ANDERSON, Ind. (May 18, 2015) – The former head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and number two in line at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), called his transition to Anderson University “fascinating” in an interview Monday with CBS4.
“I’ve loved interacting with the students,” John Pistole said, who took over as the university’s fifth president in March.
The job, Pistole jokingly said is one he’s wasn’t qualified to get. In fact, he almost didn’t even tell his wife about the initial offer.
"So I got off the floor and said that's a good one because the four prior presidents have been an ordained minister,” he said.
Pistole is a man of deep faith, a graduate of Anderson University who grew up just blocks from campus. He wasn’t planning to leave the TSA until Anderson University called.
“Members of the trustees who were interviewing me said they were looking for a non-traditional candidate because these are non-traditional times,” Pistole said. “And so they wanted to think outside the box. I’m definitely outside the box.”
Pistole maintains his security clearance in Washington, and he’s now an advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
“I still have some input without having the responsibility,” he said.
Weeks after taking over the controversial TSA in 2010, he was summoned to Capitol Hill where he faced fierce criticism over the agency’s frisking policies and new body scanners.
“I think the criticism was warranted,” he said Monday. “It was a very difficult mission and given limitations in the intelligence sharing among the U.S. intelligence community and the lack of technology to really provide the service that I think the American people deserve.
“Yeah we used some equipment that was state-of-the-art at the time but were not user-friendly, either because they revealed too much about a person’s anatomy, or because at least one machine emitted these tiny amount of radiation that people had concerns about.”
More than three decades with the FBI and TSA combined, having risen through the ranks in a power-hungry city, Pistole for the most part is putting Washington politics in the rear-view mirror. The Hoosier native oversaw a shift in intelligence gathering during a critical point in history, a philosophy to capture terrorists before they strike.
“Really started looking at ways we could reshape not only the mindset but the policies and procedures to make it at least as good if not better security, more efficiently, more humanely frankly,” Pistole said.
“And with the better opportunity to find that one-in-a-billion needle in a haystack, someone who might be trying to get a shoe bomb through, underwear bomb or something else they could blow up a plane.”
Now, from the forefront on the nation’s war on terror to a small, Christian college in central Indiana, Pistole is looking after the university’s 2,500 students.
“I went out on my terms with a specific sense of guidance, direction and calling,” he said. “So it doesn’t get much better than that.”