TSA's Investigation Into Groping Agents Ensured They Wouldn't Be Prosecuted

from the because-of-course dept

By now, you may have heard the story about how two TSA agents at Denver International Airport were fired recently after it was revealed that they had worked out a scam by which one agent was able to grope and fondle the genitals of male passengers he found attractive. The plan involved him signalling to a colleague who was working the scanning computer. That agent would tell the computer that the individual being scanned was female, which apparently would set off an “anomaly” alert for the groin area, allowing the male TSA agent to conduct a “pat down” of that area. Leaving aside the fact that these computers even have “male” and “female” settings and it can determine an “anomaly in the genital area” if they don’t match — this kind of thing was exactly what many insisted was going to happen when the TSA put in place these advanced screening procedures. And if you think that this is the only case of it happening, well, then, you probably think the TSA doesn’t rifle through and steal stuff from your luggage as well.

Now here’s the thing: this only came out because the TSA agent blabbed about it to a colleague, who then reported it, leading to an investigation. Many people find it odd that the two TSA agents (who are still unnamed) merely lost their jobs, rather than got arrested for this activity. Chris Bray, over at TSA News (found via Amy Alkon — herself no stranger to intrusive TSA searches), went and grabbed the actual Denver police report on the incident, revealing that it appears that the TSA set up its “investigation” in a manner to almost guarantee no criminal charges and that the names of the TSA agents would remain secret.

Specifically, the TSA was first told about this scheme on November 18th of 2014. First, it took nearly two months for the TSA to do anything about it, and it did not contact the police during this time. Instead, on Feburary 9th, TSA investigator Chris Higgins observed the screening area and saw the signal/button push/grope of the genitals. Higgins made no attempt to speak with or identify the victim of this assault (this is important). Instead, he just spoke with the two TSA agents who were terminated at some later time (exact date not clearly indicated). The Denver police were not told about any of this until over a month later, on March 19th, 2015, at which point they noted that without a named “victim” there wasn’t much they could do.

On that same day, the inspector, Higgins, told the Denver police that he had also spoken with a deputy district attorney who had told him that without a victim, it was unlikely they could prosecute a case. It’s unclear when that conversation took place, but it appears that the TSA had plenty of time to fire the TSA agents and make it basically impossible for the police to file a case before then telling the police what happened. As Bray notes, this all seems rather suspicious, as if the TSA’s “investigation” was much more about covering up the TSA’s misdeeds, rather than holding the agents responsible:

So in November of 2014, the TSA was warned that two of its officers were currently, actively conspiring to commit sexual assault. But the TSA did not notify the police about that anonymous tip. The Denver Police Department is the agency that regularly polices Denver International Airport; the DIA Bureau is listed on this directory.

If the TSA had notified the police about the tip in November, the police could have been watching the checkpoint to observe the groping incident that was instead witnessed by a TSA employee. But the police didn?t know about an allegation of active, current, ongoing sexual assault, because the TSA didn?t tell them.

And so an act of sexual assault occurred right in front of a TSA investigator ? and the investigator let the victim walk away without approaching him and identifying him.

Then, in March 2015, the TSA informed the police of the allegation, and of the evidence of the event that a TSA investigator had personally witnessed more than a month before. But the TSA didn?t notify the police until both employees had been fired ? in other words, until both participants in a scheme to commit sexual assault had been removed from the place in which they allegedly committed it.

It?s as if someone called the fire department to report a pile of cold ashes. The TSA waited to call the police until the passengers were long gone, the TSA officers alleged to have committed the crime were long gone, and the crime witnessed by a TSA investigator was more than a month old.

Isn’t that convenient?

Bray asked the TSA why it didn’t contact the police earlier, and received a boiler plate response about how “intolerable” the actions were, but no substantive response to Bray’s actual questions.

