TSA Whistle-Blowers: Screeners Fleeing ‘Agency In Crisis’
More than 100 of the Transportation Security Administration’s 48,000 airport screeners quit each week, and whistle-blowers told congressional investigators that “we remain an agency in crisis.”
The personnel losses affect airport screening times across the country.
“Many airports are complaining that TSA is getting worse, not better,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman [crscore]Jason Chaffetz[/crscore].
TSA staffers testified Wednesday that senior employees are often not held accountable for misconduct and the TSA office created a hostile work environment by intimidating personnel by abusing integrity testing.
“These leaders are some of the biggest bullies in government,” Jay Brainard, a TSA security director in Kansas, told committee. “While the new administrator of TSA has made security a much-needed priority once again, make no mistake about it, we remain an agency in crisis.”
Brainard explained that integrity testing kicked into high gear after a news story came out regarding TSA employees stealing passengers’ expensive items like iPads. The TSA Office of Inspection would send an investigator out to an airport and send through TSA like cash, credit cards, DVDs, etc., and leave it. The federal security director would later get a call to recover the items that were left.
“One of the items that they are notorious for planting in an airport is a pen. They will throw a pen on the floor, let’s say in cue and TSO picks it up and doesn’t turn it in they will fly back out a couple of investigators and they will literally interrogate them and push for resignation or they will propose a removal for theft for a pen,” Brainard testified, noting there was a Transportation Security Officer who picked up a planted pen and threw it in the garbage.
“He didn’t think it was worth any money. It was a $200 Mont Blanc pen.”
“We’ve got people picking up pens, and they are sending out these criminal investigators for non-criminal matters. Oh, and by the way, it’s commonplace for them to threaten people with criminal prosecution,” Brainard said. “They are doing people for pens while you got people at our headquarters that are abusing their staff members.”
The whistle-blowers also told the committee that directed reassignments happened to staffers who fell out of favor with senior management. Although a new TSA administrator, Peter V. Neffenger, was confirmed in June 2015, who instilled training, ended executive bonuses, and stopped mandated relocations, many abusive senior employees still work in their original positions at the TSA.
Oversight Committee Member Florida Republican Rep. [crscore]John Mica[/crscore] again cautioned, “Neffenger is well-intentioned. He has tried to correct the situation with more training etc., but TSA can’t recruit. They can’t train. They can’t retain. They can’t schedule. They can’t schedule and it can’t manage the huge bureaucracy that’s been created. That’s part of the problem. And it won’t be corrected.”