US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced legislation last year, that would ban the routine use of body scanners at airports, because he said that “The images offer a disturbingly accurate view of a person’s body underneath clothing, even allowing Transportation Security Administration officials to distinguish gender or see the sweat on a person’s back.” People such as Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, ridiculed such thinking under the categorization of “privacy ideologues, for whom every security measure is unacceptable.” We’re told to trust TSA.
When the airport scanners came under more scrutiny over the way that images are transmitted and stored, the public was assured that these “revealing” images were only seen by an unknown Transportation Security Administration official, who was securely locked in a room. The fact that the machines were equipped with “10 selectable levels of privacy” was really related to training and the TSA quickly assured us that the operator in that locked room immediately deletes each image after seeing it. And, oh yea, each operator is forbidden to take a camera into these remote rooms. We’re told to trust the TSA.
44 year old Rolando Negrin got in a fight with co-employee Hugo Osomo at the Miami airport. Now, employees fighting among each other isn’t that unusual. However, this fight was between two employees of the Transportation Security Administration. The reason for the fight: Osomo was making fun of Negrin’s anatomy, as a result of the images taken during full-body scanning machine training. We’re told to trust the TSA.
As you make your way through security toward that plane tube, where you can pay an extra $20 for leg room, scrunch up in a seat made for a gymnast, or maybe even get some free stale pretzels, do you ever wonder what those TSA employees are thinking about? Are they happy about their job? Is every day interesting? Are they really just doing their job, as we are being led to believe?
NPR reports that TSA officers are among the lowest paid of all Federal Workers. The starting salaries are reportedly $25,000 a year. As one employee/father of two says, “You’re dealing with people’s lives every single day, and you have an officer sitting there worrying about how they’re going to pay their rent”. Now, we all know that these are the workers that are serving as the gate keepers.
Knowing how much a starting TSA agent earns leads us to the story that just occurred on Tuesday. A TSA agent surrendered to authorities after being charged with stealing $500 from a wheelchair-bound woman, who was passing through security at Newark Liberty International Airport. The agent allegedly took her bag to a table to inspect it as she was going through the ” wait, step through” area.
Surveillance cameras at the airport show him removing one envelope out of the main bag compartment and also sliding cash out of the side pocket. The woman went to her gate, noticed the money missing and came back to report it. The TSA employee then claimed that he recognized her as she reported her missing money to another TSA agent, and “Mr Helper” went to retrieve the money, “that he was holding for her”. The security tape proved otherwise. In light of that, it’s relevant to note that since 2007, 23 TSA agents have been fired for stealing items from passengers. How about it TSA, should we trust you?
I previously blogged on the security of the airport scanners. Apparently, not only should we be worried about the scanners, but also the employees. Now, it also gives me pause to think about whether TSA employees are really protecting us or too distracted or filled with other motives when it comes to providing security. I have always thought that they are as important as the pilots of the planes. How much trust would you have in flying, if you knew the pilots were earning 25K, fighting and making fun of each other, and going through your luggage and zippered pockets. I’m sure there will be more blogging on this issue.