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TSA Chief Defends Full-Body Scanning, Junk-Touching in Airports

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TSA head John Pistole told a Senate panel yesterday that the new, controversial measures being taken by airport screeners in the name of security are necessary in an attempt to keep the public safe even though privacy concerns have been raised.

He said:

"If you have two planes getting ready to depart and one, you say, everybody has been thoroughly screened on this plane, and you can either go on that plane or another plane where we have not done a thorough screening because people did not feel comfortable with that, I think most if not all of the traveling public will say, 'I want to go on that plane that has been thoroughly screened.' "

To which Senator Joe Lieberman responded:

"I understand the privacy sensitivities," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). "Of course it's awkward, it's unusual. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of us, we get on those planes and we want to have the confidence that nobody on the plane has evaded security in a way that will allow them to blow up the plane and kill everybody else on it. So this is unfortunately the world in which we live."

Then, Nevada Senator John Ensign chimed in.

"Let's just say I don't want either of them because of religious reasons," he said. "What happens to me?"

Pistole: "While I respect and we respect that person's beliefs, that person's not going to get on an airplane."

John Ensign and religion go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Which is fine. But why he hasn't yet been run out of DC on a rail is beyond me. Back in April, we took a look at Ensign during the Goldman Sachs hearings on Capitol Hill, when Blankfein, et al were being accused of running nothing more than a rigged Las Vegas casino.

Ensign, whose father, Michael, happens to be a former executive with the Mandalay Resort Group, now MGM Mirage, stridently rose to the defense of Las Vegas casinos.

“In Las Vegas, people know that the odds are against them,” he said. “On Wall Street, they manipulate the odds while you are playing the game.”

It was a rather strange statement coming from a man who was then the target of a federal criminal inquiry. As Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor who's now the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told Minyanville, “John Ensign’s moral outrage is hard to swallow at any time. For him to be outraged about anyone else’s ethics is absurd.”

Join me for a little background on the man who couldn’t stomach the thought of Nevada gambling parlors being compared to an outfit such as Goldman, if you will.

In 2006, John Ensign asked his best friend, Doug Hampton, to serve as his co-chief of staff in the US Senate, regardless of the fact that Hampton had no political experience. According to Hampton, Ensign wanted him to “walk alongside [him] in whatever capacity possible…same kind of model that Jesus exhibited in the Bible.”

Eventually, Ensign got to know Hampton’s wife Cynthia -- who was also Ensign’s campaign treasurer -- in the Biblical sense, diving headlong into a sexual relationship with her, and putting her teenage son on the payroll of the Republican Party‘s Senate Campaign Committee.

After Doug Hampton found out what was going on between Ensign and his wife and confronted the Senator, Ensign sent a letter to Cynthia Hampton to end the affair, writing, “God never intended for us to do this. I walked away from Him and my relationship with Him has suffered terribly.”

“John Ensign’s parents then offered Doug Hampton $96,000 with the expectation he’d remain quiet,” Craig Holman, of Washington, DC policy group Public Citizen, told Minyanville. “But Ensign never actually ended the affair.”

“Ensign claimed the money was a gift to a friend who was going through a difficult time, not a bribe,” Holman said. “He also pointed out that he wasn’t responsible for any wrongdoing to begin with, because it was his parents who gave Hampton money, not him.”

Ensign wanted Hampton out, so he offered to help him start a lucrative new career as a lobbyist, lobbying the office of John Ensign.

“This was part of the deal to keep Hampton from going public about the affair,” Holman explained. “The guy had no lobbying experience whatsoever, but businesses that had issues pending before Ensign were told to hire Hampton, who would then lobby Ensign.”

Hampton said Ensign helped him line up clients, which CREW’s Sloan pointed out is a felony.

BioDiesel of Las Vegas, a company that wanted to convert used cooking oil from area hotels into fuel, needed money to complete construction of a processing plant. They asked Ensign to contact executives at Kinder Morgan, which already had a plant up and running in the area, about a partnership.

John Lopez, Ensign’s chief of staff, and Brooke Allmon, Ensign’s director of Nevada legislative affairs called Kinder Morgan, and, according to reports, Allmon informed the company that if it wanted to receive favorable treatment from John Ensign, it must hire Doug Hampton as a lobbyist.

The partnership didn’t make economic sense to the parties involved and Hampton wasn't ultimately retained by Kinder Morgan.

Then, Hampton revealed that, in 2008, Ensign set him up with executives from a small Nevada debit-card company called eCommLink to discuss hiring him on as a lobbyist, as he could provide access to Ensign who could help secure contracts with the Treasury Department.

A man without lobbying experience generally doesn’t make for the most effective lobbyist, and Hampton was out of the game a year later, broke and unemployed.

As for John Ensign, Richard Scotti, former Clark County Republican Party chairman and Swadeep Nigam, former Clark County treasurer, are calling for Ensign’s resignation because of the damage he's doing to the entire Republican Party.

However, stepping down may be a moot point, since Ensign’s chances for reelection in 2012 don’t look particularly bright.

Federal Election Commission reports show that Ensign’s campaign took in a whopping $50 in contributions during the first quarter of 2010 from one Robert Donald, a Las Vegas retiree, who sent Ensign two separate $25 donations.

Whether the TSA is conducting screenings in the right way or not is for you to decide. But, while Washington is certainly nothing short of a cesspool, why in the world is a guy like John Ensign still allowed to contaminate it even further?
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.