Half Of TSA's 30,000 Employees Accused Of Misconduct; Nearly A Third Multiple Times

from the too-big-to-fix dept

The TSA is a multibillion dollar agency with nearly zero redeemable qualities. It can only act in hindsight, does almost nothing to make traveling safer, and seemingly devotes most of its screening efforts to toddlers, cancer patients, and ensuring carry-on liquids do not exceed three ounces.

What it lacks in competency, it makes up in misconduct. Lines at security checkpoints have slowed to a crawl. Making it through the tedious, invasive process sometimes means inadvertently "donating" expensive electronics to sticky-fingered agents. The TSA's morale is generally on par with Congress' approval rates. And, when it's all said and done, the people hired to protect travelers just plain suck at their job.

Despite the Transportation Security Administration's ten-point action plan to reduce long lines at airports across the country, lengthy queues remain. Now, the TSA's summer may be getting even worse: According to a recent report from the House Homeland Security Commission entitled "Misconduct at TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public", nearly half of the TSA’s 60,000 employees have been cited for misconduct in recent years.

As Katherine LaGrave of the Conde Nast Traveler points out, the problem is only getting worse. Complaints are up 28% over the last three years, with larger airports averaging a complaint a week. Long lines may be causing a spike in the complaints, but the misconduct detailed in the report has very little to do directly with this issue.

Attendance issues are part of the problem, but the offenses listed in the report range from missing work to smuggling drugs/humans to "engaging in child pornography activities." Although processes are in place to handle disciplinary issues, they are both bureaucratic and inconsistently applied. Worse, the investigation found that the agency has no specific process in place to fire problem employees.

But the obvious takeaway from this report is that the TSA is not improving. It's getting worse, despite the institution of an action plan and added layers of direct oversight. The report also cautions that this will never improve, at least not if the TSA continues to ignore internal issues. It notes that misconduct allegations have increased by nearly 29% in the last three years but opened investigations not increased, but have actually gone down 15% over the same period.

Then there's this:

Almost half of TSA’s entire workforce allegedly committed misconduct, and almost half of that number allegedly did so repeatedly. According to TSA data, from fiscal year 2013 through 2015, almost 27,000 unique employees had an allegation of misconduct filed against them. Moreover, about half of those employees had two or more misconduct allegations filed against them, with some employees having 14, 16, and 18 allegations. In fact, 1,270 employees had five or more misconduct allegations filed against them.

The TSA knows -- or should know -- who its problem employees are. It just isn't willing to do anything about them.

The TSA's toxic culture didn't form in a vacuum. It started at the top, thanks to legislators granting the agency far too much power and demanding far too little in terms of accountability in return. The TSA has crafted policies containing several exploitable loopholes for upper management to abuse. TSA officials are unwilling to fix internal issues, and have provided nothing to Congressional oversight when questioned about the agency's disciplinary problems.

On March 10, 2016, Chairman McCaul requested data from TSA on the number of directed reassignments that have taken place to understand the depth of this type of misconduct and to give TSA an opportunity to present information in its defense. However, almost four months later, TSA has only provided about half of the requested data stating that it has required manual review of case files. If this information is not readily available to provide to Congress, it is likely not readily available to TSA decision-makers, and indicates that TSA is not providing oversight of these types of reassignments.

The agency refuses to track misconduct on its own, suggesting it would rather have a bunch of warm bodies in place than anyone truly interested in the important job they've been entrusted with. Everything rolls downhill from there. If the agency is unwilling to do even the minimum to curb misconduct, it should come as no surprise that it's become host to a large number of misbehaving employees. Fifteen years of mismanagement has turned a response to a horrific attack into a playground for people who like lots of power and zero accountability.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 6:43am

    > with larger airports averaging a complaint a week

    That's it? I would have guessed the number of complaints would be much, much higher than that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 8:09am

      Re:

      I took that to mean that only one irate traveler per month made it to wherever the complaint box is (locked room in the basement?) before being tackled by security and charged with something like disorderly conduct or resisting arrest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 9:25am

        Re: Re:

        I took it to suggest that this entire story is a tempest in a teapot.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 11:58am

        Re: Re:

        wherever the complaint box is (locked room in the basement?)


        The complaint box is in the cellar, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 7:36am

      Re:

      I think it's a safe assumption that the number of incidents of misbehavior is greater than the number of complaints. I know that I would never file a complaint unless I suffered truly large financial or physical damage. I'd be too afraid of some sort of retaliatory action. I suspect that I have a lot of company on that.

      The solution I use is two-fold: I avoid flying to the greatest degree possible, and when I have to fly, I ship my baggage to my destination using a parcel service rather than checking bags.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nope, 18 Jul 2016 @ 6:45am

    Typo?

    The title of the article says half of the 30,000 employees, but the first quotation says half of the 60,000 employees. I think there's a typo in the title.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 6:50am

    Half of 30k?

