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What Happened in Philadelphia?

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Thursday, January 21, 2010
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You have likely by now heard the story about a TSA employee who decided to play a joke on a passenger in Philadelphia. You can read the details of the passenger's unfortunate experience here .

TSA views this employee’s behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional and as of today, the employee is no longer with TSA.

Incidents like this are a kick in the gut to our entire workforce who strive daily to do their best and keep the next attack from happening on their watch.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

What is wrong with some people?

Submitted by Anonymous on


Submitted by Tomas on

BTW, here is the ORIGINAL published story about this from a week earlier:


Submitted by Anonymous on

This person should be held accountable in a court of law.

Submitted by Al Ames on

Incidents like these and many others are kicks in the gut to the many men and women of the traveling public who have to deal with clowns like this on a regular basis.

So Bob, can you explain why it was supposedly a test for contraband? White powders like that seem to fall outside the scope of the administrative search.

And of course, it also illustrates what people have been saying - if TSA folks and baggage handlers can take something OUT of a bag, they can put something IN the bag too.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Yes, BB, please tell us when this man will be arraigned and what charges will be filed?

I'm kinda partial to 18 USC 1001 or better 18 USC 1951.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well, that confirms it: the abusive thug in the St. Louis incident clearly wasn't fired, because it seems like the fabled "privacy laws" that Bob hid behind do allow the TSA to disclose that an employee isn't still on the job, but not whether he/she was fired or quit. Incredible.

Submitted by NoClu - Class Of 90 on

Well, as a Michigan Grad, I'm pleased that it was a U of M student who was PunkeD' by the TSA.

Go Blue!

P.S. not the blue-shirt want to be cops in the TSA, M go Blue.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, where are the Youtube videos of the incident this time, TSA? When some stupid blogger makes up stuff about the TSA, you post video here within hours, without any permission. Where's the hirez video of your employee tormenting an innocent passenger, planting the baggie and then waving it in her face and then laughing it off?


Submitted by Aaron on

Bob, what security threat to airplanes consists of a white powder? I thought the TSA wasn't in the law enforcement business.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I once went through a screening and after walking through the metal detector, the TSO manning the X-ray unzipped my bag to look for what he thought was a liquid. He did not do this in my presence. My guess this is standard operating procedure for the TSA and the contributed to this horrible incident.

Why wasn't individual arrested?

Submitted by Anonymous on

so now its OK to mention bombs on the plane as long as I end with "just joking..." ?

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Riddle me this. If incidents like this are "a kick in the gut to our entire workforce", why didn't one of his co-workers stop him or turn him in?

I like the fact he was "disciplined" but not fired until the news story broke.

What kind of agency requires front page exposure before action is taken?

I guess Congressman Mica was right, the TSA needs adult supervision.

Ha my word verification is "mentor".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please address the reports that this was said to be a part of some training exercise.

Was it?

Why were you training with fake drugs? Instead of things that would present a real threat.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why on earth would a moderated blog allow lame stuff like "First" on the blog.

Mr. Moderator you further harm your blog and message.

Submitted by N4zhg on

So when is the name of this former TSO going to be released, and when will he face criminal charges?

My guess to both is "never". Time for everyone to call their federal elected representatives to demand accountability from this agency that considers themselves above the law.

Submitted by RB on

Incidents like this are a kick in the gut to our entire workforce who strive daily to do their best and keep the next attack from happening on their watch.

Blogger Bob
TSA Blog Team
TSA's best seems to be a very low hurdle to clear. Abuse of travelers should subject TSA employees to criminal charges.

The bigger issue is just what was this small quantity of white powder suppose to simulate? Is TSA training its employees in drug detection? Would this not fall outside of the limited Administrative Search that is limited to WEI?

I hope this case makes it to a court and some judge rescinds the authority of TSA to conduct Administrative Searches. It is clear that TSA cannot be trusted to limit the searches to purposes intended.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So if a passenger played a joke like this on a TSO then would the passenger now be facing legal charges? If so then why isn't the TSO facing charges as well?

Why was he testing for non WEI contraband? Why was he expanding the search into un Constitutional areas? What part of administrative search doesn't TSA understand?

Submitted by Bob Hanssen on

You people haven't heard the last of Ms Solomon based on her dad's profession.

It's not a "kick in the gut." It's criminal and another example of you non-accountability and your complete disregard for the law of this land.

Submitted by Jannis on

Al Ames said… “So Bob, can you explain why it was supposedly a test for contraband? White powders like that seem to fall outside the scope of the administrative search.”

What about this story would make you think this was an administrative search? Obviously this incident had NOTHING to do with searching for contraband; it had to do with a mean-spirited jerk looking for a few laughs. I hope he was terminated over this incident and that TSA didn’t allow him the dignity of quitting.

Submitted by Craig H on

To fire this gentleman isn't enough.

We need Congressional hearings on why the TSA is permitted to continue its abusive policies; why screeners continue to abuse their power against normal citizens; why TSA agents cannot respect the flying public; why TSA agents insist upon screaming at passengers who put their shoes in bins instead of on the belt directly in one airport, while TSA agents scream at passengers for doing the opposite in another airport; why TSA agents seem insulted when you ask to speak to a supervisor to give him/her a comment on the less-than-happy screener who gave the passenger a very hard time.

