Friday, December 17, 2004

TSA: Theft Security Agency

I've not been a big fan of the TSA, ever since its inception. I've always thought it was set up wrong and was run quite ineffectively. And only now, it's news??
The surveillance video is disturbing. A TSA worker at JFK airport in New York, allegedly rifling through a bag planted by police, removing jewels and money.

This suspect was charged with larceny and possession of stolen property.

Theft has been a problem for as long as travelers have been checking their bags, but now, the TSA is keeping track.

Since taking control of baggage screening nearly two years ago, it's received more than 28,000 complaints of damaged, lost or stolen items. The total value: nearly $36 million.

But no one knows how many of those are false claims.

And nobody knows how many claims never got through in the first place. I can't even count the number of times Favorite Husband had stuff "confiscated" from his checked luggage, not to mention stuff that was damaged because of the TSA's incompetence. And when we went to complain about it, we were told there was nobody to complain to. No oversight whatsoever. With no real supervision and no accountability, is it any surprise that TSA workers are stealing?
Air traveler Randy Rutland says, "Everything was in the luggage when we left from here."

Rutland, of Louisiana, claims it happened to him while flying out of New Orleans.

He says his luggage was checked, then secured with blue tags to indicate they'd been hand searched by the TSA, but when he got his bags, a brand new digital camera and his daughter's compact discs were missing.

"I think somebody went through our bags, saw a nice camera and some cd's and they took 'em," Rutland says.

The value: $1600.

Mr. Rutland's experience echoes FH's. FH has had drills, label makers, and tons of tools stolen out of his bags. He has traveled with a meticulously packed toolbox for four years. Every time TSA inspects the toolbox, they try to throw all the tools back into it pell-mell, but then they can't get it to close. Sometimes they shove the lid down and break either the tools or the toolbox; sometimes they try to tape it shut, and sometimes they just leave it open to the world. It comes down the carousel, shedding tools everywhere.

He did this every other week for four years.

What happens to all those tools? Is there a lost and found? Nope.
So far, the TSA has settled some 19,000 claims totaling $2.5 million, including $152,000 worth of claims at LAX,

$111,000 dollars at JFK, followed by Seattle, Las Vegas and Oakland.

The TSA is now adding surveillance cameras in baggage handling and secure areas to watch for theft.

Like that's going to help. Cameras are only effective when somebody's watching the footage. If the TSA has sufficient manpower to watch the cameras, why weren't those same people watching the employees directly?
TSA Administrator, Admiral David Stone, says, "In issues of theft, there's a zero-tolerance and we need to make sure that we route that out of our organization because it gets to the very core of who we are and that trust and confidence bond with the American people."

Only 66 TSA workers have been arrested out of 60,000 present and past TSA screeners, and for every TSA employee who handles a bag, it's touched by four airline employees.

I like that-- they're basing their claim that TSA employees don't steal stuff on the number of TSA employees that have been arrested for stealing stuff. If they don't get caught, it's not really theft, is it? And if there's no oversight, they won't get caught. Therefore, lack of oversight actually results in a decrease in theft. There's a nice bit of logic for you!
Still, the TSA itself warns travelers to pack valuables, like jewelry and money in carry-on bags.

Yeah, they'd really like it if FH had tried to take his toolbox as a carry-on. When you try to take valuables like that on board, they tell you to check them as baggage. When he tried to take tools in his carry-on, they were confiscated. Could he mail the tools to himself? Nope, it's an airport, not a post office. Could he at least get a receipt? Nope, they don't give receipts. They just take your stuff and put it in a big bin, and nobody I've talked or written to, even my Congressman, seems to be able to discover what is done with the stuff in the big bin. They don't even seem to be auctioning it off to raise money for law enforcement. It just disappears. And all you students of human nature know what that means.

TSA: Theft Security Agency.