TSA: The Thieving, Stealing Agency

Written by Becky Akers on Wednesday, 18 January 2012. Posted in Opinion, Becky Akers

Baggage screening by TSATwo more of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) employees are heading to jail, this time for six months. A judge imposed the sentences last week after the pair pleaded guilty to stealing $40,000 from a checked bag they “inspected” at New York’s JFK International. (Yeah, I know: what dimwit checks a bag with $40,000 cash unless he's smoking his own weed? Tragically, far too many Americans applaud the TSA’s intercepting drugs Our Rulers don’t like.)

One thief’s lawyer says his client “understands he made a mistake.” Which reminds me of a friend’s response when his wife left him for another man. Things didn’t work out, so she tearfully asked her husband to take her back. “I made a mistake,” she sobbed.

To which he replied, “A mistake is burning dinner.”

On the other hand, the TSA enables and encourages just this sort of criminality. It hires its personnel precisely so they can rifle millions of dollars' worth of other people’s belongings every day, usually far from the owner’s — or anyone’s — eyes.

And while the TSA loves to focus cameras on us, it seldom bothers with surveillance of screeners. Human oversight doesn’t do much good, either: a supervisor in New Jersey who shared the take when an underling pilfered passengers received 30 months in prison last June.

No wonder the TSA's thugs figure there’s little likelihood of being caught if they pocket some of what they search. How many of us would succumb after months or years of such temptation? Not to mitigate the thieves’ guilt, but the TSA is setting its goons up for criminal careers. If an agency could go to prison, this one should — indefinitely.

Airlines have always had a problem with theft, thanks to baggage that travels through many hands at various stages with little accountability. All you could do was lock your suitcase and pray for the best. And while airlines didn’t release statistics on plundered luggage, they kept the incidence low enough that passengers eagerly bought tickets.

Then congresscriminals who know nothing about aviation or its security foisted the TSA on us. Astoundingly, its bureaucrats ordered us to leave our bags open or risk screeners’ breaking into them — an irresistible invitation to theft. While allegedly trying to protect us from the very remote possibility of terrorism, the TSA exponentially increased the probability that someone along the way would snatch our iPods and gold necklaces.

The agency eventually approved locks that allow only you and its kleptomaniacs to open them. But ironically, those can go missing, too: Christopher Elliott, a “consumer advocate” who concentrates on aviation, reported last month on a reader who “took every step he could to protect his property on a recent flight … . He packed his belonging in sturdy suitcases and secured them with TSA-approved locks.” Which had disappeared when he retrieved his luggage at his destination though nothing inside had — yet.

You might think that these attacks on their customers, let alone the TSA’s sexual assaults, would persuade the airlines to agitate for the agency’s abolition. But no. They now have another set of culprits to blame when outraged victims report their looted laptop. The industry and the TSA bounce complaints of damaged or purloined property back and forth, until claimants drop their cases in frustration.

Indeed, the TSA’s website blithely chirps, “During [your journey], many persons and organizations come in contact with you and your belongings.” It then helpfully lists some of those “persons,” everyone from “hotel employees” and “rental car employees” to “airline baggage handlers.” But whatever the TSA so irresponsibly and libelously insinuates, passengers know who’s filching their stuff. And it isn’t the hotel’s chambermaid hoping for a tip and leaving an envelope with her name on it in the bathroom.

Whether from terrorists or its own agents — but I repeat myself — the TSA cannot protect passengers. Its failure is systemic, rooted in its deeply flawed nature: its procedures, policies, organizational structure and culture all endanger us.

When will Congress abolish this threat?

About the Author

Becky Akers

Becky Akers

Becky Akers is a free-lance writer and historian. Her novel, Halestorm, is set during the American Revolution and available in paperback or for Kindle.


Copyright © Becky Akers. Used with Permission.

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