"Do you want to fly today?" needs to be a thing of the past. Power-tripping screeners aren't qualified to work at your average restaurant, much less for such a critical role.

I can only hope this incident triggers several multi-million dollar lawsuits; maybe Congress will intervene to fix the colossal abuses that the flying public continues to endure.

Submitted by Jerome Howard on

Bob -- As you consider where to go from here, please tell us how all of these TSA employees, especially SPOTNik Jeanette, the other screeners, the plain-clothes sleuths and the gate gropers in this documentary:

are "keep[ing] the next attack from happening on their watch."

Submitted by Crackerjacksoul on

Well, this is what happens when you foster a "This is the TSA. We do what we want" attitude in your employees and your organization. Is it any surprise this sort of thing happens?

Submitted by John on

@Bob: "as of today, the employee is no longer with TSA."

Was he fired? Referred for prosecution? Are we back to pretending that we can't talk about disciplinary actions? You certainly seem to take that on a case by case basis depending on what is best in the eyes of your bosses in the PR office.

What would happen if a passenger did this to a TSA 'officer' or to a fellow passenger? I am guessing far more then this person..

Submitted by Sandra on

So, TSA does search for drugs in spite of all the declarations that it does not happen.

Submitted by Anonymous on

this is yet another reason to avoid air travel to, or within, the U.S ...

Submitted by Brent on

I don't understand how privacy laws protect the identity of the TSA employee here. He should be subject to civil penalty for emotional distress, just as would apply to an officer of the law had this same offense occurred in the streets of any city or town in America. TSA and its employees should be held accountable to the same standards we demand of our police and other civil servants.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I wish I was more shocked than I am. I fly several times a year, although I am not a "frequent flyer" by any means. I plan far ahead to make sure I can get through security as easily as Clooney does in Up in the Air. I wear loafers, I have a carryon with a special quick-access slot for my laptop, I have all my coins and keys in my carryon, but it still creates an undue amount of stress.

The TSA folks seem almost pathologically inclined to want to separate me from my valuable items. I will NOT step through until my items go through the x-ray, nor will I send my items through until the way is clear for ME to step through. TSA agents sometimes get mad at me for wanting to keep an eye on my things. 52,000 laptops are lost or stolen in airports each year. I don't want mine to be one of them.

Now I have another reason to make sure my items don't leave my sight.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Another snafu, another post lacking an apology. TSA employee culture is pretty clearly toxic and unprofessional. You guys should go back to the white shirts, I think the faux-cop uniforms are giving your workforce delusions of grandeur.

Any comment on new evidence that your strip search machines do a lousy job finding bomb components?

Submitted by Anonymous on

And we're supposed to trust you with naked pictures of ourselves?

This wasn't supposed to happen. What do you think is going to happen with other pranksters? There are what, 4000 TSA employees? No one else has a bad moral?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Notice also that this demented TSO is a trainer for other TSOs.

By the way, what is up with this disgraceful blog? It doesn't seem to be helping with public relations very much - what with all of it's ridiculous apologetics.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear Bob:

If he's claiming to be training other screeners to find contraband, and he's using a small white baggie of fine powder (intend to look like drugs, it sure sounds like the intent is to conduct searches for illegal drugs.

This sure seems to reach well beyond the limits of an administrative search into an unlawful (and unconstitutional) search for "illegal" items.

I could cut the agency a break if this were the first time it happened, but it's not. We've seen it with Fofana, we've seen the screeners engage in it with the Kip Hawley Is An Idiot baggie case, and we've clearly seen it here. I've personally been witness to the behavior at Washington Dulles where I saw a LEAD screener (according to his name badge) tell a passenger that he had "no rights to say anything to a screener and no first amendment rights". That same lead screener threatened to call the police to have them "interrogate the passenger for 2 hours to make sure that you miss your flight".

Bob, while you have some screeners that follow policy, you have a great number that overstep the limits of their authority. The agency really needs to deal with these folks on a regular basis, not just when they make headlines. From personal experience, I can tell you that you need not leave your own back yard - a visit to Dulles or BWI would show the abuses that happen every day. Newark is also particularly bad.

Given these cases, please tell us again how the agency isn't running a dragnet for possible criminals, and how it carefully limits itself in administrative searches.

I'm listening and watching.

A Freguent Traveler.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So a trainer (I assume a more experienced employee) can put contraband in a passenger's luggage? How many innocent people have been convicted on evidence planted by TSA?

What really scares me is that only one fellow passenger helped the poor woman. What have we become? With a little re-writing, this could be a movie scene of people being marched off to death camps.

Weep for the America that we knew.

She died.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I knew the TSA is a faild agency but this incident shows how bad the state really is.

Seriously, I thought that after the EWR incident all of your employees learned a lesson. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

By the way statement like this: "TSA views this employee’s behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional and as of today, the employee is no longer with TSA." are a kick in the gut for any passenger. People get locked up for much smaller jokes when passengers joke about security and all you guys do is fire the person.

