Anyone who’s been to the airport a few times has seen it all, from random selection drug tests, to a disabled person having to get an extra patdown to make sure there’s nothing besides their wheelchair setting the metal detector off. The Transportation Security Administration, better known as the TSA, has authority over the security of travelers in the United States. But how much security are they really providing?
The TSA has been under fire several times recently for corruption. For example, Mark Livingston, a program manager with the TSA’s office of risk management, has spoken out multiple times about how TSA workers are less likely to report issues or security threats because their supervisors may reassign them and give them negative performance reviews. As reported by NBC, there were allegations that supervisors who ignored the threats and punished the workers were given large bonuses by high-level TSA officials. Livingston also told lawmakers that TSA employees fear repercussions by supervisors more than a terrorist threat.
In 2013, a few months after a House hearing about misconduct in the TSA, a video was released in which the then-Deputy Administrator, John Halinski, announced that the corruption and rule-breaking within the TSA were “damaging to the mission and to our reputation as a high-performance counterterrorism agency.” The video was designed to strategize how to get rid of corruption. From the years 2010 to 2012, the TSA investigated 9,600 misconduct cases. According to a 2013 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, almost half of these cases resulted in the employee being suspended or fired.
On Feb. 13, 2017, a ring of former and current TSA workers were busted for allegedly smuggling 20 tons of cocaine into the U.S. estimated to be worth $100 million. The conspiracy began in 1998, three years before the formation of the TSA, through 2016. Twelve people, including TSA workers and airport employees, were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine on Feb. 8 in the District of Puerto Rico. Authorities said the federal employees used their jobs as TSA baggage screeners to allow large quantities of cocaine through security.
TSA corruption is a real and ongoing problem. Hopefully, one day, the TSA will be fully working for the safety of the American citizens.