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.

Survey Finds Travelers Will Lie And Steal To Save A Penny

Traveling on a beer budget isn’t easy when you have champagne tastes but it seems some vacationers have found a way to cheat their budgets – as well as everyone around them. A survey of British vacationers has revealed the lengths some travelers will go to in order to pinch their pennies, including lying and stealing, among other tactics.

One notorious strategy involves couples pretending to be on their honeymoon in order to score flight or room upgrades, with about 5 percent of survey respondents admitting to faking a special event so they could receive a perk.

Twelve percent of travelers confessed they’d used the pool or other facilities at a hotel they weren’t actually a guest of, while 8 percent said they had used another hotel’s shuttle bus.In some instances, entire families have been drawn into the charade, with about 11 percent of those polled saying they had lied about their children’s ages so they could pay a lower entrance fee when entering theme parks.

Other travelers looked for ways to cut costs when it came to food and drink. A whopping 39 percent of respondents owned up to pinching food from the breakfast buffet in order to save money on lunch. A handful of others admitted to stooping even lower by leaving a bar or restaurant without paying their bill. Reassuringly, only 1.4 percent of people fell into that category.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Marion Doss]

The Most Frequently Stolen Items From Hotel Rooms Might Surprise You

For whatever reason, staying in hotels seems to bring out the kleptomaniac in even the most honest people. It starts with taking home the miniature toiletries (which are of course, fair game) and before you know it, you’re trying to figure out how to stuff the fluffy white bathrobe into your suitcase without anyone noticing it’s gone.

Now we’re all familiar with the rampant theft of towels and linen from hotel rooms – in fact, the problem is so widespread that some hotels have resorted to inserting tracking devices in their linens to stop the thievery. However, it seems some hotel guests will steal just about anything that’s not nailed down (and some things that are). A poll of Britons uncovered a surprising array of goods pilfered regularly from hotel rooms.Among the more bizarre items stolen were curtains, with 27 percent of respondents admitting to taking home the drapes. Artwork was also high on the list, with one in three people claiming to have pinched the paintings right off the wall. Thirty-six percent also said they’d made off with picture frames from their hotel room – one can only presume these are the same folks that took the artwork. Other items of note included kettles, which were swiped by 19 percent of respondents (this was a survey of tea-loving Brits so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise). Hotels have also been busy replacing batteries and light bulbs, with more than half of respondents confessing to emptying out remote controls and lamps.

But perhaps the biggest sin to have been committed by British hotel guests? Stealing the bible. In an ironic twist, seven percent of people owned up to pocketing the very book that condemns theft.

[Photo credit: Flickr user UggBoy UggGirl]

A TSA Agent Answers Questions From The Community

tsa agent security checkpointIf you are flying this week, you are probably anticipating long security lines, many tiny bottles of liquids, and a lot of time shuffling through a metal detector in your socks. Last night on Reddit, a TSA agent participated in a Q & A (known as an “I Am A…” or “Ask Me Anything” on the site), and the community asked some great questions on security, stereotypes and weird encounters. See below for some of his answers.

On speeding through security checkpoints:

Be nice to officers. Don’t lay it on thick, but being rude or confrontational will get you nowhere. The most often used tactic for officers looking to “win” or “beat” passengers is to slow down.

Pay attention. Especially at bigger checkpoints, look around. Many times there are lanes that have few or no passengers in them, and will not get a lot of business because people assume they are closed. Watch passengers that look like they know what they’re doing and emulate them. We have officers whose job it is to stand around and advise passengers on what they need to do to get through the checkpoint quickly. Pay attention to what they’re saying, they really are just there to help you.

On securing your checked bags:

They’re rollerbags with a hardcase and a lock built in to the side. That is hands down your best option. Anyone with a ballpoint pen can get into a locked piece of luggage and zip it up again without you ever knowing. YouTube it and you’ll see. But still, I’d put a lock on any checked bag. People besides TSA officers handle your luggage, people far less scrupulous than us, and I mean … you don’t want to just invite them to go through your stuff.

