USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

The TSA, Our Officers, The Public and Theft

Archived Content

Please note that older content is archived for public record. This page may contain information that is outdated and may not reflect current policy or programs.

If you have questions about policies or procedures, please contact the TSA Contact Center.

Members of the news media may contact TSA Public Affairs.

Friday, February 15, 2008

As we know and you have reported on this very blog, theft in our nations' airports is a big problem. It's an issue that has plagued the industry for decades, but now, as the relatively new kid on the block and the agency charged with opening more than 1 million checked bags every day, the finger has been pointed directly at our workforce.

And in some cases, rightfully so... Unfortunately, TSA has experienced its problems with theft. To date, we have terminated and sought prosecution for about 200 of our employees who have been accused of stealing, either from checked bags, passengers’ carry-ons or fellow employees. While 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage (less than one half of one percent) over the short life of the agency, one theft is too many when you are in the position of public trust as we are. We do not tolerate, condone, cover up or minimize theft by our officers by any stretch of the imagination and in most cases, it is fellow employees uncovering the theft and the organization pushing hard for prosecution of those that would abuse their authority.

From our perspective, we don't want thieves in our workforce and will do all we can to root them out. We rely on security cameras, two to three person integrity - with managers present, reports of theft by fellow employees and sting operations conducted unilaterally or with law enforcement partners at our nation's airports.

For instance, you may have read a news article from the Chicago Tribune about an officer stealing gift cards from baggage at O’Hare. What you didn’t read in that article is that TSA’s Office of Inspection (our version of internal affairs) actually ran down the stolen gift cards at Target and Best Buy, obtained surveillance video of the thieves redeeming the gift cards and worked with the Chicago PD to make sure they did not get away with this.

A few other examples include: TSA working with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during a sting operation last summer which netted two airline contractors who stole the weapons of two service members on their way to the Middle East; a TSA-led investigation conducted in New Orleans about three years ago had similar success in netting a small group of thieves working for us; and two years ago, a TSA baggage screener at LAX attempted to steal a high-priced watch from Paris Hilton, then had second thoughts and put it back. In that case, a fellow employee reported the incident and the TSA convinced the city attorney of Los Angeles to prosecute. All of these TSA employees were terminated immediately.

Additionally, to prevent theft, our employees are prohibited from taking backpacks, lunchboxes or any other personal carrying item into baggage screening operation areas. Some airports time and date stamp bag screening cards and today more than half of all travelers use airports that have “in-line” baggage systems. These systems greatly limit the personal handling of bags by our officers and enable them to screen these bags remotely. In short, we have implemented many tools to protect your belongings and ensure your safety.

The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future.

Now many of you have referenced television reports that talk about claims and claim data that seem to implicate our workforce in wide-spread thievery. A Seattle television station aired the original story that was based on data they had requested through the Freedom of Information Act. The data, several hundred pages, listed claims that had been submitted by passengers from airports around the country. In the data, there were no categories for theft or disposition because that information was not requested. The facts, that went unreported and un-requested, were that the majority of those claims were denied or canceled because they lacked sufficient grounds for us to use your tax payer dollars to reimburse passengers.

Now, after the five or ten minutes of time that we have your bag...what happens to it? Well, we estimate that between five and eight airline employees touch that same bag, many times outside of the view of passengers, sometimes in the cargo hold of aircraft.

So what can you do if you feel you have been ripped off? First and foremost, file a police report. Most airports have law enforcement in the terminals, many airports could have a police officers respond in minutes. Second, file a claim with both TSA and the airline. We analyze this data and if we see a trend at a particular airport, we are in a better position to investigate further. Third, check to make sure you have all of your belongings prior to departing the checkpoint area. Fourth, check with lost and found. Everyday we itemize, catalog and store thousands of items that passengers may think were stolen, but in fact are waiting to be claimed. Our lost and found link on our web site can be found by clicking here , Fifth, when traveling through the security checkpoint, to prevent another passenger stealing from you, put your phone or watch or wallet in your briefcase, purse or carry-on bag. That way it all stays together and won't fall out of one of those bowls we have for screening or make for easy pickings from a thief.

Also, I can't tell you how many times I have heard of passengers putting expensive jewelry or even wads of cash in their checked bags! Keep it with you.

