TSA Misconduct Up 26 Percent Over Three-year Period: Report

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 06:41 PM

By Ken Mandel

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Instances of misconduct from TSA employees rose 26 percent in the three-year period, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

The report released Tuesday found that the number of infractions increased to 3,408 in 2012 from 2,691 in 2010. A little more than half of the 9,600 cases cited involved attendance or security violations, such as "not conducting security or equipment checks, and allowing patrons or baggage to bypass screening."

Stephen Lord, director of homeland security issues for the GAO, said in the report that some Transportation Security Administration employees have engaged in theft and drug-smuggling. In a 2011 case, an Orlando security officer pleaded guilty to embezzlement and theft after he stole $80,000 worth of laptop computers and other electronic devices from passengers' luggage, the report said.

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Another 2011 case involved a TSA agent stealing between $10,000 and $30,000 from passengers, and it was also later discovered that the agent was bribing his managers and splitting the money.

"TSOs engaging in misconduct raise security concerns because these employees are charged with helping to ensure the security of our nation's aviation system," Lord said in the report.

Some incidents involved TSA officers sleeping while on the job. More than 3,000 screeners left their shift without approval, were late, or didn't show up. Other cases involved TSA agents letting friends or family through security with prohibited items.

Almost half of the offenses led to letters of reprimand, 31 percent resulted in suspensions of varying lengths, and 17 percent ended with the worker leaving the agency, the GAO said.

The three-year time frame of the study matches the run of TSA Administrator John Pistole, an ex-FBI deputy director who strengthened the enforcement of the rules. Last year, workers were dismissed at Newark's airport for sleeping while at work, at Philadelphia's airport for cheating on tests, and at the Fort Myers, Fla., airport for not conducting random screenings.

In a statement released Tuesday, the TSA said it is working toward putting in GAO recommendations to ensure that airport workers comply with rules.

"TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards and expects all TSA employees to conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism," the statement said. "There is zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and TSA takes appropriate action when substantiated, including anything from a referral to law enforcement or termination of employment."

Created as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the TSA employs 56,000 people and establishes policies that protect travelers in the U.S., specifically in airports.

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Related stories:

Rep. Mica: TSA 'Cooked Books' on Private Screening Costs

TSA Reverses Decision Allowing Knives on Planes

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