DISPLACED U.S. AIRPORT SCREENERS FLOODING AM SAMOA MARKET

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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, May 22) - Disappointed
with the failure of the federal government to hire local residents to work at
American Samoa’s airport as passenger and baggage screeners, Congressman
Faleomavaega Eni yesterday lodged an official complaint with the U. S.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Faleomavaega is concerned that displaced screeners on the
mainland, after the federal security screeners' workforce was reduced, have been
encouraged to apply for the local positions at the Pago Pago International
Airport.

He further believes that the recent assessment of local
applicants was unfair as only 100 were interviewed while 300 had applied, and
from the interviews, only 13 applicants were deemed qualified.

The Congressman has called on Admiral James Loy, administrator
for the TSA to "intervene and investigate these matters."

Faleomavaega's letter, obtained by the Samoa News late yesterday
afternoon, followed a telephone conversation with Mike Robinson, the second in
command at TSA.

"I am writing to express my deepest disappointment in all
matters relating to TSA's failure to hire U.S. Nationals to work as federal
airport security screeners in American Samoa," Faleomavaega wrote to
Admiral Loy.

Since October of last year, Faleomavaega said "we have been
promised that approximately 15 airport security screeners would be hired in
American Samoa and that these hires would be U.S. Nationals."

"To date," he points out, "not one full-time
screener has been hired in American Samoa" and notes the crew that was
brought in from Maui for this purpose at the Pago Pago International Airport.

In April this year, a TSA contractor was in the territory to
conduct interviews of local applicants, but as Samoa News reported later, only
about 100 were interviewed although close to 300 had applied.

Faleomavaega informed Admiral Loy that the TSA contractor hired
to interview American Samoa applicants sent 45 officials to interview 400
applicants.

"However, rather than interviewing all applicants, these
officials only interviewed 100 applicants and then determined that only 13
qualified," he explained.

"Quite frankly, I am troubled that any contractor would
send so many officials to interview so few people and even then not complete the
interviews," he added.

Noting his conversation with Robinson, the Congressman said that
"like me, he (Robinson) was unaware of these disturbing incidents which are
costing the federal government unnecessary expense and time."

"He also informed me that a hiring freeze has been in place
for some time which has preclude the hiring of U.S. Nationals in American Samoa
and that the freeze has since been lifted as of last week," Faleomavaega
recalled for Loy his conversation with Robinson.

Not long ago, the Samoa News reported a reduction in the
workforce for TSA security screeners throughout the U.S., but TSA maintained the
not yet filled 15 positions for American Samoa.

The national media added that those displaced could apply for
the 15 local positions or another U.S. airport where additional positions have
been added.

The closest state with a reduction in workforce is Hawaii.

According to the Congressman he has received word that the more
than 200 displaced TSA screeners from the mainland "have been encouraged to
apply for screening jobs in American Samoa based on the fact that there are 15
openings" in the territory.

"As you can appreciate, there would not have been 15
openings in American Samoa had your Regional director informed you that its
contractor is questionable and that it is more expensive to hire part-time
screeners from Maui than it is to hire full-time screeners in American
Samoa," Faleomavaega informed Admiral Loy.

Faleomavaega said he has asked Robinson for a complete report of
all matters pertaining to TSA's involvement in American Samoa "and as a
matter of record I am hopeful that you will personally intervene and investigate
these matters."

"I am also hopeful that you will make sure that the other
300 applicants who were not initially interviewed receive fair treatment and
consideration in the hiring process," Faleomavaega said.

"Simply put, I cannot accept TSA sending its displaced
workers to American Samoa to take the jobs of qualified U.S. Nationals,"
the congressman continued.

Faleomavaega said he worked closely with U.S. Transportation
secretary Norman Mineta and members of Congress, for nearly a year, "to
ensure that U.S. Nationals could also be hired as federal airport security
screeners."

"And under no circumstance will I allow TSA, or its
contractors, to mismanage this issue and put my people at a disadvantage,"
Faleomavaega added and informed Admiral Loy he would appreciate Loy expediting a
review of these matters.

In the meantime the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
specifically instructed Los Angeles U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi to
examine the impact of a congressional amendment that allows American nationals
from U.S. territories to apply for federal security screener jobs.

The judge must decide whether the change would alter his earlier
ruling blocking the federal government from enforcing the hiring restriction of
only U.S. citizens.

The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on
behalf of nine screeners at San Francisco and Los Angeles airports including one
U.S. National from American Samoa. That American Samoan has since withdrew his
name from the suit that was filed late last year.

The rest of the plaintiffs are permanent U.S. residents.

May 23, 2003

Samoa News: www.samoanews.com 

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