TSA thefts put agency under the spotlight

ABC iPad Tracked to TSA Agent's HomeInvestigation finds nearly 400 screeners left TSA after alleged thefts.

It’s been a revelatory – if not frightening – week in the news regarding the safety of your belongings at the airport. And if that weren’t bad enough, not even airline employees are immune from temptation, should you be so careless as to leave your iPad on a plane.

Last Friday, an attendant for Horizon Air was arrested at her home in Oregon City, Ore., outside of Portland, after she took a passenger’s iPad that had been turned in by another passenger. Who wouldn’t have done the same thing – assume that a flight attendant would follow the procedures in place for property accidentally left on a plane? But she took it home with her, not realizing that it was equipped with the anti-theft app no Apple device should be without: Find My iPad (there’s a Find My iPhone app, too).  It was easily tracked to her home, and despite her protestations of innocence, was arrested on the spot.

Then yesterday, ABC News aired a video of a news sting that caught a TSA Agent at the Orlando airport taking an iPad that had been deliberately left behind after going through screening. Again, instead of following procedure (usually a rapid announcement on the PA system), he was videotaped taking it from the bin. When confronted at his home by newsman Brian Ross and a camera crew, he denied he had it. But when Ross activated the sound feature on the app that overrides the volume or “silent” setting, he closed the door, retrieved the device and said his wife had taken it. He’s since been dismissed.

Today ABC aired video of a former TSA officer at the Newark, N.J., airport who said the culture of indifference, and complicity of fellow TSA employees, made it “very convenient to steal.”

The officer, who admitted to stealing more than $800,000 worth of personal belongings from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period, was fired after he tried to sell a camera on E-bay that belonged to a CNN reporter – but he neglected to remove all of the identifying stickers. Busted.

There have been 381 TSA employees fired since 2003 for theft, and those are just the ones who’ve been caught. If Rep. John Mica, R.-Florida, chair of the House Transportation Committee and frequent TSA critic has his way, the agency will come under increased scrutiny and pressure to properly screen potential employees.

It’s fair to say that of all the screenings and luggage theft conducted in this country, day in and day out, the criminally inclined agents represent a very, very small percentage of TSA’s workforce.

But keep a close eye on that iPad, and make sure you download that app if you haven’t already.


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