Don’t bother to ask the TSA

Workers with criminal records and thefts from baggage raise plenty of questions

Bruce Spotleson

Bruce Spotleson

A few years ago, a friend told a group of us that she had valuables stolen from her luggage while traveling for business. An experienced traveler, she insisted it had to have happened at our very own McCarran International Airport.

While we expressed regret at her losses, I quietly wondered whether she had mistakenly forgotten to pack the items in the first place. As everybody knows, there is so much security at our airports these days. Theft from luggage seems like a long shot.

Still, I got involved, making a number of phone calls and sending numerous emails to the Transportation Security Administration, patiently using those helpful “contact us” lists on the group’s website to extrapolate all the names, phone numbers and email addresses I could. I patiently awaited a response.

But I was naïve. There would be no response. None.

Time passed, and I forgot about all of it until spring 2011, when three TSA airport workers were charged with stealing equipment and sabotaging a security camera. They worked in the baggage claim area.

One had been convicted for voluntary manslaughter. A felony criminal record does not necessarily rule out hiring by the TSA.

Investigators now suspect their activities had gone on for several years and that one or all of them were also behind a now-defunct website that appeared to be designed to intimidate witnesses.

The airport workers were fired, attorneys were retained, and now they await a decision by a grand jury.

More recently came the news that McCarran ranks as one of the worst airports in the nation for thefts from checked baggage by TSA staff. In some sort of spirit of openness, the report came from the TSA itself.

As many travelers know, checked bags, after they are whisked away on the conveyor belt, often are subjected to random searches by TSA agents. The searches usually take place in places we’re not allowed because citizens apparently can become a security risk if they watch someone search their bags.

“TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards and expects all TSA employees to conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism,” a well-massaged statement from the TSA stated. Officials noted that the agency has “zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace.”

Uh huh.

Unfortunately, a few former TSA employees tell us that such thefts are rampant.

Crime occurs all over the globe, and stealing is only half of the TSA’s concerns. The real problem is that if you can take something out of luggage held in a secured area, you can just as easily put something into that luggage.

It makes you want to ask the TSA folks some questions.

But I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t bother to click the “contact us” button on their website again.

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