In his third attempt to solidify leadership at the Transportation Security Administration, President Barack Obama nominated FBI Deputy Director John Pistole to lead the agency on Monday.
The president's previous two picks, Retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Harding and Los Angeles International Airport Chief of Homeland Security Erroll Southers, both withdrew their names from consideration.
Pistole, a graduate of Anderson University and the Indiana University School of Law, has served as deputy director of the FBI since 2004. He joined the Bureau in 1983 and has worked in several divisions within the FBI including the organized crime sector in Washington, D.C., as well as the white collar crime and civil rights squad in Indianapolis.
After Sept. 11, Pistole was appointed to the counterterrorism division as deputy assistant director for operations. In 1999, he helped lead the investigation into the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 off the coast of Rhode Island. More recently, Pistole was involved in the search for Faisal Shahzad, the man who allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square.
The nomination of Pistole has received praise thus far from both lawmakers and colleagues.
Naval Criminal Investigative Services Deputy Assistant Director Thomas Mahlik, who formerly served as chief of the counterintelligence strategy and domain section for the FBI, said that Pistole will provide TSA with the leadership it needs.
"(Pistole) is the right leader for the TSA top job," he said. "Like the success he has seen in the FBI, (Pistole's) deliberate, principled and consensus-building style of leadership will undoubtedly and I expect, will favorably play a central role in leading TSA as well. Not an understatement on my part, but his iconic devotion and reputation within the LE and intelligence communities will perhaps finally solve the TSA riddle and serve the country well."
Lynn Mattice, chairman of the board of advisors for the Security Executive Council, who has collaborated with Pistole in the past, echoed Mahlik's sentiments.
"The Obama administration would be hard pressed to find a more highly respected and experienced person to lead the TSA than John Pistole," Mattice said. "With an experience base that traverses a broad range of law enforcement, national security, counterterrorism and intelligence disciplines, as well as managing the day-to-day operations of the largest law enforcement agency in the country, Pistole is uniquely qualified to lead the TSA. I honestly cannot imagine any senator not wholeheartedly supporting John Pistole's nomination."
Indeed, Senators Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, both of whom serve on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, praised Pistole's nomination.
"I applaud the president's choice of a career law enforcement official to head the Transportation Security Administration," said Collins. "Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, (Pistole) has been on the forefront of our nation's fight against terrorism. While I will withhold my final judgment on this nomination until the committee's full examination and vetting processes are completed, I am pleased that the president has chosen an individual with such strong law enforcement experience."
Lieberman also lauded Pistole's extensive law enforcement background.
"My initial reaction to the nomination of John Pistole to head TSA is extremely positive. He has a great law enforcement background and understands the threat of terrorism as well as anyone in the government," Lieberman said.