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TSA Has Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence and Inappropriate Comments

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Friday, May 07, 2010

This week there was an incident involving workplace violence at Miami International Airport. We take this type of incident very seriously. TSA has zero tolerance for violence in the workplace and we’re moving swiftly to take appropriate action with respect to the security officer who has been charged with assault.

We’re also looking into alleged harassment during and after a training session and will determine if any procedures were violated or if any officers committed professional misconduct. Inappropriate comments are not acceptable and are dealt with swiftly. The training was internal and did not involve passengers at any time.

When using imaging technology, the privacy of passengers is always protected by our strict procedures. An officer who views the image never sees the passenger and once cleared, images are deleted forever. This isolated incident in no way reflects on, nor did it ever compromise the procedures put in place to screen passengers.

Bob Burns on Behalf of TSA Public Affairs
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Ayn R Key on

There are several aspects of this case you must look in to.

1. The AIT is much more revealing than you have admitted.
2. AIT is apparently acceptable for the public but the TSOs feel they should not be subjected to it.
3. The professionalism of the supervisor who kept making jokes about a subordinates genitalia.
4. The lack of screening of TSOs beyond a general background check.

I'm looking forward to a much more informative blog entry on this matter, above and beyond the "we are looking in to it" that you have just provided. Great, you're looking in to it. I'm eager to know what you actually do because of it.

Submitted by Bruce on

Uh, obviously the one who was doing the screening knew he was looking at a TSO.

Will you please explain how the screener knew he was viewing a TSO if he is so far separated from the scan that he is allegedly unable to determine who he is looking at, as we have been told?

Submitted by Txrus on

Now we know why Nico never came thru w/those 'family friendly' images...

'Workplace violence' aside, Bob, you DO get that the bigger issue here (no pun intended) is that it seems pretty clear that you/TSA have been less then truthful w/re: to just how graphic these images really are. That being the case, why on earth should we believe your claims that the images can't be stored or printed or that your screeners don't have other methods of passing these pictures around.

The Germans knew what they were doing when they banned these machines.

Submitted by Tomas on

Considering how far the "commenting" appears to have gotten out of hand, Bob, I suspect that may even be one of the reasons TSA wants the image screeners OUT of public view.

You just know they probably have some really choice facial expressions and comments viewing all of us naked, and having the viewed public able to see that just might be toxic to the whole idea.

(Besides, who wants to actually KNOW that their teenaged daughter is being viewed by some 50 year old male, panting in the back room?)

Submitted by Anonymous on

If TSO's are willing to commit assault and sexual harassment, why should we be confident they won't "compromise the procedures put in place to screen passengers"?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Inappropriate comments are not acceptable and are dealt with swiftly."

I guess the TSA and I have different ideas of "swiftly".

Submitted by Mike E on

Yes, more training. That's clearly what's needed. A training session will solve this problem for good. Perhaps a memo too.

Well, I consider this matter closed.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Mike - What are you talking about?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yet another PR disaster for TSA. Clearly, TSOs can't be trusted with this technology. Storing these images forever is as easy as pointing an iPhone at the screen and snapping a picture.

I support AIT, but only if a computer analyzes the image and only shows the screener the result if a foreign object is alerted on. This makes sense and probably enhances security over a human analyst.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Full resolution unmodified images of TSA blog staff. If you won't do that, at least admit to your lies. The images are pornographic, and the screeners are hidden because you know that no matter what kind of training is given, you have an endemic problem with your ground level employees. They aren't professional. They break the rules. They're given too much power and not enough oversight.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, is THIS why you've consistently refused to share examples of the images generated by these strip-search machines?

The problem is not training, the problem is that you are using these disgusting machines in the first place.

And let's not pretend the ONLY reason you care about the unprofessionalism this incident displays is because someone got caught.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I find it disturbing that someone like this supervisor was in a position where he would have access to images of passengers and their children.

Bob, you have admitted that every organization can have bad apples, and this is true. The problem with this technology is we don't know if there is a bad apple employee on the other side of the curtain or not. I sincerely doubt that even you were surprised that a story like this came out, Bob.

Submitted by Andy on

The TSA seems to be filled with some really classy people, Bob.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"When using imaging technology, the privacy of passengers is always protected by our strict procedures."

"We’re also looking into alleged harassment during and after a training session and will determine if any procedures were violated or if any officers committed professional misconduct."



How hard is it for you to grasp that the mere existence of "strict procedures" does not "always" protect passenger privacy. Why? Because PROCEDURES CAN BE VIOLATED!!!