Christopher
TSA Evolution Blog Team

02.15.08, 2:10p.m.
Christopher said:

Couldn't agree more with anonymous at 12:31, "the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level." That's what the post is all about. One case of officer theft is one too many and we're doing our level best to find, fire and aid in the prosectution of any officer that is stealing. Beyond the obvious lack of honesty and abuse of the public trust that has been mentioned, officers stealing sully the reputation of the great majority of the workforce and make their jobs much more difficult.

I'm not familiar with what a public affairs "gonk" is but I'm sure it's not a term of endearment. I was not trying to be intentionally vague when I wrote about 200. Let's agree to about 271, okay?

If you reply with a link to the Austin article, I'll track it down and get some facts and update this post later today. I've been with TSA three years and have never heard us characterize any theft as "minor" and am interested in this.

02.15.08, 3:10p.m.
Christopher said:

Great comments and questions about the locks. Hopefully this will clear up a couple issues. First, TSA is not cutting TSA recognized locks off your baggage. We have the keys and have no need to do this. In fact, it would take longer to grab bolt cutters (which we do keep for non-TSA recognized locks) and cut the lock off, pick up the pieces and replace the bolt cutters than it does to use the master keys we have.

The reality of the airport is that there are literally miles of belts with twists and turns everywhere. Belts the airlines use to get your luggage from the ticket counter to us, belts we use to move the bags through the mini-van sized explosive detection machines, belts to get the bags back to the airlines and to the areas where bags are collected for specific flights and of course belts to move the bags into the underside of the aircraft. This doesn't even include the belts at the destination airport that get bags from the plane to the carousel. The point about all these belts is that twists and turns in the belt system are notorious pinch points for bags and particularly locks. Go to any airport in America and the floor of these areas will have broken locks on them. Yes it's a design issue and it is being addressed in some of our more modern airports and systems but the plain truth about these locks is that more often than not, it's a belt that broke your lock, not a person.

As some have mentioned, these locks aren't built to withstand a serious pounding and can be broken, pulled apart, picked or otherwise disabled. These locks provide a modest amount of protection from opportunistic thieves, they will not stop someone bent on getting into a bag just like a lock on your front door would not prevent a burglar from breaking your window.

Christopher
TSA Evolution Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does TSA cut our TSA approved locks. This is the only defense that a traveler has against the baggage handlers.

We hand over our checked bags, get them back with locks cut and you don't understand why we suspect you for theft.

What we have here is failure to communicate!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Christopher,

As usual, you're doing a great job deflecting the issue. First of all, the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level.

One of your own public affairs gonks used the figure of 269 screeners fired as of July 2007. This number doesn't include today's model citizen nor anyone else caught since last July. So, it's a heck of a lot larger than the "about 200" figure you threw out there.

Also, an Austin article reported that three screeners were caught stealing but not presecuted because the theft was considered "minor." Completely unacceptable!

Don't pat yourself on the back about Internal Affairs "actually ran down the stolen gift cards at Target and Best Buy, obtained surveillance video of the thieves redeeming the gift cards and worked with the Chicago PD to make sure they did not get away with this." You write this as if it was an extraordinary effort. This is normal police work we expect you to do.

It goes on & on. Sugar-coating to the American people is insulting.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Actually, if you want to steal from Paris Hilton, I'm OK with it. ;)

Seriously, though, a big problem with theft stems from TSA's insistence on passengers using TSA-approved locks. I used to be able to lock my checked bags (on the very rare occasions I'd take a checked bag) with a serious lock. Now I'm forced to use TSA-approved ones. These are trivially easy to pick with a device called a "sesamee decoder" (although TSA004s are warded locks that can be popped with the wire grasp from a small binder clip).

I've no idea how secure the master keys are (at least I haven't seen any sets for sale on eBay), but it wouldn't surprise me if there's some illicit ones floating around out there. So now I gotta worry about all the unseen baggage handlers either picking or keying open my bags.

It would be a lot better if airports moved to scanners near the ticketing counters, so the customer could lock their bag with a lock of their choosing.