    Half of 60k cited seems much worse than half of 30k accused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 6:56am

    When you can't get a private job due to having a criminal history then work for the government or become a politician. Because that's what most of the other employed criminals do (either that or they go independent and become something like real estate agents ... you should do a criminal background check on your real estate agent before choosing one. Why are they real estate agents, is it because they can't otherwise find employment due to having a criminal background?).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      Plus once you work for the government it's nearly impossible to be convicted of a crime short of unambiguous video footage. Compare that to an ordinary citizen and how easily they may be convicted of coerced to accept trumped up charges. A government job or a job in politics is a safe haven for criminals. Just look at Hillary Clinton.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        convicted or coerced *

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:13am

        Re: Re:

        "Plus once you work for the government it's nearly impossible to be convicted of a crime short of unambiguous video footage."
        Unless one is a whistleblower. Then conviction is easy, whether you committed an actual crime or not.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe K, 18 Jul 2016 @ 7:00am

    a turd in the colon is as polished as it's ever going to be

    But the obvious takeaway from this report is that the TSA is not improving. It's getting worse, despite the institution of an action plan and added layers of direct oversight. The report also cautions that this will never improve, at least not if the TSA continues to ignore internal issues.


    So… mineral oil supplements, I guess?

    I'm all out of ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe K, 18 Jul 2016 @ 7:41am

    Turd Shining Authority

    The TSA's toxic culture didn't form in a vacuum.


    Certainly not. "Endogenously produced intestinal gases make up 74 percent of flatus in normal subjects," which leaves 24 percent for swallowed air, ingested with the food. AKA, exogenous gases. "The exogenous gases are swallowed (aerophagia) when eating or drinking or increased swallowing during times of excessive salivation."

    It started at the top, thanks to legislators granting the agency far too much power and demanding far too little in terms of accountability in return.


    In defense of the honorable legislators, pork can be very delicious, and they are experienced cooks, after all. I'm sure the results were truly mouthwatering.

    The TSA has crafted policies containing several exploitable loopholes for upper management to abuse.


    Dude, multiple fistulae? Those are a serious medical condition! Not a toy for playing with! Not a toy! Oh my god!

    TSA officials are unwilling to fix internal issues, and have provided nothing to Congressional oversight when questioned about the agency's disciplinary problems.


    These are not the kind of ailments you self-treat at home. Someone had better call an ambulance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pollyanna, 18 Jul 2016 @ 7:49am

    WTF?

    Sweet jeebus why, why oh why is this TSA thing allowed to continue? Everybody with any sense knows it's a farce that actively makes us worse as a nation.

    I guess we have bigger fish to fry, like worrying about who marries who, or whether or not people should be held accountable for murder. Wait, scratch that last one, we know that's not happening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 8:19am

    If the TSA are being trained to harass and intimidate travelers then they are doing a very good job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 8:20am

    Only half accused?

    Does that mean that half of TSA's workforce is hidden in back offices somewhere, deprived of the opportunity to personally abuse the traveling public? I cannot recall encountering a single TSA agent whose conduct I found acceptable. On the assumption that I am just unlucky, that would still mean well more than half of the public-facing TSA employees ought to have been accused. So where are they hiding all these agents whose conduct is not worthy of complaints?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheTripper (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 9:02am

    A TSA Officer's Attitude

    For about 10 years, I was in charge of photography at a science fiction convention in Atlanta, Dragon Con. And when the con gets close, I answered travel questions for folks who post on their community blog on LiveJournal. I'm also a frequent flyer out of Atlanta on business, so I kinda know what I'm talking about.
    Anyway, just before the convention started in 2006, the ban on liquids was in force and there were a lot of questions flying back and forth so I did my best to help answer them. Mostly by putting up news reports and links to the TSA and appropriate agencies. About the middle of August, they partially lifted the ban and I posted to that effect ( http://community.livejournal.com/dragoncon/741785.html). I also gave my own personal advice on how to deal with the TSA and my personal experience and at the end I said, "Above all be nice and courteous. And pack all that makeup."
    Someone, claiming to be a TSA supervisor, took exception to what I said about them lying to me and proceeded to tell me that I knew nothing of what I spoke and that:

    "And, as a side note, elected representatives complain enough about us, we really don't care what they have to say anymore. They get screened almost like the general public....but if you Do write them ask them to put a step increase in our next budget, we haven't gotten a real raise since, well, never. Thanks!"

    By the way, he deleted his comments from the public journal. But as all things on the internet are eternal, I have emailed replies to them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 9:43am

    There's no way to fix something that is working exactly as it was truly designed to work.

    We can always hope someone will come into power and do what needs to be done and shut the TSA down but that has only a slightly better chance of happening as removing corruption from govt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:55am

    As a minor Godwinian side note

    The Gestapo and SS had the same problems, though the Schutzstaffel was so above the law that no one was going to challenge them ever.

