of the workings of Washington in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Boston Globe described Davis as “a no-nonsense cop who encouraged Congress to seek more answers on whether the FBI was doing enough to share its intelligence information.” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, said Davis would be “an excellent choice for Homeland Security secretary. His service to Boston has been exemplary, and the Boston Police Department’s response to the Boston Marathon bombings was exceptional.”

Napolitano announced on July 12 that she was stepping down to become president of the 10-campus University of California system. Other candidates who have been mentioned as her successor include New York City police commissioner Raymond Kelly; William Bratton, who has run the New York, Los Angeles and Boston police departments; Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard commandant; Transportation Security Administration (TSA) administrator John Pistole; and Jane Holl Lute, a former deputy secretary of the DHS.

In other security developments, some members of Congress, auditors working for the DHS and civil liberties groups are expressing concern about the TSA expanding its reach to include sporting events, music festivals, highway weigh stations and train terminals. Since 2005 the TSA has been operating Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams to conduct random security checks at transportation hubs across the country, which the agency claims was in response to the 2004 train bombing in Madrid that killed 191 people.

“Our mandate is to provide security and counterterrorism operations for all high-risk transportation targets, not just airports and aviation,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole. “The VIPR teams are a big part of that.”

According to an August 5 article in The New York Times, the VIPR program now has a $100 million annual budget and is growing rapidly, increasing to several hundred people and 37 teams last year, up from 10 teams in 2008.

TSA officials claim the random searches are “special needs” or “administrative searches” that are exempt from probable-cause limitations because they further the government’s need to prevent terrorist attacks.