TSA chief to retire

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole said Thursday that he is retiring at the end of the year after nearly five years at the helm of the agency. 

Pistole, who was appointed to lead the TSA by President Obama in 2010 after a six-year stint as a deputy director of the FBI, said he was leaving the federal government  to pursue a career in academia. 

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“It has been an honor and a privilege to have served as TSA Administrator. No words can convey my deep gratitude for the hard work and dedication of the thousands of men and women committed to protecting the American public," Pistole said in a statement. "I could not be more proud of all that our employees have accomplished together, particularly what they have done to help enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of transportation security while improving the passenger screening experience."

Pistole has been credited with reforming the TSA, from a one-size-fits-all airport security approach that was criticized by lawmakers and passengers to a “risk-based” approach that focuses more on passengers’ individual backgrounds. 

Pistole has still been at the center of several issues at the TSA despite the change, however, including an ill-fated push in 2013 to allow small knives on airlines for the first time since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 

Pistole said during the debate over the airplane knife ban that TSA agents’ time could be better spent searching for explosive devices, but he later relented after lawmakers balked at the proposal. 

Despite the knife dust-up, Pistole was generally seen as a calming influence at the TSA after the agency faced years of criticism for its X-ray machines and pat-down hand searches. 

Pistole spent more than two decades at the FBI during his pre-TSA career.