    But we have other agencies full of misbehaving agents. It's part of the perks of being a party member.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 5:31pm

      Re: As a minor Godwinian side note

      How else would they attract the type of people that get their jollies from harassing others if they were not given full immunity from any type of accountability.

      Hard to condition travelers into being good little submissives if those doing the conditioning are not being rewarded for their actions

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 12:01pm

    This is another way the government is trying to control you. They want to make it as inconvenient as possible (aiap) to travel. Stay put or get an official stamp from the government that say you can travel from point A to point B and return in X days.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 1:54pm

    Missing a major point here.

    All of this extra money and oversight is making sure that the rate of TSA conduct is not as high as it would otherwise be. A few more billon dollars, more staff, and the right training will make sure that the TSA does not hit the projected 90% level of staff misconduct by 2025.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 2:11pm

    Spoiled Americans

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 2:40pm

    Worse, the investigation found that the agency has no specific process in place to fire problem employees.

    ...I don't...I can't...how is this even possible? What happens when people just don't show up to work? Do they just keep getting paid because there is no process with which to fire them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 3:11pm

      This has happened in other companies and agencies.

      A friend of mine in the 90s speaks to me of how he lost his mind running a chemical plant in the 80s and stopped going to work.

      They mailed him his salary for an entire year before asking him where he went and could he please go back to work. As the second year approached, they warned him that if he wouldn't go back to work (he already said he wouldn't) that they'd stop paying his salary at the end of the second year (not sooner).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 4:18pm

    Most of the 60k passengers that fly everyday are flaming assholes and dont follow the rules, slowing down security lines. Did you think about that you jerk!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 18 Jul 2016 @ 5:33pm

    Boiling Frogs

    The agency refuses to track misconduct on its own, suggesting it would rather have a bunch of warm bodies in place than anyone truly interested in the important job they've been entrusted with.

    Your statement is precisely the point TSA does not have an important job they've been entrusted with.

    Of the over 10 billion passengers TSA has screened at airports from 2003 - 2015 TSA has uncovered zero terrorists or terrorist plots.

    http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/press_releases/bts018_16

    Paragraph below was excerpted from Just Security website report titled "Homeland Insecurity: Checkpoints, Warrantless Searches and Security Theater":

    The DHS activities I’ve described in this piece share a common theme: each activity involves the use of taxpayer dollars for the conduct of search and seizure operations that are potential violations of the Fourth Amendment. And none of these operations have led to the arrest of a single terrorist nor have they uncovered or disrupted a single terrorist plot. This is “security theater” writ large.

    https://www.justsecurity.org/19618/homeland-insecurity-checkpoints-warrantless-searches-securi ty-theater/

    Government is very good at preparing for the last emergency and generals/admirals are very good at preparing to fight the last war.

    The boondoggle known by the acronym TSA is very good at wasting tens of billions of dollars while performing security theater that serves to humiliate and condition air travelers into accepting greater and greater levels of US government "security" in their lives while enjoying less and less personal freedom/privacy as the new normal.

    TSA has taken it's security theater boondoggle act on the road in addition to it's original gig at the airport it has new engagements booked at concert/sporting venues, train/bus stations and designated "National Security Events" near you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 6:01am

    18 complaints of misconduct and the motherfucker is still there? Really?

    I'm gonna be a TSA agent for fucks sake. Free gadgets, money and harassment against defenseless people. Awesome! /sarc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jumble (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 8:15pm

    Inverted headline ...

    Why is this surprising?

    We have an agency where the number 1 requirement for employment is the candidate's willingness to molest randomly-selected strangers for no reason whatever.

    The astonishing bit is that half of those employees have never been accused of misconduct.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jubjub3000 (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 10:51pm

    Have all the victims put forth the effort to file official complaints?

    Just like our nation's unemployment figures, I'll assume the true extent of the situation is not represented. How many people haven't put forth the effort to file official complaints?

    Also, the figure of 30k employees in the title doesn't match the figure of 60k employees quoted in the report from the House Homeland Security Commission. - https://homeland.house.gov/.../07/TSA-Misconduct-Report.pdf

    I've been told I should e-mail Mike Masnick to tell him he's a punk. Tim Cushing wrote the half-assed article, though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Al D., 20 Jul 2016 @ 4:14pm

    Headline fabricates actual content

    This article misquotes what the report says. The actual content of the report is sufficiently damning by itself.

    Claim: "nearly half of the TSA’s 60,000 employees have been cited for misconduct in recent years."

    Actual: 27,000 had a complaint of some form made against them (the current employment is roughly 60,000, but the total number of unique employees over the period is not stated that I can find). The number of those complaints that warranted any action is not stated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Harry D (profile), 26 Jul 2016 @ 10:37pm

    Contact for comment

    Hi Tim,
    Has the TSA been contacted for comment on this issue?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 29 Jan 2017 @ 12:46am

    TSA agent masturbating in airport restroom?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.