Submitted by AirSafe on

I applaud the TSA's efforts to root out the small number of thieves within your ranks. There are other issues that may have to be dealt with. I run the site AirSafe.com, and in a recent interview on the site's podcast, my guest told of how on more than one occasion, a Transportation Security Officer allegedly confiscated expensive makeup, claiming that it was above the size limit for liquids and gels. My guest assures me that it was not, and related that it was only the expensive items that were taken (visit podcast.airsafe.org for the 2/5/08 show for details). I'd like to know if this type of behavior has been reported to the TSA and if specific actions have been taken to make sure that Transportation Security Officers avoid this kind of behavior.

Dr.Todd Curtis, AirSafe.com

Submitted by Anonymous on

If there is a widespread problem with theft from our checked bags... how do we know that TSA employees will not being bribed to plant explosives in said bags? WHat about things like weaponized bilogicals?

I know this is silly, but if bottled water can't be trusted, how can bags in the hold of a plane?

Submitted by Anonymous on

A "serious lock" isn't going to do much. I've seen plenty of examples where the thieves simply sliced a bag open with a knife.

Unless you're using metal luggage, a lock (of any kind) will only keep you safe from opportunistic thieves. A serious thief (which includes those likely to have cutters, counterfeit keys, or lock pick sets) isn't going to be stopped by any kind of lock, since he can still cut the bag itself.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA-approved locks is a huge security hole -- there's basically a single master key that opens every lock. TSA can say "trust us; we won't let the key get into the public" all they want, but all it takes is one leak of one key, and suddenly every checked bag is completely vulnerable. Essentially, there's no baggage security at all.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yes the TSA has 110,000 employees, out of that how many of them are screeners at an airport?

Lets face it the TSA's policies have made theft easier. Bags have to be unlocked so those five to eight airport employees can steal from bags easier.

Use a TSA lock, why bother. Any lock that type that can be opened by a master key can easily be opened with a pice or wire. Or broken off completely.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The best way TSA can prevent theft of passenger belongings, both from checked & carry-on baggage, is to keep the rightful owner w/their belongings throughout the screening process. Most importantly, a locked bag should never never NEVER be opened without the passenger present. The temptation to steal will be greatly reduced if rightful owner is watching every move the screener makes.

W/re: to the rest of your post, Christopher, anonymous @ 12:31pm hit the proverbial nail on the head; couldn't have said it better myself. The only thing I would add is that it's too bad Kip didn't feel it was worthy of HIS time to address the theft issue on the TSA's own blog himself & instead sent you to do it for him-THIS is the kind of issue I would expect the Director to be addressing personally, but I guess he felt he did his part w/his Welcome message.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This whole response conveniently ignores the main issue-- checked bags are vulnerable because TSA policy will not allow me to securely lock them in the first place!

You make the comment that the bag is handled by a number of people other than TSA. That wouldn't be an issue if I was allowed to secure my bag with a lock of my choosing.

Instead, my choices are either leave it unlocked or use a 'TSA-approved' lock (which often-times get cut off regardless)
and leave it vulnerable to any number of TSA and non-TSA individuals.

Checked bags should only be opened in the presence of the owners, who should then be able to re-lock them!

All we ever hear is whining from TSA that it is logistically too difficult, or threaten that passengers will be required to come to the airport several hours in advance of their flight.
Why has every other country been able to avoid opening bags without the owners presence, but the TSA can't figure out a way? (I'm sure if another country were to do what the TSA does, there would be howls of indignation of how that's inappropriate, a security threat, etc.)

And speaking of which, if a bag is vulnerable to several individuals once it has left TSA's control, isn't it a security threat that something could be put INTO a bag as well as have something removed? How come this has been conveniently ignored and never addressed by TSA, in this or any other forum?

Submitted by Hawthorn on

If people can take stuff out of checked bags, they can put stuff into checked bags. This is the #1 reason why you should have an airtight checked baggage pathway from check-in to pickup.

And you did not address the locks problem. Locked luggage should stay that way. If you do not want people using TSA approved locks, don't approve them in the first place.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The issue isn't that the TSA has "a few bad apples" working in the baggage screening dept. The issue is that this supposedly secure area is not.

If these employees (both TSA and non-TSA) are able to steal items from luggage what would prevent one of them from slipping a bomb in?

The security of the back areas of the airports is obviously criminally lax. This has been brought up time and again and the TSA has failed to address it. Just more spin and more security theater while real threats go undetected. Why are aircrews subject to intense screening while cleaners and baggage handlers are not?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Stop cutting our locks off. Period. Also, at the checkpoints, your TSO's often take personal belongings out of sight. Questioning this results in a threatening "DO YOU WANT TO FLY TODAY?". Ridiculous.

