from the and-that's-just-the-beginning-of-the-bad-news dept
The TSA's security theater is now officially a substandard off-Broadway production. The Government Accountability Office has released a damning report* on the TSA's handling of employee misconduct. Not that the TSA doesn't have its hands full simply writing up the paperwork on ill-behaved employees. From 2010-2012, over 9,600 cases of employee misconduct were reported, with 3,408 of those coming in 2012, an increase of over 700 cases from the previous year.
* Honestly, the GAO doesn't seem to release any other kind of report than "damning." At this point, "all systems nominal" would be the government equivalent of receiving a third Michelin star.
A large percentage of these cases were of the banal, could-happen-at-any-workplace variety.
As with many jobs, the largest group of misconduct offenses involved “Attendance and Leave” issues — “Unexcused or excessive absences or tardiness, absence without leave, failure to follow leave procedures.” This accounted for nearly 1/3 of all investigations between 2010 and 2012.The more shocking statistic is the number of cases related to the specifics of the job -- screening and security. 1,936 cases -- 20% of the total -- were violations like failing to follow standard operating procedures, bypassing security or sleeping on the job. Another 16% (1,548 cases) weren't any better -- insubordination, ignoring policies and disrespectful conduct.
Remember, these employees are the last line of defense between terrorists and planes, at least according to the narrative that's presented when infants and elementary school kids being detained and invasively searched. (Or when iPads go missing.) The TSA likes to brag about the weapons it's caught, but this data indicates there's still a good chance many weapons are making it through.
Then there's this:
4% -- 426 cases -- fell under this heading: "Inattention to duty resulting in a loss of property or life, careless inspection."
Adding it all up: nearly 40% of the misconduct cases fall under headings that could very conceivably undercut what little actual "security" the dog-and-pony-and-naked-scan show provides. As with any large government agency, most cases were handled with disciplinary triplicate (Letter of Reprimand). Hopefully, those were limited to non-security-breaching first offenses. But temper that hope with this dash of reality -- a mere 17% of violations resulted in termination.
Even these numbers fail to tell the whole story. Things could actually be worse than these stats make it appear. The GAO found the agency's recordkeeping skills to be as lax as its discipline.
Additionally, TSA is criticized for its failure to keep full documentation of misconduct cases, in spite of having a database in which all that info should be kept. GAO blames TSA leadership, which has not issued guidance requiring the recording of all misconduct investigation outcomes.I realize that private sector businesses usually only fire employees for egregious wrongdoing and that most infractions are "written up" rather than pink slipped. And I realize there are several companies who take a hands-off approach to employee discipline, allowing lousy staffers to stay employed long after they've outlived their usefulness.
This brings to light the scariest deficiency of the TSA’s investigation and adjudication process — It lacks “procedures to follow up on completed misconduct investigations to ensure that the agency has identified cases requiring adjudication,” writes GAO.
But the TSA is no ordinary business. It's stated purpose is to ensure the safety of millions of travelers. It should hold itself to a much higher standard than companies and agencies not charged with protecting the lives of others. Instead, the agency slaps wrists, hands out suspensions and defers any charges from the court of public opinion to the passive-aggressive statements and quasi-apologies of Blogger Bob.
The government wants us to believe in the power of its security theater but the agency's failure to effectively police its own staff undercuts its own narrative.