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Why is TSA screening people at political rallies?



If you thought airport security was the only place you had to deal with transportation security agents, think again. TSA agents are increasingly being recruited to provide additional security at political rallies, raising questions over why the federal government is involved in securing private campaign events.

TSA agents working at the rallies screen attendees and their possessions.

In the last two months, the Secret Service has asked for more than 1,800 TSA to assist at campaign events, according to a report by CNN Money.

Jim Harper, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute voiced concern about a federal agency stepping in to provide security at a private event.

"Political events relate to government, but they are not government events and why they should be government secured, I don't know," he said.

In addition, the cost to hire TSA agents to provide screenings at rallies is pretty steep and keeps the agents from doing their real job at airports.

Full-time screeners earn salaries ranging from $25,000-$30,000 a year, according to the TSA. Job listings for part-time screeners show hourly rates ranging from $15-$25 an hour, CNN Money reported.

"It's cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to train these people and we can't schedule them to do the mission they were hired for," said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

In a statement, a spokesman for TSA said agents work the rallies on their own time and their service does not detract from airport security.

"TSA has an Interagency Agreement with the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) to provide screening support during the Presidential Campaign upon request, The support comes from the TSA at the local airport and does not impact local TSA operations. The USSS also pays for the screener's time," the statement said.

Most of the additional security has been requested for Donald Trump rallies. In the last few months, TSA has received more requests for screenings at the presumptive GOP nominee's rallies than any other candidate, according to CNN.

Secret Service has requested a total of 953 TSA officers for 104 Trump events as of March 30, while 640 agents were requested for 64 Bernie Sanders events and 248 officers were requested for 47 Hillary Clinton events, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, TSA is struggling to deal with increasingly long security lines at airports across the country.

The agency is in the process of hiring 768 screeners to help speed up those lines but it may take several weeks to see any results. TSA job candidates must go through a three-week training program and are required to pass a test before they can begin screenings.

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