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TSA agents sleep at work and steal from luggage

Published time: January 31, 2012 22:59
Edited time: February 01, 2012 03:42
A TSA agent dons rubber gloves at Washington Reagan National Airport. (Reuters / Jason Reed)

A TSA agent dons rubber gloves at Washington Reagan National Airport. (Reuters / Jason Reed)

When TSA agents at Newark Airport’s Terminal B aren’t wrist-deep in invasive screenings, apparently they take to napping on the job.

As an investigation reveals routine  resting and more at the NYC-area airport, the Transportation Security Administration is firing problematic employees.

Hidden surveillance cameras keeping track of TSA agents in Newark have revealed a handful of issues at the airport’s Terminal B, including not just sleepy screeners. Federal agents employed by the TSA have also been linked to stealing from passengers’ luggage and blatantly cutting corners while on the clock. As word of an investigation makes its way out of Newark, the New York Post has learned that as many as eight employees have either been disciplined or let go from their government jobs.

“They did find people sleeping on the job on the midnight crew. A plane goes out at 2 a.m., and there’s no activity for a while, so they’ll sit down and go to sleep,” one law-enforcement official reveals to the Post.

Another incident in December caused delays after an employee did not properly scan two planeloads’ worth of luggage. The TSA says that the baggage in question never made it on to the plane, but they were pulled off for processing to make sure no bombs or other contraband made it off the runway.

Answering the allegation of misconduct, Stacy Bodtmann with Local 2222 of the American Federation of Government Employees union tells The Star-Ledger that the problems stem from all corners of the operation. "It has a lot to do with the training," Bodtmann says. "It has a lot to do with the management, it has a lot to do with the supervisors, it has a lot to do with being short staffed."

Those issues have proved problematic not just internally but to travelers as well. The travel website Frommer’s rated Newark’s Terminal B the eight-worst of its kind in the world last year. Now the TSA is taking steps to address the issue.

"TSA routinely tests security operations to ensure that protocols are being followed and investigates any indication of misconduct," the agency explains in a statement. "TSA takes immediate action when our high standards aren’t met. TSA also utilizes a number of measures to ensure protocols are being followed, including closed circuit video surveillance, random inspections and covert tests, as well as peer and management oversight."

Despite calling disciplinary measures “immediate,” the screener involved in the December mishap where bags were failed to be screened received a hearing to address the issue soon after. The TSA agent in question, a 10-year veteran named Kujuanne McNiel, appealed disciplinary action, however, and a final determination has yet to be made.

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