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In testimony before the Subcomittee on Aviation, a Department of Homeland Security official identified incidents of TSA agents pilfering passengers’ checked bags, stealing property during passenger screening, and hurling terroristic diatribes at innocent travelers. He described the TSA as a mismanaged agency that lacks oversight and accountability.
Charles Edwards, Acting Inspector General of the DHS, explained in his prepared remarks:
In our examinations of TSA’s programs, we found several themes of inconsistent and insufficient oversight, policy implementation, and employee accountability that have the potential to adversely impact the airline consumer experience.
In his testimony, Edwards recounted investigations over the last couple of years leading to the convictions of a Transportation Security Officer stealing $80,000 worth of passengers’ laptops, cellphones, and iPods from checked bags at Orlando Airport; as well as a Newark Airport TSO swiping $30,000 worth of property and money from passengers going through screening.
The Orlando TSO was sentenced to six months in jail, while the Newark officer got 2.5 years.
Perhaps most upsetting was Edwards’ statement, after the DHS conducted an investigation of a May 2012 security breach at Newark Airport, that the TSA doesn’t have a systematic, nationwide system in place to track and correct all security lapses.
“Our audits and investigations highlight various aspects of TSA’s oversight, policy implementation and employee accountability that could affect the actual and perceived safety and security of the traveling public,” Edwards said. “Although TSA has made efforts to improve transportation security and to carry out our recommendations, TSA still faces challenges and must continue to work toward accomplishing its vital mission to protect the Nation and ensure free movement of people and commerce.”
The theme of the subcommittee meeting was: “How best to improve our nation’s airport passenger security system through common-sense solutions.”
TSA administrator John Pistole was invited to attend the gabfest, but declined.
Another panelist, Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, in prepared remarks portrayed the TSA as ineffective and the “subject of derision.”
He recommended the TSA should:
- Reduce the list of forbidden items, and “focus on explosives;”
- Give TSA personnel a primer in customer service and distribute less-threatening uniforms;
- Decommission backscatter scanners as their radiation risk is unknown, “and their privacy protection software does not function;”
- Use millimeter-wave whole-body scanners merely for secondary screening;
- Expand trusted traveler programs;
- Halt the re-screening of international baggage because screening them again wastes time and money;
- Relegate the TSA to the airports and rely on local, state and national cops for rail, buses, ferries, and major spectator events, and
- Put more focus on the “back-end operations of airports” as many services are outsourced, and workers may not be properly screened.
Leocha says, “Our real aviation security comes from constant intelligence, not from last-minute checks of passengers. The elaborate and expensive TSA barricades, snaking lines, whole-body scanners and x-ray machines have been proven to be more for show than they are for actually apprehending a terrorist.”