Submitted by Sandra on

You can rest assured that screeners who are viewing naked pictures of passengers ARE talking about what they have seen with their co-workers. Unfortunately, we passengers don't get the ability to fight back; we have to suck it up or be felt up.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Zero tolerance for inappropriate comments?????????????

This guy was getting ridiculed for a year!!!!!!!!!

Did this TSO report the abuse prior to the assault and TSA did nothing? Or is the TSA brass so out of touch with the day to day operations that they had no idea?

Regardless of the assault charge i hope this guy sues the pants off the TSA (no pun intended) for sexual harassment and hostile work environment.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I have just completed AIT training and it really is not as bad as everyone thinks. This is just the results of a poor judgement call in an isolated incident.

Submitted by AngryMiller on

Bob, how long do you suppose it will take before one of the AIT/WBI viewers makes a comment over the whisper radio about a certain passenger and the passenger over hears the TSO outside of the AIT making rude/inflammatory comments?

It that going to be just another isolated incident as well? What recourse do the passengers have when dealing with rude TSOs?

Submitted by Avxo on

First off, let me say that I appreciate Bob's predicament. Any "mouthpiece" job is tough, especially when the organization you represent is taking heat.

Every time we're told it's an isolated incident. That the incident didn't affect the security of the sterile area, or the privacy of the flying public, or what have you. That more training is being mandated. That disciplinary measures have been taken.

There have been many posts itemizing legitimate concerns that some citizens have about these machines and their implications vis-à-vis privacy. We had the concerns of parents about whether it's appropriate for their children to be walking through the machines and virtually exposed to an adult in a back room.

But all the concerns were mostly whitewashed.

Whitewashed because, we were told, our privacy is protected, since the scan won't really show details such as genitals, the one doing the viewing can't see us, and the machines supposedly can't print or save the images while operationally deployed.

But the incident in question though raise the issue of just how detailed the pictures being displayed are. The comments by TSA employee on this blog who said that most people simply don't look that good anyways, and their on-screen representation isn't all that pleasing raised those issues too. I'm not sure if he expected an apology and a promise that we will, as a nation, shape up to make for better viewing.

And now, this incident, like others before it, is also being whitewashed. Same keywords: More training. Zero tolerance. No compromise in security. Strict procedures.

The American public deserves more than the TSA's boilerplate press release languae.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When are you guys going to close the shop and let real security professionals with some kind of accountability take over?

Submitted by RB on

Bob, I have no confidence that TSA will respect my privacy.

It does not matter if the Strip Search Porno Viewer Operator sees me directly or not they have seen my naked image. That is unacceptable.

You individually and TSA as an organization have not been truthful about the images these devices create from day one.

Using these devices to image children should be against the law and anyone viewing children with WBI STRIP SEARCH PORNO VIEWERS should be charge with Child Porn charges. I am encouraging my elected officials to pass legislation deeming such acts by TSA as Child Porn violations.

Oh, you TSA PAO types keep saying the actions of a few do not impact on the whole. Well guess what Bob, TSA, and TSA you employees, that just doesn't wash anymore.

TSA is a cesspool (thanks Bart) and seems quiet willing to prove it each and every week.

I think it is time for TSA to either publish full size/full resolution WBI images so the public can decide just how revealing these images are.

Either that or take them out of service until software is available to read the image removing the human component.



Submitted by Anonymous on

Sounds like you should admit your lies and show actual photos from your machines instead of edited down-sized fakes.

And explain why you issue ASP batons to your TSOs if they aren't law enforcement officers.

Submitted by Abelard on

I am exceptionally thankful that this incident has come to light because it clearly shows the TSA has been completely dishonest about the professionalism of their corps as well as being completely dishonest about how "family friendly" the scanner images are.

Tell us, Bob, if the images are so "family friendly," how would anyone know the size of a person's genitalia?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sandra, more like suck it up or get beat down and spend a few months in jail for mouthing of to a TSO.

Submitted by Ronnie on

Let me try to explain something to you all...I recently trained on the new AIT technologies and while in training we were in very small groups. Usually 10 TSOs at a time. While 5 were in the viewing room, the other 5 were entering the machines. Mind you we had to do this ourselves since the machines DO NOT STORE IMAGES. I suppose what happened was that several immature individuals were able to, by process of elimination, guess who was who in the imaging machine. And once they picked a target, they engaged in the most rude, juvenile and unprofessional behavior imaginable. Now remember, these TSOs knew each other BEFORE they were engaged in this training so they were able to pick out their target based on body 'type' ALREADY KNOWN TO THEM. THAT, my friends, in why the remote location is so critical to insure the privacy of our passengers. Does that make sense now?

