Earlier this year, when a Transportation Security Officer noticed something did not seem right with the passenger screening process at an airport checkpoint in Denver, supervisors were notified and an investigation was initiated. At the time, I stated that the alleged behavior of the employees involved was egregious and intolerable and I stand by those words. Our workforce is held to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity and everyone is accountable for their actions.
Yesterday, the advocacy group Judicial Watch issued a press release detailing what it claims is a number of “alleged sexual-related assaults” on passengers by Transportation Security Officers at several airports. The basis of Judicial Watch’s press release is a compilation of complaints filed by passengers who received a pat down as part of the security screening process. For more than a decade the passenger security screening procedures in place at airports throughout the country have been designed, implemented and modified with one overarching objective – to ensure the free and secure movement of people and goods from place to place. It is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms, and safeguarding it is vital not only to our economic prosperity, but also to our national character.
Following the brutal and unprovoked attacks against our nation September 11, 2001, the United States Congress moved swiftly to federalize airline passenger screening and established the Transportation Security Administration to get it done.
As a central component to the mission we are sworn to uphold, TSA personnel safely screen nearly 640 million travelers every year, preventing thousands upon thousands of prohibited and potentially dangerous items from being carried into the cabin of an aircraft. This includes more than 2,200 firearms last year alone, the vast majority of which were loaded.
To ensure we remain one step ahead of our adversaries, TSA built a formidable, layered system of security based on identifying and mitigating risk. Technology plays an integral part in our ability to detect potential threat items, including non-metallic improvised explosive devices, understood to be among the greatest threats to aviation security. When the screening process indicates a potential threat, it must be resolved and one way to do this is by patting down the area where a potential threat item has been detected.
There is nothing sexual about a resolution pat down, and we take every passenger complaint to the contrary seriously. If an investigation is warranted it will be conducted swiftly and thoroughly and the employees involved will be held accountable for their actions. Our singular objective is and always will be the security of every passenger on every flight every day. To present as fact a handful of passenger complaints from the hundreds of millions of screenings performed each year is a far cry from any standard of objectivity and only serves to perpetuate misinformation and mistrust in an organization dedicated to serving the American people.
Melvin J. Carraway
Acting Administrator, Transportation Security Administration