Shocking Things The TSA Gets Away With


To many people, airport security is something of a necessary evil — a royal pain in the behind that they tolerate because ultimately, it’s designed to keep us safer. But a new study into the Transportation Security Administration raises questions about just how well the agency actually protects us. Airport screeners have been accused of everything from sleeping on the job to stealing and accepting bribes. And many are not really penalized for their actions.

An audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed some shocking behavior by TSA agents stationed at airports around the country. In several instances, agents were found sleeping while on duty. Other agents might as well have been asleep given that they allegedly let people pass through to the secure zone of the airport without actually going through the screening process.According to the report, the agency has processed 56 cases of theft by TSA agents over the past three years. That included one agent at Orlando Airport who confessed to swiping more than 80 laptops from passengers. (These neglected to make an appearance on the agency’s new Instagram feed of confiscated goods.) Other disciplinary issues involve things like “neglect of duty,” credit card abuse and even bribery. In one such case last year, TSA agents were accused of pocketing bribes from drug traffickers in Los Angeles.

TSA Agent asleep
TheeErin, Flickr

The number of allegations against TSA employees runs well into the thousands, but the GAO says few of the agents were adequately punished for their behavior. In some cases, TSA agents were disciplined by their superiors after very little investigation, while in others, agents guilty of misconduct barely received a slap on the wrist.

The findings of the audit are unfortunate for an agency already facing public scrutiny. Just recently, the TSA came under fire for telling a 15-year-old girl that her clothes were too revealing. They have also been criticized for racially profiling passengers, and aggressively screening young children.

Study Finds Slow Airport Security Has An Upside

TSA agent
Mobile Edge Laptop Cases, Flickr

Going through airport security is a lesson in patience for even the most Zen traveler, but the good news is that those frustratingly slow security screenings might actually be more effective. According to a new study, TSA screeners who take their time are more successful at identifying targets like weapons or restricted items.

The study pitted TSA agents against Ivy League college students to test how well each group conducted a visual search. The experiment was simple and tested natural search skills (searching for a particular shape on a computer screen) – so the TSA screeners had no advantage over the students. The results showed that the college students were faster at completing the tasks but the TSA agents were more accurate.Stephen Mitroff, the psychologist heading up the research, told NBC news that the TSA screeners were slower because they were more methodical, which is ultimately what led to better results. “Our interpretation is those who are most experienced have found their strategy and use it the same way over and over – whether you spiral through the bag or are zig-zagging left and right. If you’re always doing the strategy and always doing it consistently, you’re freeing up your cognitive resources – your other abilities to try to identify targets,” he said.

The research is part of a larger study being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.