Yes, the groping scheme is a scandal, but it seems like a much bigger scandal is how the TSA handled the case — first allowing the criminal activities to go on for two months without notifying police, and then making sure that no one could be actually charged with a crime.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “TSA's Investigation Into Groping Agents Ensured They Wouldn't Be Prosecuted”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
92 Comments
Rick Smith (profile) says:

Re: anonymous tip

Whistleblowers ALWAYS get the ax.
If you are going to expose wrongdoing,
protect yourself.
Make sure there are at least several possible
sources of your information, preferably MANY.
Blab to a media outlet or some outside entity
that you can trust. Let THEM do the Heavy Lifting.
Never tell ANYONE what you did,
not your wife, not your kids, not ANYONE.
If they accuse you, be a very good liar.
DENY,DENY,DENY.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: This sounds like the beginnings of TSA gay erotica.

50 Shades Of No Way

The dark-haired passenger approached the scanner warily, taking cat-like steps and looking around him. Jim waited, his pulse racing as he took in the chiseled jaw and piercing blue eyes. The tall, muscular man had no choice but to enter the scanner. Jim’s right hand was trembling, moist with sweat. He licked his lips.

I’ll leave the rest to whoever wants to continue the story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: And TSA means

Total Sack Adjustment

I have been saying that for a long time.

Or you can say…

the TSA stands for a “Tactical Sexual Assault” for all members of the public to enjoy.

the TSA is a standing example of just how easy it is to get a public to give up its Liberty.

Humanity… just like being evil, the majority are cowards.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So the tag teamers walk away free to fondle others in the future.

The good news is, unless re-hired by the TSA (which I suppose is a reasonable possibility), the likelihood of being put into a position in which they are able to conspire to grope people this easily seems low.

I would assume their next job will be in law enforcement…

Oblate (profile) says:

Security video retention?

Isn’t there supposed to be video of the checkpoints? It seems like every other story involving airport security checkpoints has video. I would guess that the retention policy for the security videos is a few days less than the interval between the incident and when it was reported to the police. If so, could the TSA investigator be charged with obstruction and with destruction of evidence?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Security video retention?

…TSA says they only keep video for thirty days (as though there are physical tapes that need to be reused)…

The DVRs/NVRs of today will “reuse” the hard disk space and thus overwrite the oldest data. The question becomes how much hard disk space is available on each installation. With the number of cameras in a typical airport it is possible for a DVR/NVR to have only 30 days – or less – available for recording. And if any portion gets marked for archiving the hard disk space goes down: the DVR/NVR will not use that space until a human unmarks it.

RD says:

Re: Re: Security video retention?

“TSA says they only keep video for thirty days (as though there are physical tapes that need to be reused). So, conveniently no video, if TSA to be believed. “

There is only “no video available” as long as it’s one of the TSA in trouble. If it were you or I (aka, The Sheep, The Little People) you can can bet your ass that a video of you doing/being something wrong at an airport or (God forbid) to a TSA agent would be available YEARS after the event, in order to fully prosecute (control, intimidate) any member of the public for even the slightest infraction of “terrorism” laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Incorrect method

Sounds like this guy was using his palms to test the groin/buttocks area instead of the back of his hands…

As someone that insists on getting a patdown instead of using the scanners, and flying quite a bit in the last few years, I would have said something to this guy if this happened to me. I’ve heard the spiel a hundred times, and experienced many variations of the “patdown” procedure. Most male TSA agents are uncomfortable doing the patdown, and it’s obvious. Some are fine with it, but they do it properly (although occasionally rough)…

I have never had a guy use his palms though – and they even tell you they use the back of their hands.

Maybe if more people opted for the patdowns and reported incorrectly done procedures, we’d be keeping these guys honest. The scanners give everyone the false sense of “privacy”, while the unfortunate (and clueless) people who get selected for patdown are subjected to these criminals who know they can get away with it.

I see it as my civil duty to avoid the scanners, and force the TSA to do their jobs properly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: TSA

Please stop trying to frame partisan positions as left vs. right. Most of the the Democrats in power are bought by the wealthy elite corporate entities just like the Republicans to give the illusion of choice, polarize the public through the promotion of fights over wedge issues as a distraction while they continue to fleece the masses. There is no left in politics anymore. It’s all right-wing.

derdagian1 says:

TSA Groping and Thieving.

If they are groping males, they aren’t stealing my stuff.
Different TSA Democrats are stealing. But, the ones who are feeling cocks aren’t stealing right then. It keeps some TSA more interested in scrotums and testicles than stealing, part of the time??

