Feds who investigated TSA misconduct visited Miami International Airport

 

achardy@elNuevoHerald.com

Congressional investigators have found a significant incidence of misconduct among the 56,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration, a Homeland Security agency created after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Although the report last month cited one incident at Orlando International Airport, it did not provide a breakdown of the instances of misconduct at any of the five airports that investigators visited. One of those was Miami International Airport.

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, probed TSA employee misconduct in response to concerns by some House representatives over recent media reports alleging TSA employee misconduct, including theft.

The one specific incident the report cited occurred in 2011 when a transportation security officer at Orlando International Airport pleaded guilty to federal charges of embezzlement and theft for stealing more than 80 laptop computers and other electronic devices worth $80,000 from passengers’ luggage.

A TSA employee was arrested in July 2011 after allegedly stealing about $50,000 in electronics from luggage at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. But the GAO report did not cite that incident.

In 2010, a TSA screener at MIA was arrested and charged with aggravated battery for allegedly striking a co-worker with an expandable police baton in a parking lot.

Police said the incident stemmed from a dispute between the arrested employee and some co-workers who repeatedly poked fun at him over his genitalia, which they had observed through screening equipment during training sessions.

Responding to the GAO report, TSA said in a statement that it punishes employees who do not conduct themselves with professionalism.

“TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards and expects all TSA employees to conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism,” said a TSA statement sent to el Nuevo Herald on Thursday. “There is zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and TSA takes appropriate action when substantiated, including anything from a referral to law enforcement or termination of employment.”

The statement said TSA will follow GAO recommendations to “ensure that the agency establishes a process to verify that TSA staff at airports are in compliance, and is already working to implement these recommendations.”

Specifically, the GAO report said there had been a 26 percent increase in TSA employee misconduct between 2010 and 2012.

“From fiscal years 2010 through 2012, the annual numbers of TSA misconduct increased from 2,691 to 3,408,” the report said.

It added that the most prevalent type of misconduct was unexcused or excessive absences and tardiness, as well as absences without leave. That amounted to 32 percent or 3,117 of the 9,622 cases reviewed by GAO.

The second most significant transgression was failure to follow screening procedures and sleeping on duty.

Other misconduct listed by GAO in order of importance included insubordination, inappropriate or sexual misconduct, use or sale of drugs and alcohol consumption while on duty, inattention to duty, bribes, forgery, uniform violations, property damage, theft, and safety violations.

GAO investigators visited five airports, including MIA. The other sites were Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Southwest Florida International Airport near Fort Myers, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and Newark Liberty International Airport.

9/11 attacks to improve security in the nation’s transportation systems, particularly aviation.

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