Submitted by Dave X The First on

One response to airport thievery is to fly with guns -- you can pack your valubles in with a starter pistol and get a hand-inspection and actually lock your luggage with real locks.

It may take even more time to check in, but your luggage will get special treatment, and no one along the line will want to be responsible for losing a firearm on their watch.

Submitted by Fred on

Some of you seem to be a little nutty. Complaints of people stealing from your bags because you can't lock them, well didn't they say keep your valuables with you? Put your valuables in your checked bag? I know, you want TSA to be responsible for your stupidity so you have someone to blame. Why not hold yourselves accountable?

I've been through the airport dozens of times since TSA came around, and have never been asked to take out my wallet, remove my watch, remove my piercings, may be because I am .... prepared. Do some homework and get ready before you leave for the airport. This is kind of ridiculous. Keep firing the bad apples TSA, one of these days you'll get through the growing pains and look just like the organizations each of us works for... 100% competent. Right people? We have no comaplints with our employeres either, do we?

Submitted by Dave X The First on

Bruce Schneier had a post about how to protect your valuables in checked luggage: Flying with expensive cameras.

Basically, add a starter pistol, use real locks, and get the luggage classed as a firearm and to get extra special handling.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

February 15, 2008 2:06 PM

So if they came back and told you they caught 7 terrorists, you wouldn't believe them anyway. thankfully they are doing something about their problem

Submitted by Anonymous on

When I am required to hand over my belongings to TSA you become responsible for those items until they are returned to me.

I don't care how many people or hands it goes through in the process.

If you must have access to my stuff then you are responsible for safeguarding that item until it is returned to me in the same condition as you received it.

TSA cannot duck its responsibilites and obligations; you required certain actions and by doing so become accountable for the results of those actions.

Submitted by Colin on

Hey, I understand that in any large organization, there will be a few bad seeds. And you fired them, and even helped investigate? Well, great! That's above and beyond.

I hate what your agency represents, and dislike having to deal with you even on rare occasions. But I'm also not silly enough to think that you're "evil", or that your employees are thieves.

Save your energy, folks. Complain about TSA policies, but the employees are doing the best job they can, and paranoia doesn't serve anybody's best interests.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I know that in Milwaukee, the bag check machines are right in front of the ticketing counter. They have a "drop and go" policy. You drop your bags off across the line, and you're free to leave. Some people stay to watch their bags go through. If people want to use a non-TSA lock, the TSA there asks them to stay present to make sure they don't have to open their bag back up. If there's no bag check needed, the bag can stay locked with a non-TSA lock. Once the TSA puts the bags on the belt, though, they no longer have control of the bags, I think the airlines do. I think that's the way all airports should be. You can stand there and watch your bag go through, and if it doesn't have to be searched, you can go knowing that the TSA didn't open your bag.

Submitted by Bob on
February 15, 2008 12:33 PM Anonymous said... I've no idea how secure the master keys are (at least I haven't seen any sets for sale on eBay), but it wouldn't surprise me if there's some illicit ones floating around out there.

The master keys are listed on inventory sheets for each area that uses them. Inventory is taken at the beginning of each shift by a Supervisor and then the paper work is turned in to management at the end of the day. Anything missing from the list at any time is reported immediately.

Thanks,

Bob

TSA Evolution Blog Team
Submitted by Anonymous on

You wanted proof of failure to prosecute, here you go:
http://www.kvue.com/news/local/stories/013108kvuedefenders-bkm.79b77411....

The pertinent quote is half way down and reads;
"Besides that incident, two other Austin TSA screeners have been fired over the past five years. One took a $20 bill. Another took a pocket knife. They were not arrested. Federal prosecutors decided the value of each item was too small to pursue charges. "

If I could find this using Google so can you Christopher

Submitted by Anonymous on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Christopher on

Thanks for posting this. I must admit I was not familiar with this incident. As your post indicates, the individuals were fired by TSA. Unfortunately we are limited to firing and supporting local prosecutors with evidence or witnesses. The local district attorney, state’s attorney or U.S. attorney actually presses criminal charges.

