Saturday, January 28, 2006

Another Reason to Fear TSA

The screeners working at our nation's airports are supposed to be honest. TSA (the Transportation Security Administration) is a branch of DHS, and has repeatedly trumpeted how good they are.

Then we see this (all emphasis added):
A Somerset schoolteacher has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a screener of stealing his diamond wedding ring last summer while he was passing through a security checkpoint at Logan International Airport.

John Wright said he put his ring, a 1.53-carat diamond set in gold, into a plastic bin with his Rolex watch and wallet. He said he then placed the bin on the conveyer belt as he and his wife, Janet, passed through the checkpoint to catch a flight to San Juan on July 14.

After walking through the metal detector, Wright said, he went to retrieve his belongings from the bin, but the ring, valued at $7,000, had vanished.

Wright, 51, who lives in Tiverton, R.I., and teaches health at Somerset Middle School, said he suspected that one of the TSA screeners took the ring because there were no passengers in front of him as he went through the checkpoint and his wife was directly behind him.

A TSA supervisor summoned to the scene said he couldn't search or question the employees, according to the Wrights, because there was no evidence that they had taken the ring.

Janet Wright said they were told that only one end of the conveyer belt was monitored by a security camera, and a review of the videotape from that camera only showed her husband picking up the plastic bin and yelling, ''My ring! My ring!"

''I was shocked when I found that out," said Janet Wright. That discovery only bolstered the couple's belief that the ring had been stolen by a TSA employee, she said, because the screeners would have known the theft could not be caught on camera.

Between February 2002 -- when TSA assumed responsibility for screening passengers and baggage -- and last October, 165 TSA screeners have been arrested for theft at airports throughout the country, according to Davis. None of those arrests occurred at Logan.

On five occasions, twice in 2005 and three times in 2004, passengers have accused TSA screeners at Logan of stealing property, Davis said. Passengers reported property stolen from checked baggage and at checkpoints, but in all cases the employees were cleared of any wrongdoing and allowed to remain on the job, she said.

She also said that none of the screeners accused of theft in the past had been on duty at the checkpoint on the day Wright's ring was lost.

Still, there have been a number of highly publicized cases around the country. In some instances, screeners have been accused of stealing cash from purses or wallets at checkpoints. But most cases involve checked baggage.

Four former TSA screeners pleaded guilty last year to stealing laptops, cameras, and other items from checked baggage at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Complaints from passengers, including celebrities Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers, and Susan Lucci, that items were taken from their luggage triggered an investigation that led to the arrest in 2004 of four TSA screeners from LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Now, bear with me on this. These guys (and gals) are the ones who are supposed to keep us safe. Instead of keeping us safe, they're stealing from us. And, as numerous reports have shown, they're abysmal at finding things: guns, knives, (simulated) bombs, all sorts of crap gets by these people.

One of the reasons TSA was touted as the "solution" to screening problems was that, previously, screening had been the responsibility of the individual airlines. Since the airlines were suffering from various financial woes, they had a tendency to go with the lowest bidder when it came to selecting security providers. Security, however, is one of those areas where "you get what you pay for" just isn't good enough. Many screeners, before 9-11, were, at best, minimally qualified, untrained, under-paid, virtually unsupervised, poorly screened themselves (lots of immigration violators, outstanding criminal warrants, etc). The government claimed that by taking responsibility for providing screener, a higher-caliber person would wind up working the airports, leading to increased security for the traveling public.

Initially, the starting pay for screeners was around $40,000, which admittedly beats the hell out of the $14,000 most security people were earning in those days. The trouble started when the government decided that TSA staff would be excluded from most labor laws (like collective bargaining and civil service regulations). Then the pay rates got slashed, as did the size of the workforce. Without Civil Service protection, however, the good people were canned, and only the politically-connected bootlickers stayed on.

If you haven't been through an airport in the last four years, you probably don't understand how "security" is handled these days. TSA has pretty much turned the entire airport concourse into a maximum-security prison. Once you get beyond the ticket counters, you are in their clutches. When my son (who was 10 at the time) came into Midway, I had to show ID at least five times before I got to the arrival gate. Dropping him off was even worse. I used to work at a "super-max" prison, and I had an easier time getting in and out.

TSA is a joke.

A very bad joke, one of many that the Bush cabal has played on us.

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