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Acting TSA Chief Responds to Screener Passenger Groping

In response to the recent disclosure that two Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees set up a system whereby a male screener could deliberately pat down attractive men going through security at Denver International Airport, Acting TSA Administrator Melvin J. Carraway said in a statement on the matter Thursday that, “This blatant violation of public trust by two individuals has significantly tarnished TSA’s reputation."

"Think about it – in an agency that employs more than 50,000 people, the irresponsible and potentially illegal behavior of just one or two reckless employees can severely and negatively impact the operational effectiveness of everyone else committed to carrying out our vital national security mission,” he said.

The wrongdoing by the TSA screeners came as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) Wednesday told the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security that in Fiscal Year 2014,  investigations of 16,281 complaints of wrongdoing — a substantial number of which alleged DHS personnel engaged in misconduct — resulted in 112 criminal convictions and 36 personnel actions.

One incident involving TSA the IG mentioned was a TSA supervisor in the US Virgin Islands who was caught actively assisting a drug smuggling organization to bypass security at an airport. The former employee was sentenced to 87 months imprisonment and 24 months of supervised release.

Carraway began his statement by saying, “By now I’m sure some of you have seen or heard reports in the media about a pair of Transportation Security Officers at Denver International Airport who were engaged in what can only be described as egregiously inappropriate behavior at the passenger screening checkpoint.

Although reports said the employees have been fired and two others reassigned, Carraway said, “After a thorough investigation, including a review of closed-circuit television camera footage, the allegation was confirmed and the individuals were removed from duty and are no longer with the agency. They now potentially face local criminal charges as well.”

Carraway said, “The two were caught because an alert employee noticed something was not right and reported it to TSA’s Office of Inspection Hotline.”

Defending the often maligned agency, Carraway further stated that,“The vast majority of our employees act with the utmost integrity and professionalism every day, but unfortunately the conduct of a few can do significant damage to the entire workforce – and this damage is very difficult to overcome. We are committed to working very hard to prove ourselves to the public we serve in the months ahead to regain your trust.”

“Our mission requires that we initiate direct contact with the American people millions of times each day,” he continued, adding, “In doing so we must learn from every incident and become better.”

“The lone bright spot in this dark and disturbing behavior,” Carraway said, “is that another employee saw what was going on and did not allow it to continue. Our workforce is strongly encouraged to report illegal or unethical behavior wherever and whenever they see it.”

Carraway insisted that, “Professionalism and integrity are at the core of who we are as counterterrorism professionals, and it is up to each and every one of us to demonstrate this with every passenger at every airport around the country. We must perform our work, for you the traveling public, with honor and pride. Anything less is a disservice and will not be tolerated.”

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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