Submitted by Bob on
February 15, 2008 12:55 PM AirSafe said... in a recent interview on the site's podcast, my guest told of how on more than one occasion, a Transportation Security Officer allegedly confiscated expensive makeup, claiming that it was above the size limit for liquids and gels. My guest assures me that it was not, and related that it was only the expensive items that were taken...

Dr. Curtis,

I’m curious. Did your guest report this to any TSA Supervisors or Management? Did they contact the Airport Police Department or the Airline?

Any allegation of theft by a TSO is taken very seriously. There are reporting procedures that go straight to our TSA Operations Center in Virginia. I know of a case where a TSO was fired for stealing pocket change that didn’t even add up to a dollar. The TSA has zero tolerance for theft. It’s one of the quickest ways out of federal employment.

I listened to your interview.This could be a misunderstanding of the procedures by the passenger or even the TSO. Or, it could indeed be a case of theft.

I would like to remind the flying public the TSA does not confiscate prohibited items. They are abandoned by the passenger. I know… it sounds like a play on words, but we really do make every effort to enable the passenger to keep their belongings. We offer to let the passenger check the item in with their checked luggage, hand it off to any friends or family that might be at the airport, mail the item to themselves, or walk it out to their car. More often than not, the passenger is running late for their flight and simply abandons the item with the TSA. If a TSO does not give you any of these options, request a supervisor.

Thanks,

Bob

TSA Evolution Blog Team
Submitted by Anonymous on

Not to beat a dead horse but elsewhere in this blog TSA agents have stated that locks have been cut because they cannot locate their keys.

Want to try again?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bag security with any lock? Forget it. You'll never see it. Especially if you use high-end luggage. Think like a thief. People who are going to pack jewelry in their luggage are usually going to have to have matching designer luggage.

I check 1 bag for all my flights. A battered USN Seabag. These are those big green duffel bags you see soldiers lugging through the airports. I pack clothes and clothes only in it. The inner flap is zip-tied closed, and the gussets are zip-tied as well. I then close the actual hasp with a zip tie and add a real padlock just for show (not closing anything). The padlocks have never been cut, because the bag is 'clean' on x-ray, and I've never had a zip-tie cut either.

Don't put anything in your bags that you wouldn't leave on your dashboard in the parking garage.

Submitted by Anonymous on

There is a disconnect here.

The flying public is entrusting the TSA with the safety and security of not only the possesions that they carry on their person and their persons, but also the possesions that the TSA accepts responsibility for through taking control of their checked baggage.

Working inwards from both ends would help dramatically. As far as the flying public is concerned, the TSA maintains positive control over the bags from end to end, at least on domestic flights, and are directly reponsible for those bags. Look at the chain of possesion. The TSA is both the first, and the last, and therefore the final.

If baggage security [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft]is as critical as it sounds to prevent 'prohibited' items from being brought onto the plane, why is it that USPS and Cargo [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft] is 'vouched' safe instead of being screened in the same manner?

The TSA needs to take a step back and take a good long look at where the actual holes, instead of just the pretend holes, are in the way they do business.

Submitted by Nohwhere Man on

Bob wrote: I would like to remind the flying public the TSA does not confiscate prohibited items. They are abandoned by the passenger. I know… it sounds like a play on words, but we really do make every effort to enable the passenger to keep their belongings.

It -is- a play on words. If there is no ready for me to send the item to myself at a reasonable cost, check that item, or hand it to someone else, they I am -forced- to abandon it if I want to fly. In most cases, the passenger is left with the Catch-22: loose something, either the ticket or the item.

Point- If I've already checked my luggage, it's difficult, or not impossible, to retrieve it, deposit the item, and check it again. So this is generally not an option.

Point- Many people get themselves to the airport, so there is no one to hand the item too. Even if someone brought me to the airport, parked the car, and came into the terminal with me, they've probably left before I get to the front of the screening line. If they -were- still there, I imagine that it would be rather hard to get the item to that person. So this is not an option.

Point- There are seldom any resources -to- send that item either to my destination or home. The one time I saw something that would allow me to mail an item home, the charge was something lie $20 for a 9x12 envelope. This is exorbitant. Not really an option here, either.