I think that is pretty close to the moral of the story.

bearington (profile) says:

TSA Gropers

The TSA is just the latest special security group under the Federal government to be exposed as less than professional.

Most frequent fliers long ago realized that if this group was our best defense against flying with bad guys then we were in trouble.

In their early days I had them steal from me in plain sight and then deny it. I also had them damage my property only to have claims filed and ignored.

RoccoRolo says:

Been saying this for years

Many, many commentators and bloggers were shouting from the rooftops about the disgusting TSA — going back years ago — and the usual servile liberals and the Democrat-mouthpiece mainstream media did their Journ-O-List tactic of calling the complainers “right-wing extremists” and so forth. Wouldn’t want to rock the boat during their Dear Leader’s regime, after all. As usual, the so-called “right-wing extremists” had it pretty much correct from the word “go.”

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Another Freikorps-style paramilitary group that has decided they are above the law.

It seems we can’t trust anyone with even a little bit of authority.

It does raise my curiosity about how difficult it is to impersonate a TSA officer for the sake of engaging in mischief undetected, whether it’s feeling up strangers, looting their stuff, causing air-traffic delays or even facilitating acts of terror.

Food for thought for my next Sundance Film Festival entry.

st3v3 (profile) says:

False security

I have a question: what exactly does the average TSA agent do when he discovers explosives on someone standing in the xray machine? Tackle the suspect? Clear the area? Run away screaming? Any/all of these scenarios end up with BOOM, because the terrorist is probably wired up and ready to go. The body count is still going to be high whether he detonates in the security line, or on the aircraft. So — what exactly are all these pat-downs and machines supposed to be doing for us? Saving aircraft?

srw says:

TSA GROPING

All these people need to do is announce that they are illegals. Obumo would send planes, buses, transport you anywhere in the USA you want to go. Feed , house, what ever you need. No need for TSA. After all Obumo has opened our borders up to illegals, drug cartels, terrorists, thugs… what ever. They can not be arrested for any crimes they commit. The Obumo ADM does not want them to have a criminal record. Thousands of acres of public land has been off limits to the real US citizens. All the better for the drug cartels to do their business and ISIS to run their training camps. They are coming across at Juarez from their camps there. Hey walk across the border. Get food stamps, welfare $$.. what ever they need. SO fire TSA.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: TSA GROPING

All these people need to do is announce that they are illegals. Obumo…

I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I just stop reading and hit “report” when I see stupid stuff like this. You don’t agree with him, I don’t agree with him, but intentionally misspelling his name is dumb and childish. Just had to vent.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: You seem like a "Kenyan Muslim Terrorist" sort of Obama-hater...

So it may be folly of me to try to discuss this with you, since your attitude might be incorrigibly polarized towards the GOP attack campaign ideology circa 2008 and 2012. I suspect you hate Obama not for anything you know he actually did but because he’s not your guy, and so he’s the person to blame when a supercell hails on your house.

If anything Obama isn’t a dolt. He’s hypocritical at his own convenience, pragmatic to the point of ruthlessness, advocates for policies that betray fundamental principles of the Bill of Rights, and is entirely owned by the big monies that financed his campaigns, but he is neither unintelligent nor ignorant, and to suggest so weakens not only your the credibility but anyone associated with you, e.g. anonymous commenters on the internet.

Obama isn’t the first president to show a disparity between his attitude when campaigning and then when acting as President. Bush campaigned as a compassionate conservative before proceeding to set up all the policies that we now have to deal with today, such as the TSA, mass surveillance, extrajudicial detainment and torture, Halliburton’s big war profiteering bonanza, employing mercenaries as standard practice, and so on.

But I don’t think we can, at this point, get any president who can take any major steps towards a better America without centralizing more and more power. We’re turning back into a feudalistic empire of the middle ages, only without any notion of noblesse oblige, or that we peasants have any real value. Every president from here on out is going to be a more-of-the-degenerating-status-quo kinda guy.

But I guess so long as you have someone to blame for your woes, you’ll be happy.

