Screening the screeners: US security agency sacks staff for misconduct

TSA agent, courtesy foxnews

HAVE you ever had a piece of luggage missing when you arrived at your destination?  It can be so frustrating, especially when you urgently need a particular item in your missing bag, such as a business document or a suit for a special occasion, or if it is something of tremendous sentimental value. Added to this, the hassle of filing a report to trace the missing bag and, if you are entitled, insurance claims. And, of course, there is no guarantee you will get your bag back!

There are a number of reasons why your bag went missing. I had worked at an airport agency and was often amazed at the number of “mishandled” items – left behind or undelivered, again for various reasons such as articles without tags, unclaimed after some time because the owners could not be traced, and so on. Call that a process mishap, but not when theft is the cause.

Following the investigation by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) into suspected pilferage at Newark Liberty International Airport, 25 airport security officials have been sacked and another 19 suspended. Eight employees were already dismissed earlier in June. The reason cited by TSA was “improper screening of checked luggage” – following the installation of cameras in one of the screening rooms.

Last year, the TSA also took disciplinary action against 48 employees at Honolulu International Airport for similar offences; they were either fired or suspended.

Indeed, airlines are obliged to honour the trust their customers have in them when checking in their luggage, and this responsibility is in turn passed down to their agencies. Baggage handlers are usually the first suspects in a case of theft, and there have been stories of how throughout the world such employees have become experts at picking locks without leaving any sign that the bags have been broken into. But you`d better think twice if you think security officials are less prone to theft – if their name is anything to go by – as the TSA investigations have shown. They are perhaps more exposed to the temptation, being privileged to see what`s inside a bag. Besides, they are more concerned with the security aspects of safe flying rather than safekeeping of a passenger`s property.

It therefore behoves upon the TSA to ensure that their employees uphold the integrity of their jobs in all aspects of honesty. For passengers who are flying in and out of the United States in particular, when they are advised not to lock their bags (unless secured by an approved model that lends itself to be opened by a master key) which may be forcibly opened for checks, do not pack into your checked luggage articles that you cannot live without or limit “precious” items to be checked in. Always good to hand-carry a “spare” change of clothes if it is that critical for an important business meeting upon arrival. That’s why, it is best to be travelling light.

 

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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