So, I come back to the Catch-22- I'm forced, without recourse, to abandon -something-. My only choice is what to dump.

z!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"If baggage security [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft]is as critical as it sounds to prevent 'prohibited' items from being brought onto the plane, why is it that USPS and Cargo [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft] is 'vouched' safe instead of being screened in the same manner?"

Cargo is screened by the TSA, in special cargo facilities, at some airports.

Once the TSA screens your bags the first time, it's in the hands of the airlines. They TSA isn't your luggage babysitter. They verify there is nothing dangerous in the bag, then it's sent on it's way on the airline. If people want to pay more taxes to hire the TSA to follow their bags around..well...that seems like that's what you're asking for. As I recall, prior to the TSA, once your bags were screened by security, they were in the hands of the airlines.

Also, I think the TSA is looking to start screening all airport employees at the beginning of the shift. From cargo guys, to bag loaders, to fuelers, to air traffic control.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Nohwhere man-

If you need a prohibited item that badly on your trip, mail it to your destination beforehand.

The list of Prohibited items is clear for both checked bags, and carry on bags. If you can't figure out if your knife/wrench/hammer/mace/pepper spray/grenade can or cannot go, get someone to assist you in packing. The list of YES items and NO items is clearly marked. How are you still confused on what and what isn't acceptable on an airplane? Oh, and it's not illegial search and seizure, because you know before you even buy your ticket you have to get screened. Even if you didn't know that, you know when you get to the airport. Oh, and even if you don't know then, then you notice when you try to get onto the airplane and there's a line of people waiting to be screened. When you present yourself at the beginning of the checkpoint, you imply your consent to be searched. If you have an item on the prohibited items list, and you know yourself that you can't have it, why complain and make a scene when you knew since before you left your home that it isn't allowed? Do you think that they're just going to allow you to have said item because you put up a stink about it? If you think something should be removed from the prohibited items list, write your congressman or to the TSA. The list is cut and dry. How are you failing to understand?

Submitted by Screener Joe on

Anonymnous, on 15 Feb, said: "When I am required to hand over my belongings to TSA you become responsible for those items until they are returned to me."

But you are not turning checked baggage over to us. You are turning them over to the airlines, jsut as you have been for the last fifty years. We just side step them briefly for inspection, and return them to the airlines.

Hawthorne, on 15 Feb, said: "Locked luggage should stay that way. If you do not want people using TSA approved locks, don't approve them in the first place."

You misunderstood, perhaps. We do want you to use the approved locks. Very much we want you to use them. We want you to use them very much. We want you very much to use them.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Quote: "the TSA maintains positive control over the bags from end to end, at least on domestic flights, and are directly reponsible for those bags."

Ah, not really. My job is to make sure no one puts a bomb in their luggage like what happened to Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland on Dec 21st, 1988. Once I have cleared your bag, I don't babysit it all the way to the plane, into the plane, back out of the plane, and back into your hands. Once I have inspected it, that's the last I see of it. And if I actually have to go into your bag, I am on several cameras in case something does come up missing. TSA-Joe

Submitted by Fernando Valenzuela on

Wowie! More Dave X posts, my day is complete. How about some helpful hints?

"It -is- a play on words. If there is no ready for me to send the item to myself at a reasonable cost, check that item, or hand it to someone else, they I am -forced- to abandon it if I want to fly. In most cases, the passenger is left with the Catch-22: loose something, either the ticket or the item."

Hot tip!

You have read about and heard about what not to bring... Don't bring it! Don't put it in your bag and no one will tell you your options.

"Point- If I've already checked my luggage, it's difficult, or not impossible, to retrieve it, deposit the item, and check it again. So this is generally not an option."

Actually Mr. Where, It happens quite frequently at our airport. Oooh, the fun facts Dave-O will bring up... I can't wait.

"So, I come back to the Catch-22- I'm forced, without recourse, to abandon -something-. My only choice is what to dump."

Which brings me back to my original point, DON'T BRING IT! So, yeah...

About the tool who stole the stuff, I don't think the TSA was looking for a pat on the back. It was more to the effect that TSA recognized it and remedied it. I know he pointed this out, but AIRLINE baggage handlers touch your bag more than the TSA does. And they don't have cameras pointing at them while they do their jobs. Our baggage room does.