Bilbo says:

Yes means yes!

Shouldn’t we prosecute these TSA agents under the one of the new “yes means yes” affirmative consent laws that are being passes due to the rape hysteria on college campuses.

I mean, seriously, false rape accusations are rampant and ruin lives but these TSA thugs can sexually assault anyone they choose with impunity.

If the law won’t protect citizens against sexual assault then it’s time for citizens to take matters into their own hands. If a TSA agent fondles you, then engage in civil disobedience by knocking them the fsck out!

Anonymous Coward says:

Its stuff like this and things like Holder slow boating the investigation into the IRS that proves that the States need more power.

Perhaps we need Constitutional Amendment that grants the States first choice of who conducts an investigation when the person or group being investigated is a Federal employee or agency.

As liberals have pointed out many many many times before! A police department can not be trusted to honestly investigate the misconduct of one of their own.

If thats the case, the same should hold true for the Federal government. To allow someone like Holder to decide whether to prosecute one of his own is like allowing a bank robber to decide whether his actions were a robbery or just a new form of withdrawal!

Anonymous Coward says:

Just to be clear, the TSA was a bipartisan creature and yes Pres. Bush signed into law over the protests of conservative, patriot, libertarian and even some liberal civil rights activists. This gestapo behavior did not occur until Obama took office. There are millions of air travelers that can witness this. I retired from my position as it required frequent travel and I refused to be manhandled in the manner of nazis and communists.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: It's really hard to call anything at that time "bipartisan"

Given that the GOP clearly controlled all three branches. And it was the era of Tom DeLay as majority whip. His strategic use of extortion of his own party sowed seeds of distrust that are felt in the house to this day, and figure largely in our legislative gridlock, given that his approach killed compromise as a standard of negotiative practice.

Frankly it doesn’t matter. The US as a whole was terrified when we created the TSA, not knowing the extent of the terror campaign against us, or how easy it was to exploit our airline system.

The attack worked. We were afraid and everyone voted recklessly, and now that emergency powers have been centralized it’s become impossible to nullify them or return them to the people.

And that’s how we’re here. The US is bleeding out, and it may take a while before it fully collapses and transforms.

Phx says:

Re: Re: It's One Big Club

What’s wrong is the supervisors sit on their fat, government pensioned butts, look the other way and do nothing….their managers on their well pensioned butts and do nothing….and the top dogs are appointed and sit on their well pensioned a$$es and are too high up to be bothered and rarely does anyone get fired and NO ONE gets prosecuted. Business as usual….GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE–GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE….NOTHING TO SEE HERE!! MOVE ALONG–MOVE ALONG!!

MedicineBowCO (user link) says:

Re: Annie's Insightful Comment.

My dearest Annie, I really don’t mind being felt up by a TSA wench. In fact, it might be considered a pre-flight perk since they’ve stopped passing out peanuts and pretzels. My frequent flier miles would shoot right up there in no time. I would, however, like to push in the face of the guys mentioned in the article. That pic is a real nightmare.

MedicineBowCO (user link) says:

OUTRAGEOUS PAT DOWN!

I am outraged at TSA. Twice I was fondled(frisked). The first time some dude was trying to cop a feel at the gate. There was a pretty TSA oriental girl there and I suggested she be the one to pat me down. The dude was rude and warned me about tryin’ to get cute. The next time, I have a piece of metal inserted into my chest and the scanner picked it up and they had me go to a separate room where they had me drop my drawers and felt me up. I protested that I didn’t want guys doing it but, again, they were rude. I should have told them I was queer. Maybe then I would been able to share a brief but intimate moment with a TSA wench. But, I am seriously outraged by Mr. Happy being subjected to fags.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Welcome aboard the Hippie UFO crackpot train.

I believe you get a hat, a bumper sticker. Once you get three other converts you get the commemorative solar-powered toaster and pocket knife.

Get used to being confused with lizardmen conspiracy theorists, UFO conspiracy theorists, HAARP conspiracy theorists and Grassy Knoll conspiracy theorists. This is normal.

Watch your spelling and grammar. Nothing gets you dismissed like overeager ranting.

Welcome!

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...