Ed Payne and Rene Marsh
July 31, 2013
Let’s get this out of the way straight off: The Transportation Security Administration is probably not going to top anyone’s list of Favorite Federal Government Agencies.
And the stories of its failures spread faster than a speeding jetliner: TSA officers stealing money from luggage, taking bribes from drug dealers, sleeping on the job.
So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a new Government Accountability Office report, citing a 26% increase in misconduct among TSA employees between 2010 and 2012, is striking a nerve with some travelers who’ve had to endure the shoeless, beltless shuffle on the trip through security.
“This makes me never want to check my bag,” Twitter user KathrynPowers1 posted Wednesday in response to the news.
“That’s disgusting, ” tweeted user RidockKing.
Among the report’s findings:
— Misconduct cases involving TSA employees — everything from being late to skipping crucial security protocols — rose from 2,691 a year in 2010 to 3,408 in 2012.
— About a third of the cases involved being late or not reporting for work, the largest single category of offenses.
— 10% of offenses involved inappropriate comments or abusive behavior.
— About a quarter involved screening and security failures — including sleeping on the job — or neglect of duty offenses that resulted in losses or careless inspections.
Examples of violations
The report details one case of a TSA agent suspended for seven days after trying to carry a relative’s bag past security without screening. A supervisor interceded and the bag was found to contain “numerous prohibited items,” according to the GAO report. It didn’t say what the items were.
In another case, a TSA agent was suspended for 30 days after a closed-circuit camera caught the officer failing to individually examine X-ray images of passenger items, as required by agency policy.
Among the 9,622 offenses cataloged in the report, the GAO also found 384 ethics and integrity violations, 155 “appearance and hygiene” complaints and 56 cases of theft.
While not specifically mentioned in the report, notable cases of theft by TSA agents include a 2012 case in which two former employees pleaded guilty to stealing $40,000 from a checked bag at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, and a 2011 guilty plea from an officer who admitted stealing between $10,000 and $30,000 from travelers at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
The officer in the 2011 case, Al Raimi, admitted he would “kick up” some of that money to a supervisor, who in turn allowed him to keep stealing. The supervisor, Michael Arato, also pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks and bribes.