Dave X, spare us your rants. We still don't care about fun facts. We understand you are not a fan of the TSA. We got the point, sparky. Take a step away from your computer and experience life (Even if said experience doesn't include airline travel, I still encourage you. Be bold, message board troll!). It's A-OK!

ROY 1981

Submitted by Anonymous on

tso msp: I work for the TSA and I work behind the scences in the baggage area. And I can tell that their are alot of locks that are being ripped of the luggage by the belt system ,TSA locks and every other lock you can think of are laying everwhere under the belt system. So if your TSA lock is missing do not assume that we cut it off your luggage. Know about the stealing that everybody claims that is happening everywhere. Do not assume that if something is missing that TSA stole it from you. Once your bag is cleared with us their are numerous airline employees that handle your bags after they leave our area with no cameras watching them. Several years ago some airline employees that load the food onto the airplane were caught down in the cargo hold stealing items out the the bags.SO DO NOT ASSUME WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THEFT! In our work area there cameras everywhere. Stealing anything out of a passengers bag is not worth losing my job over! Period!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I had the experience once of checking an unlocked duffel bag of clothing, and the TSA decided to search it (they left one of their flyers inside), but didn't re-zip the bag when they got done. Fortunately, my belongings were still there at my destination.

Here's what I do when I check a bag now...

I create an inventory list of the contents of my bag, put one copy in the bag atop my belongings, and keep another copy with me. Indirectly, it's a way to put the TSA on notice that "I know what was in this bag when I packed it, expect it will all still be there at my destination, and I will be checking."

Submitted by Jake Cohen on

Interesting stuff, very interesting. I didn't know this was happening.

My blog.
Talkprice.net

Submitted by Anonymous on

Funny to hear that locks get removed by the baggage handling systems. In my 30 years of flying before the TSA, I never lost a single lock. With the TSA involved, I've lost several approved locks.

Explain that one.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No matter what the TSA manages to do (or not do), someone will complain. They'll complain that either the TSA isn't doing the job, are over-doing it, are flat out wrong, should be disbanded, or something similarly short-sighted and trite sounding.

I know I wouldn't last a day as a TSO without strangling somebody. There are some rude people out there. How about we all work on being a little more civil and polite out there?

Nobody seems to ever give the TSA a break. Personally, I'd say the TSA is saddled with trying to do far too many things at once, doing them slightly better than what we had before, and aggravating us all more than needed because their implementations are varied. They are also with PR issues because everyone expects everything to be fixed "right now". Fixing one problem is achievable. Fixing all problems simultaneously is not. You perfectionists can wait over there in the SSSSCAVITY line wearing hospital gowns, thank you. I'd rather have slowly-getting fixed implemented security than to have none while waiting for perfect security to be implemented.

I agree with the annons of 18 Feb 13:42 & 15:15. Removing the TSA baggage screen from behind closed doors to a Milwaukee style system would remove much of suspicion focused on the bag screeners. I know that having my own lock on my bag would make me feel more secure about my belongings making it to the baggage claim carousel.

For every evolutionary step forward in natural history, there are a million dead-ends that didn't work. Unfortunately, as this blog sub-title alludes to, security is constantly evolving.

Submitted by Captain John Konrad on

When is a blog about MAritime Affaris or the TWIC card coming?

Submitted by Anonymous on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by Marcus on

So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

Submitted by Robert Johnson on

Quote from Christopher: Thanks for posting this. I must admit I was not familiar with this incident. As your post indicates, the individuals were fired by TSA. Unfortunately we are limited to firing and supporting local prosecutors with evidence or witnesses. The local district attorney, state’s attorney or U.S. attorney actually presses criminal charges.

So in other words, with the gift cards TSA saw a PR angle it could exploit whereas these guys were small potatoes and wouldn't generate a buzz so there was no need to push for charges. Got it.

Submitted by Red on

To quote from the original post:

"The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future."

EXACTLY! Given that we are in agreement on this point, please explain why the TSA allows the existence of the CLEAR program. That program allows individuals who pass a background check to go through security with the knowledge that they won't be randomly selected for a secondary screening. This removes a layer of security from the process for those individuals even though their ability to pass a background check is no guarantee they won't commit a malicious act in the future.

Why does the TSA support a program that actually makes it easier for someone to attempt to get a dangerous item past security? Not to mention the inappropriate use of my taxpayer dollars.

