Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-FL) today called a sting by investigative reporter Brian Ross another eye-opener demonstrating that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an agency crying out for reform.
"This case in which a TSA employee absconded with private property from a screening checkpoint is another eye-opening example of how this bloated security agency cannot properly recruit, train, retain, and oversee a ballooning 65,000-person workforce," Mica said. "This national news report confirms complaints I've received that, earlier this year, led me to order an investigation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) into disturbing examples of passenger effects being pilfered and other concerns. That investigation is currently underway and is a result of complaints by the public and others that have had firsthand experience with this ongoing problem."
The Brian Ross report, which partially aired on Good Morning America this morning and will continue on World News and Nightline this evening, involved the investigative team leaving 10 iPads at carry-on screening checkpoints.
In nine cases, the devices were returned, but in the tenth case -- at the Orlando International Airport -- the iPad disappeared. Using GPS, it was subsequently traced to the home of a TSA screener that had previously handled the device, as shown on video. After first denying taking the iPad, the TSA screener then produced it once the news team activated an audible alert, demonstrating that the device was inside the house.
Mica said, "The sting conducted involved the most visible screening areas of an airport, where passengers' possessions generally remain in the open. I am even more concerned about what happens with the tens of millions of bags that get screened by TSA employees behind the scenes."
Segments of the story to air tonight on World News and Nightline are expected to focus on a former TSA employee who served time for theft of items from checked baggage at Newark Airport. He will outline to the investigative reporters how he stole more than $800,000 worth of personal property from checked baggage, and how his was not an isolated case.
Mica, a strong advocate of TSA reform, including utilizing certified private operators to conduct screening under federal supervision, said, "Whether we have federal or private screeners, TSA should be in position to properly oversee and audit the system. Unfortunately this critical function is not being carried out as effectively as it must be, because TSA is preoccupied with the administrative and human resources issues for a 65,000-person bureaucracy. Federal screeners sometimes have been recruited through ads on pizza boxes and on discount gas pumps, and employees' backgrounds have not been properly vetted, as outlined by a joint report by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and other Congressional committees released last November entitled "A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform.' The TSA continues to be an agency that cries out for reform."