Former TSA administrator: Nation's airport security 'doesn't work now'

Former Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said Wednesday that the agency's approach to airport security is not effective in stopping terrorism.

Echoing criticisms made by some prominent congressional Republicans, Hawley, who is releasing a book on his TSA tenure, said the agency has not adapted from its mindset immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that spawned its creation.

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"After 9/11, we moved so fast to protect ourselves against further attack that we put in place security measures that were stronger," Hawley said in an interview with MSNBC.com. "But in the 10 years since, al-Qaida has proved to be an adaptive enemy. They simply take the defenses that they see and work around them to try something else. The problem at TSA is that each brick that’s been put up has been put up in a wall and stays there even after the vulnerabilities they address have been closed."

Hawley served as TSA administrator from 2005 to 2009. He praised TSA in the interview for introducing some of its "risk-based" security measures like its PreCheck known traveler program, which he said was "probably not perfect, but they’re trying to do the right thing."

But Hawley said the agency needs to "step up and clean out the regulatory phase of security which now essentially lists what’s prohibited and then you go look for things on that list.

"That may have worked in the past, but it doesn’t work now. It drives passengers crazy and, quite frankly, it drives the TSOs [Transportation Security Officers] crazy because they’re asked to do things don’t really improve security," he said.

But Hawley was not ready to go as far as TSA critics in Congress who call often for the agency to be downsized or abolished altogether.

"Then what?" he said. "If you abolish it, does someone else take over that function or are you willing to let planes be blown out of the sky? People talk about moving it into another department, changing its name — those are press releases from people who like to pontificate, but you’re not addressing the underlying problem. I say skip that bull---- and fix the underlying problem. That’s what needs to happen."