House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said Thursday that U.S. air marshals are being investigated for posing as pornography film producers to hire prostitutes and film sexual acts on their government-issued cellphones.
"One of the major differences here is leadership," the Utah Republican told Federal Air Marshal Service Director Roderick Allison in his opening statement of a hearing on misconduct within the agency, a branch of the Transportation Safety Authority.
"Your openness and willingness to engage in that oversight, your proactive communication with the committee speaks volumes about you and your organization," Chaffetz said. "If you don’t dig out the root of the problem, it becomes a bigger infection — and I like the fact that you’re addressing this head-on."
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In his testimony, Allison told the panel that the incident was under investigation.
It allegedly occurred while the Chicago-based marshals were on assignment in Europe, The Intercept website
reported on Friday.
Allison said the issue was discovered in June during an investigation of a disability claim. Pornographic materials had been discovered on the government phones.
Two marshals were placed on indefinite suspension by mid-July, Allison told the panel, and one had resigned, the Intercept reported
Thursday. The disability claim was referred to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, he said.
However, Allison acknowledged under questioning by committee members that similar incidents most likely have occurred before.
"They must have thought it was okay and must have thought they weren’t going to get caught."
Chaffetz noted other problems within the agency, saying in his opening that "there's also reportedly major alcohol abuse within the federal air marshals system.
"This hearing is really not only intended to address those problems," he added before noting that Allison and other agency officials "have taken some pretty strong and decisive action."
The chairman later told the Intercept that at least 12 air marshals were being investigated or otherwise linked to various types of misconduct.
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