Submitted by Micky2 on

A TSA spokeswoman has said the former employee's identity cannot be revealed "to protect his privacy." I am at a loss as to why a traveler making a dumb joke will have his or her identity splashed across the national media but this man's identity is sacred. And if a traveler would be subject to arrest for joking, why isn't he? He terrorized this young woman. Why are we not entitled to justice when an agent of our government breaks the law?

Submitted by Thetsablog on

Since when did the TSA start looking for "Contraband"? Lats time I checked narcotics could not bring down an aircraft. If they are training why would the TSA put this responsibility on the Screeners, as they are already having a hard enough time finding explosives. I don't care if it is a bag of weed the size of Chicago, it's not the TSA's job.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Things like this are completely unacceptable. Most of us enjoy a good joke, or laugh with coworkers or friends, this was not even remotely in that realm. This person should be charged under applicable laws (if the victim is willing to press charges). I really like that the agency published the info on this in a timely fashion, and that the local office took quick action to remedy this. Nice job TSA.

TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Anonymous on

The story then is that the TSA instructor was demonstrating how to plant evidence in a passenger's luggage? If this young woman was in a real sting she would be in prisoned without counsel, perhaps tortured now?

Can someone explain to me who the real terrorists are?

Submitted by TSOWilliamReed on

Al Ames said...
Incidents like these and many others are kicks in the gut to the many men and women of the traveling public who have to deal with clowns like this on a regular basis.

So Bob, can you explain why it was supposedly a test for contraband? White powders like that seem to fall outside the scope of the administrative search.

And of course, it also illustrates what people have been saying - if TSA folks and baggage handlers can take something OUT of a bag, they can put something IN the bag too.


January 22, 2010 12:26 AM

First of all the article reads that when the women questioned the officers at the checkpoint they stated that the officer was part of the test team, not that he was performing a test. Secondly, white powder isn't just cocaine. There are many forms of high explosives that come in a white powder form, the christmas bomber used white powder in his explosive device.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This was completely unacceptable behavior by TSA. Just another reason why we need to get rid of the TSA and get real security, that actually makes us safer, and does not give the allusion of security.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What professionalism, Bob? The same professionalism that leads you to ignore a half-dozen posts asking for your supervisor's name and contact information to report your own gross misconduct and unprofessionalism? TSA is a pathetic joke.

Submitted by Anonymous on

That person should face the same criminal charges one of our dumped-on air travelers would face if he joked about carrying a bomb onboard. Security theater and $3 bottles of water FTW.

Submitted by TSAnonymous on

As a TSA Officer, I would like to publicly condemn this employee, and state how very glad I am that they are no longer working for this agency. People like this just hurt the image of all the TSA Officers who actually are professional and competent at their job, and I wish we could get rid of all of them. I do believe they are in the minority, but as we all know, the bad apples are the ones who make the news.

Submitted by Anonymous on

As a TSA employee, I am absolutely disgusted by this story. That an officer who use an unwilling and unknowing passenger as some sort of "test" is wrong on so many levels. That is not something we do (maybe he got the idea from an airport security story from Europe where a passenger unknowlingly carried some test matter through security there). What this officer did was not only a violation of public trust but also disrespectful to every hardworking, honest member of our workforce. Covert testing is a necessary and useful training aid - when done properly!
I apologize to this young woman on behalf of this idiot - no one should ever be subjected to this.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Al Ames said...

"So Bob, can you explain why it was supposedly a test for contraband? White powders like that seem to fall outside the scope of the administrative search."

I can tell you that powders are of interest to TSA for searching if need be. I can't tell you the specifics. Explosives can come in powder form as well.

I am really happy that this TSA employee is no longer employed. He has gotten what he deserves be in voluntary or not to be removed from federal service. I can assume what kind of position he held and to think that someone in his position would do such an act is demeaning. I use to think that if you hold a higher rank than just entry level you grow more professional but this just proves that mentality wrong.

Good thing the girl went through the proper channels to have this issue not repeat itself.

Submitted by Wayne on

This blog is hilarious. So glad I found it.

Submitted by JBottoms on

I'm a TSO at Will Rogers in OKC and I find the actions of this employee completely inappropriate. I believe the TSA is quite flawed at the moment but i also believe we are improving. I appreciate all those who support us and empathize with those who feel we go too far with screening. Thank you.

p.s. Al Ames, powder explosives were the explosive of choice by Abdul Mudallad on Dec. 25. So yes white powders do fall in the scope of the administrative search.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wait a minute. If the TSA is not allowed (or obliged) to tell us the true fate of this employee then how do we know that he was fired as they say he was? Couldn't they just tell us he was fired and then not fire him? Or rehire him? If they can do and say anything they want then they can do and say anything they want. No? I think it should just be assumed that he still works there until someone can PROVE that he does not.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I did not see where the post says anything about the agent being fired. Maybe they resigned?

Submitted by LTSO With Answers on

I just want to say that this TSA employee's actions are demeaning as Anon has said. TSA is better off without this individual. I am happy swift action was taken. I sympathize for Rebecca and apologize that she had to endure this immature act.

This is a good case as to why it is important to raise concerns through the proper channels. Nothing can be done about issues unless you report it!