Last August, Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole attacked an article I wrote, stating that it was “Misleading, inaccurate and unfairly disparages the dedicated (TSA) workforce. … We will not sit back and allow misinformation and conjecture to malign our employees.”
Pistole resigned last December — in time to miss the uproar this week about TSA agents failing to detect 95% of the weapons and bombs smuggled past them by Inspector General testers. While Pistole is leading the PR pushback to absolve his former agency, the I.G. report is the latest confirmation that TSA continues blindly blundering and pointlessly abusing Americans’ rights and privacy.
Shortly after TSA was created in late 2001, one of its early mottoes was “Dominate. Intimidate. Control.” From the start, the TSA put more focus on browbeating hapless travelers than intelligently focusing on actual aviation hazards.
Though Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta promised that TSA would hire “the best and the brightest,” TSA was soon busy issuing blanket denials in response to employee abuses. In 2004, I wrote a New York Times op-ed detailing arrests of TSA agents around the nation for looting travelers’ luggage. At the time the piece came out, the TSA was adamant that baggage thefts by its agents were a minor, localized problem. A few months later, TSA announced a de facto nationwide class action settlement for 15,000 passengers who had formally complained of being pilfered by TSA agents. More than 400 TSA agents have been fired for stealing from travelers.