The problems for Erroll Southers — Obama’s nominee to head the Transportation Secruity Administration — aren’t confined to his unwillingness to answer in clear fashion the question of whether he would support collective bargaining for TSA workers. The Washington Post reports that Southers did not testify truthfully to Congress about his past misconduct as an FBI agent.
In an affidavit, Southers admitted to Congress that he was censured by the FBI in 1988 for using his position to gain access to data about his ex-wife’s new boyfriend. He claimed that he had asked a co-worker’s husband who worked for the police to run the database search. When Senator Collins asked Southers whether this was the only case in which he engaged in this serious abuse, he testified that it was.
Later, however, Southers sent a letter to Collins and Senator Lieberman (the two key members of the Senate Homeland Security Committe) stating that on two occasions, not one, he misused his position to gain access to information about the “boyfriend.” Moreover, he did not ask the police to run the search; rather, he ran it himself and passed the information on to the police.
Southers claims that his incorrect testimony was inadvertent, the result of inability to remember the details of events that occurred more than 20 years ago. That’s not an implausible contention. It’s easy to see how, in his recollection, two database checks could merge into one, and it is difficult to see why he would admit to the one instance but intentionally conceal another. There would be more to gain from concealing from the Senate the fact that he ran the searches himself, but it’s still quite possible that Southers’ memory let him down on this detail, as well.
The important fact is that, from all that appears in the Post’s account, Southers corrected the record before anyone learned that he had given misleading and incorrect testimony. So long as that’s the case, I don’t think the testimony should stand in the way of confirmation. More importantly, it almost certainly will not do so.
Now, if Sothers will candidly address Senator DeMint’s question about collectively bargaining. . .
JOHN adds: This latest controversy has tipped Jim DeMint, who now says that Southers is unqualified and shouldn’t be confirmed. Byron York also points out that, while the Democrats are trying to change the subject to Republican “obstruction,” in fact “nearly all of the delay in the process has been the work of Democrats.”
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