Tags: Coronavirus | Travel | tsa | n95 | masks | whistleblower

Whistleblower: TSA Hoarding Unused N95 Masks

a white kay en ninety five mask
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By    |   Monday, 11 May 2020 04:08 PM

The Transportation Security Administration is hoarding more than 1.4 million N95 masks its employees are not using even after a decision to donate them to medical workers, according to a TSA lawyer who filed a whistleblower complaint.

Charles Kielkopf, TSA general counsel for four states including Minnesota, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Friday he filed the complaint in response to "incredible hubris of power over common sense" from the agency's leadership.

Screeners at the agency have been told they only have to wear surgical masks, though they do have the option of wearing the N95 respirator masks which filter out more particles. They are, however much less comfortable, and few TSA screeners have only been instructed to wear surgical masks, and Kielkopf said very few have chosen to wear the optional and less comfortable N95 respirator masks.

Internal TSA documents state 116,000 of the masks were from the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, and 1.3 million were sent from the Customs and Border Protection Agency. The older masks have been certified safe to use.

Kielkopf said he was present on a conference call about six weeks ago where officials decided to donate the unused masks to medical workers, but the plan was never carried out even though there has been a 90% decline in airline travelers using airports, according to TSA documents.

The decision to donate masks was made when the TSA had only the older masks in storage.

"It went from us trying to donate things to us taking them," Kielkopf said.

"We have them, but very, very, very few screeners are using them," he added. "So why do we have all these N95 masks when health care workers are saying they don’t have them?"

Kielkopf's complaint appears not to be going anywhere.

Special Counsel Office attorney Whitney Waters told the Star Tribune the office could not confirm TSA officials "acted outside of their discretion" in keeping the masks. There was also no proof TSA agents will not eventually choose to use the N95 masks, Waters said. "Therefore, we will take no further actions in this matter."

Kielkopf said he plans to appeal the ruling.

ProPublica first reported on the complaint.

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Even after a decision to donate them to medical workers, The Transportation Security Administration is hoarding more than 1.4 million N95 masks its employees are not using, according to a TSA lawyer who filed a whistleblower complaint.
tsa, n95, masks, whistleblower
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2020-08-11
Monday, 11 May 2020 04:08 PM
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