That being said, I have talked to many TSOs and we are saddened and angry that our reputations are being sullied by the likes of these unprofessional individuals.
Please dont paint us all with the same brush as these clowns in Miami.

Hope this doesnt give up too much SSI BB. And thank you for your time.


Submitted by Anonymous on

This is proof that the scans produce images which rise to the level of being pornographic. This is proof that however strict your procedures may be, they will be violated. Permanently recording the scans, and subsequently transmitting them to any number of people, is as simple as sneaking a picture with one's camera phone, and as proven by this incident, your procedures are obviously not followed loyally enough to protect privacy.

Given the evidence before us, please, please, please tell me why we should believe that our privacy will be preserved and why we should accept these scanners.

Submitted by R Skelton on

This is an isolated incident and will be dealt with severly. TSA is committed to providing the best security in the world, and AIT Technology is absolutely essential for that process.

But the human factor always has to be taken into consideration, TSO's are not robots and apparently capable of making poor decisions.

All TSO's should not be judged by the actions of a couple poorly trained officers.

Submitted by Founding Fathers on

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Benjamin Franklin

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Zero tolerance" apparently meaning "a year of ceaseless harassment from one's supervisor."

And then you wonder why America hates you.

Submitted by Mike E on

Here's the thing. Front line TSA screeners are in an entry level position. Sugar coat it all you want, talk about how much training they get all you want, etc etc.

At the end of the day, it's an entry level job, staffed by entry level people.

So now you give these poorly paid, entry level people MASSIVE amounts of authority over the traveling public and you're constantly going to be reading about incidents.

Give these poorly paid, entry level people the technology to SEE THROUGH CLOTHES (every teenage boy's dream) and we are constantly going to be reading about problems.

Bob, you think these guys aren't going to figure out how to get images off those computers? They're going to be locked in a room with one other person who wants to get the images off just as badly.

In a year, we're going to be seeing half a dozen websites that are nothing but images taken from these screening machines.

You can talk about procedures, and memos, and training, and professionalism all you want, but these people are just people.

Scanners that see through clothes are a disaster in the making. I can't believe anyone thinks this is a good idea.

It's like the Lower Merion School District spying on students in their bedrooms. Who in the world thought that was a good idea?

In 10 years, these scanners are going to be nothing but a footnote in a Supreme Court case.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"This isolated incident in no way reflects on, nor did it ever compromise the procedures put in place to screen passengers."
1. What is the source for your claim that this incident had no effect on passenger screening? Has this incident been fully investigated or is this just your assumption that you're passing off as a fact?

2. How is it possible that having a screener who was on the verge of a mental breakdown due to the torture inflicted by his colleagues did not impact his performance and thus the effectiveness of passenger screening?

3. How could you possibly describe this as an "isolated incident." According to all the news reports I have read, the TSO who has been arrested was a victim of daily teasing for quite some time. So by "isolated incident" you must mean "a series of isolated incidents that followed one after the other until one particular isolated incident happened to make him snap."

There's a common thread in all of the recent TSA scandal stories (I'm referring here to incidents of misconduct on the job, not the numerous TSOs who have gotten into trouble in their private lives). In each case, from the screeners who kept a scoreboard with hideously offensive racial and sexual epithets, to the supervisor who decided to play a cruel "joke" with a bag of powder, to the heartless TSOs who forced a disabled child to remove his braces, we see evidence of systematic misconduct by certain employees and COMPLETE APATHY from their colleagues. How is it that a supervisor never stepped in to put a stop to this behavior? Why did it come to the point that this poor man just snapped? All the evidence suggests that many TSA outfits are completely dysfunctional, which contradicts your claim that your employees are well-trained professionals.

When one moron tries to blow up his shoe that an "isolated incident." This is a pervasive pattern of mismanagement.

Submitted by Gunner on

By the way, this might be a good place to provide some closure on one of the most frequently asked questions: who, besides the USA, runs a shoe carnival.

--Unfortunately, the Philippines run both a shoe and a belt carnival.

Perhaps they are simply not into leather. :)

Sanity prevails in Taipei, no sign of a carnival there. Even carried my open bottle of water through the screening.

Submitted by Judy Lance on

ya Sandra your right! and one thing rules or laws does not solve the problem.

Submitted by Bubba on

Now we have confirmed evidence that the images show too much and that TSOs cannot be trusted to behave appropriately.

Added to that, we still don't know why the TSA is using backscatter X-rays when passive MMW could be adopted. We also have no decent argument why automated detection is not being pursued. We also aren't allowed to see the person viewing us naked, nor the scans made of our own person. And we also don't know how personal items such as adult diapers, maxipads, breast prosthetics, colostomies, etc will be "resolved" (differentiated from underwear bombs).

