Thursday federal headlines – May 9, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Nine groups of airline workers and travelers filed a legal challenge to the Transportation Security Administration. The groups object to a plan to let passengers carry small knives on airliners. The groups include representatives of TSA screening officers and federal air marshals. They threaten to take TSA to court if the plan is implemented. TSA Administrator John Pistole proposed the new rule take effect in April, but he met a storm of opposition. In their memo, the protesting groups say TSA should go through formal rule-making, which would take months and allow the public to weigh in. (Federal Times)
  • A former top diplomat gave a riveting minute-by-minute account of last year’s deadly assault on the State Department compound in Benghazi, Libya. Gregory Hicks told House lawmakers he called for military support that never came. He said that might have prevented a second attack in which four Americans died, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That contradicted testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in February. Hicks criticized a post-mortem investigative report that found fault with the State Department for lax security. He said the report was incomplete because its authors failed to interview many of the eyewitnesses. Hicks himself monitored the situation from Tripoli. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House is developing a proposal to expand wiretap laws. Reuters reports, the FBI wants to eavesdrop on Internet communications just like it can on telephone calls. Online chats and Voice-over-Internet-protocol services like Skype are of particular interest. Providers argue they are exempt from wiretap laws. Tech companies have opposed the idea. It’s not clear what their responsibility would be in translating encrypted data. Lawmakers are noncommittal. They say they want to see the details of the plan. (Reuters)
  • President Obama has re-nominated Davita Vance-Cooks to be public printer at the Government Printing Office. She is now the deputy public printer, and for a year was public printer under a recess appointment. Vance-Cooks joined GPO in 2004. She’s been chief of staff and managing director of the publication and information sales business unit. She was also deputy managing director of customer services. Before joining government, Vance-Cooks worked in the health insurance industry. (Federal News Radio)
  • After 10 years and half-a-billion dollars, the TSA’s ID system for transportation workers is riddled with flaws. That’s the verdict in a new report from the Government Accountability Office. It says the agency’s test of the TWIC program was incomplete, inaccurate and unreliable. Auditors say the Department of Homeland Security has failed to fix long-standing problems. TSA officials will defend the program before a House subcommittee today. TWIC is a biometric credential system meant to control access to U.S. ports. (GAO)
  • A House panel has approved a five-year ban on bonuses for Veterans Affairs executives. Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) says VA executives have collected huge performance bonuses year after year while, he says, they fail at their jobs. He cites the department’s struggle with a backlog of disability claims. The VA already has said it would give no bonuses to executives in that section. But the department came under fire from Congress and veterans groups last week for a bonus awarded to a VA health official. He oversees the Pittsburgh hospital where an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease killed five people. (Federal News Radio)