Submitted by Jack on

Beating a dead horse? I fly with a tool chest. I wanted to comply with TSA rules and equiped that tool chest with TSA approved locks. I've had those locks cut off. How do I know that they were cut off? The locks were dumped into the tool chest. I've been told to return those locks for credit. If you were a store owner and the same person came in week after week for new locks then at what point would you begin asking questions of that person?

I give TSA a secured item with locks. I expect them to search that item and to properly resecure that item so as to dissuade baggage theives. When TSA fails to properly resecure that luggage who is responsible for any losses I may incure? Currently TSA points at the airlines and the airlines points at TSA. Looks like no one is willing to take responsibility for neglectful behavior that costs a flying customer his/her belongings.

I witnessed my tool chest being checked and resecured at Newark Intl airport. When I arrived at MPLS both locks were cut off, placed inside the tool chest, and the luggage tag had two TSA inspection stickers on it. That resulted in several pointless phone calls to TSA operatives at Newark since this problem occurs on a fairly regular basis.

The lighter duty TSA locks don't provide much security and have snapped off during luggage handling. I've even talked to the president of the organization that spec'd the locks. To his credit he told me that the lighter duty locks don't take abuse very well. FYI I took one of the damaged locks apart with a pair of linesman's electrical pliers. That isn't good.

I've complained before and will complain again. What do I have to do to get TSA to properly resecure my luggage after a luggage inspection? Please don't tell me to stand by while the luggage is being inspected. Several airports do the luggage inspection inside a passenger denied secure area and as such it isn't feasible.

Tell me what I must do to travel with secured luggage. Be consistant, and you most likely won't hear from me again.

I've told a TSA agent "I don't trust you and want to speak with your supervisor." The supervisor came over and the TSA agent said "he just called me a thief." I told his supervisor what I said in the first place and there is quite a difference between not trusting a total stranger and calling someone a thief. To his credit the supervisor cleared up this miscommunication.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As usual, you're doing a great job deflecting the issue. First of all, the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level.
***********************************
I am ashamed to say that yes, TSA has people who are less than "honorable" and do not deserve to be called TSA employees! Unfortunately again, this is an issue that would be seen in any civil service position as there are always people who are willing to take chances to get something for nothing. Let it be known though, that TSO's who are caught stealing face Federal fines and jail time as well as losing thier job.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why does the TSA Contact Center not respond to questions that are emailed in?

One heck of a contact center you guys have.

Submitted by Anonymous on

To Christopher:

I have to respect your guts in addressing the topic of theft immediately after a TSA employee was arrested at ORD. You put together a well reasoned posting on the subject. It pains me to respond with, "I don't believe you."

You said that TSA does "not tolerate, condone, cover up or minimize theft by our officers by any stretch of the imagination". And yet, we see a link to an article about an incident in Austin that was certainly "minimized".

You said that employees "are prohibited from taking backpacks, lunchboxes or any other personal carrying item into baggage screening operation areas." And yet, while standing in the screening line last Sunday at BNA, I watched a TSA employee bypass the line and walk into the screening area (reporting for work?) with a huge backpack on her back. Who am I to believe, you or my lying eyes?

I don't think you are intentionally misleading us with your post. I'm sure that you honestly believe what you said to be the truth. I'm convinced that TSA policy does prohibit backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. However; what you - and more importantly TSA managenent -have to come to grip with is that TSA policies are routinely disregarded at airports across the USA. "Inconsistencies" is enough of a problem to have been the topic of an earlier topic on this very blog.

I am a victim of theft and I place the responsibility solely in TSA's lap. While I readily concede that many people have access to my checked bag, no one but me and TSA have access to my carry-on. And I've had things taken from carry-on bags.

As a result of my experience I am very wary of letting my carry-on out of my sight while going through security. When my bag occasionally gets a second pass through the x-ray machine I often notice TSA employees trying to open up bag up well away from me where it is hard for me to observe. This is totally unacceptable. Sad experience has taught me to suspect theft as the motive for such behavior.

If TSA were truly serious about limiting theft it would publish a statement at screening stations that passengers are entitled to observe as their carry on bags are opened and searched and it would discipline those employees who disregarded the policy.

When I see such a sign prominently displayed I'll believe TSA is getting serious about theft. Not before.

Pages