Why, again, do you think we should accept this technology?

Submitted by TSO Colyn on

Howdy Folx!

Welcome to the TSA blog! While I'm glad to see you folx here, I'm saddened by this story. After reading some of your comments I discovered a common theme. Many of you are concerned that you may be the subject of jocularity and ridicule from an officer who's viewed your AIT image.

I must say that I feel your concern very deeply, and appreciate your willingness to share this concern. I am not clairvoyant nor omniscient and cannot speak for the entire workforce of officers. However, I myself have always respected the privacy of individuals who elect AIT screening. Furthermore, I would consider it grossly inappropriate and unprofessional to hear another officer make jokes at a passengers expense. Having built a rapport with many fellow officers locally, I believe them to hold the same principles as I do.

The supervisor involved in this story allegedly made comments about a fellow officers manhood. This does not infer that the image produced by the AIT made such a determination possible. Blogger Bob and the entire blog team staff have been very forthcoming with the information provided thru out the blog in reference to the AIT.

Once again I'd like to thank you all for coming to the TSA blog to share your thoughts and concerns. The partnership between TSA and the public can only strengthen our security initiatives.

Safe travels everyone!!! *wave*


Submitted by Frequent Flier on

This pre-school level behavior by the TSA screeners (name-calling, hitting each other sticks), pretty much coincides with the maturity and intelligence level I've observed in these "professionals" every time I fly.

Thanks TSA for confirming that you hire incompetent people to keep us safe!

Submitted by Rob Arpoch on

Zero tolerance? Har! It had been going on for a YEAR! You sir, are hilarious! You don't serve yourself or the TSA well with such obviously non-credible statements.

If this is the same type of zero tolerance the TSA has for dangerous items carried on commercial aircraft we can all sleep terrified.

I guess it's just not security theater without drama.

Side note, I'd suggest a modification of your title for sake of accuracy:

"TSA Has Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence and Inappropriate Comments"

should probably really read:

"TSA Has Zero Tolerance for Public Disclosure of All-Too-Common Workplace Violence and Inappropriate Comments"

BTW, glad to see the TSA taking violence out of the workplace and putting it where it belongs - in gas station parking lots after stealing pizza while drunk.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So wait, you've locked comments now because this is too embarrassing, or what? Since last night, on a topic this rough, the number of comments hasn't changed? seriously?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"An officer who views the image never sees the passenger and once cleared, images are deleted forever."

So, if a passenger doesn't clear, the images may not be deleted forever? I thought the machines couldn't keep the images? That's what we've been told.

Really hard to believe that you'd implement a technology that wouldn't allow you to use the image in prosecution or the "administrative penalty" process.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on


I'm sure TSA has plenty of procedures in place to protect its employees from harassment in the workplace, as well as acts of physical violence. Obviously, those policies were not followed here.

TSA states that it has policies in place to ensure that the privacy of passengers subjected to AIT screening will be preserved. How do we know those policies will be followed? After all ... TSA couldn't follow those policies with its own employees. What confidence should the public have in TSA's ability to follow its policies dealing with the public?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Obviously the TSA has tolerance for this until violence erupts... you let it go on for SIX MONTHS. I think this incident speaks volumes about what a terrible organization the TSA is. You should be disbanded.

I don't fly because I fear the TSA. It isn't terrorsist that scare me, it is YOU.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What kind of procedures are you going to put in place to protect TSOs from workplace harassment? The problem seems widespread, tolerated or ignored by supervisors and management. In short it seems to be a systemic cultural structure, that is probably at the root of the high turn over rate and the disregard of SOP. You really need to enforce the zero tolerance policy, and rid yourselves of the people who are causing the problems. You must also provide a clear path for your employees to file complaints, so that violence doesn't become their only recourse.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Actually, nowhere does it say that the STSO made comments about the "image". He made comments about the other TSO's "equipment".

He may have just made a crack after the TSO left the machine w/o even having seen the image just to be a wise @@@ (and one who should have known better). That type of comment is no less acceptable and pucnishment should follow for both.
However, everyone here seems to be jumping on the "he commented about the image", "He saw the image and it was so revealing he made a comment", etc.

Read the article people and stop pushing your own agendas!!

Submitted by MarkVII on

What I find interesting here is that the inappropriate comments had been going on for a year. Check out this article:

"The co-worker had reportedly mocked his genitalia for the past year after Negrin walked through a new, high-tech body scanner. Linger on that: this guy apparently got made fun of for a full year. [My emphasis]

All I can say at this point is -- we've heard so many times about the TSA having the "highest standards" of behavior. How then, does this go on for a year and no action is taken. Also, if this is how one TSA employee can treat another TSA employee, can you imagine how this individual could treat passengers?

qui custodiet ipsos custodes

Submitted by Anonymous on

I am appalled that all the alleged perpetrators of the comments were not immediately suspended pending the investigation. (That is what swiftly and appropriately would mean to me.) If they are making comments about a coworker, they certainly are not to be trusted. It is wrong and if a single comment was made by them, they should be terminated!

Submitted by Rocco on

If there was any chance I would allow this machine to scan me, it's over now. If the picture it creates is detailed enough for someone to comment on the size of my genitalia,it's a violation of my privacy.

Multiple times I've asked here and not gotten a straight answer to the question: how will TSA stop people from taking snapshots of the screen with hand-held cameras, phones, etc? Can some TSO explain this? And don't say "its against our policy" or "we won't do it". Explain to me the TECHNICAL REASON that it won't happen, because I don't trust you guys to do the right thing.

I *will not* put myself or my kids through this machine is the *chance* exists that someone could snap a pic. Please explain why I shouldn't be concerned, when now thanks to this poor guy in the news it's OBVIOUS it can?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"However, I myself have always respected the privacy of individuals who elect AIT screening. Furthermore, I would consider it grossly inappropriate and unprofessional to hear another officer make jokes at a passengers expense."

I don't believe you, and I certainly don't trust you, and neither does your agency, since it insists on putting the operator of the strip-search machine off in a private little area. The only way to ensure even minimal professionalism from the operators of these strip-search machines is to put the operator in full view of the public.

Submitted by Trollkiller on

Blogger Bob, are the Peep Show Booth TSOs still allowed to go in without being searched for recording devices?

Are the Peep Show Booth TSOs still allowed on the room alone so if they do have a recording device they can use it?

Are the Peep Show Booths still unmonitored by security cameras to allow the TSOs in there to operate any recording device with impunity?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how do you keep a straight face when telling us these things?

1) Apparently the image quality of the scanners is good enough to insult any passenger at will. Everyone working in this area knows that only a fraction of the stuff you do internally reaches the public. I'm mortified about what must go on amongst the TSOs if this lead to physical assault between colleagues.

2) Apart from your PR talk about 'procedures in place' - WHAT DO YOU DO to make sure your TSOs are professional? WHAT are the sanctions?

3) You know that your nude scanners are lawsuits waiting to happen - if the scanners cause these kinds of issues before they are even fully deploid. Why do you use them even though they are ineffective?

We are fighting the fight against water while you guys let amunition on board. Now you will crack jokes about passengers instead of keeping explosives (that can be traced by WBI) off planes. Why is it so hard for you guys to just do your job and stop harassing innocent people?

Submitted by Avxo on

TSO Colyn wrote: "Many of you are concerned that you may be the subject of jocularity and ridicule from an officer who's viewed your AIT image."

No, many of us are concerned that (a) these machines have been proven capable of doing things that the TSA said they weren't able to do, such as having a test mode; (b) a number of the people sitting behind these machines are immature and poorly screened -- and I'm being extremely lenient; (c) the public is not adequately informed that they may choose to NOT go through these machines and (d) that the TSA seems unable to ensure that its front-line employees know the rules and regulations, let alone that they are able to enforce them.

TSO Colyn also said: "Furthermore, I would consider it grossly inappropriate and unprofessional to hear another officer make jokes at a passengers expense. Having built a rapport with many fellow officers locally, I believe them to hold the same principles as I do."

There's your beliefs and then there's the facts. Unless something is strange in the water in Miami, your fellow officers don't seem to hold the same principles that you claim to hold. If they do, why didn't any one of them file a report about the consistent harassment that led to this unfortunate incident? If they didn't notice, what does that say about their ability to spot "behavior" and "signs of stress"?

TSO Colyn then continued: "The supervisor involved in this story allegedly made comments about a fellow officers manhood. This does not infer that the image produced by the AIT made such a determination possible."

It doesn't infer that. However, this guy clearly believed that the machine was capable of rendering his genitals at a high enough resolution to enable his "fellow officers" to determine that his genitals qualified as a "little pee-pee." And it's reasonable for us to assume that he had been trained on the AIT machines, since this incident happened during a training session; so, he had to have seen the output produced by the AIT machines, which implies he knew the capabilities of the machine and just how detailed the images were. All of a sudden the inference you suggest isn't so far fetched, is it?