On TSA officers stealing:

Officers do steal stuff. Officers are, unfortunately, people, too. Not every person in the world is honest and scrupulous. I know of half a dozen officers who were caught stealing, and it’s usually stupid because it’s a fire-able offense. You get caught and they pull your badge on the spot.

So personally, I don’t get it. Even part timers are making like 400 a paycheck…you try to grab an ipod, or even 40 bucks out of someone’s bin…one paycheck later you’re out way more money than you would have gotten from it. Morality aside…it’s just bad math.

On behind-the-scenes “shenanigans”:

I wouldn’t say there’s really a ‘behind the scenes’ on a passenger checkpoint, but a lot of officers screw around right under passengers noses, and whether or not we get away with it, we believe we do. The sad truth is that in order to maintain staffing to be responsive to rushes there are often times when too many of us around with nothing to do.

We know people say TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around.

At one of my…less professional moments, it was slow and I took a pair of rubber gloves, rolled them into a tight ball and was playing catch with another officer across two lanes. I threw him the ball, and he missed the catch, it bounced off his fingertips and hit an old lady in the head. No one got caught, but that’s what I’m talking about.

Something about Idleness and the devil…

On the stereotypes that agents are useless or have no other career options:

Honestly 99.9% (or more) of the people we interact with on any given day don’t mind or understand that we’re a ‘necessary evil.’ Regular business travelers tolerate us and appreciate when we’re not jerkbags. If you go online and read the complaints about TSA, understand that they really are a vocal minority.
I don’t mind. In fact I went to school for Civil Engineering but once I got into the real world I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Rather than going back to school (and spending a lot more money) I did this. The fact is the pay really is good (I make about 40k a year), with good benefits, and requires little previous experience.

On missing weapons or dangerous items in security checks:

Take a razorblade. Or a long, thin sawblade like what got through security in that Mythbusters. Turn it on end so you’re looking down at the edger of the blade.

Not a lot there to look at.

I hope that helps you imagine how such a thing could be missed..in fact we often catch small pocket knives and the passenger tells us that it has been through half a dozen or more airports without being caught.

On the weirdest items he’s confiscated:

I was around for the liquid scare in 2006. That was pretty crazy. We had these huge garbage bins out by the queues before you even got to the checkpoint, and officers up on the mezzanine with bullhorns just repeating the same things over and over again.

Those bins got filled and emptied countless times during the day…EVERY liquid was thrown in them: expensive perfumes, eye contacts in their little foil packs, baby food. The passengers did it willingly before we even looked in their bags. And very few people complained. Everyone was scared…the threat was real and close.

Other than that…I dunno, there are a ton of things. Some old guy, probably in his 80s, had a sword cane. Said he had it for years, never realized there was a sword in it. He was shocked.

On celebrity pat-downs:

So I don’t get to pat down attractive women. I’ve never woken up in the morning hoping I get to pat down some Abercrombie model. However from a technical standpoint, it is easier to pat down someone who is physically fit rather than someone who is overweight or obese.

On my third day of work, I was brand new, wide eyed stupid, I had to pat down Will Ferrell. It was weird for me…he didn’t seem to mind. I’ve also had to pat down a number of NFL players, because of their size they often wear baggy clothing.

Generally celebrities do their best to remain inconspicuous and when I recognize a passenger as a celebrity, I do my best to remain professional treat them the same as everyone else. In the situation I believe that’s what they prefer.

I did meet Alan Tudyk…and I’m a huge fan. I told him so.

Read the full Q&A here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user TSA Public Affairs]

Canadian hotel offers amnesty to thieves

old teacupIn honor of its upcoming 100-year anniversary, the Château Laurier Hotel in Ottawa is offering an amnesty for anyone who has pilfered something from the hotel over the last century. The historic, castle-like hotel in the Canadian capital put out the call for the items on February 23, 100 days before the 100-year anniversary, and has already received more than 60 items from people all over North America.

“The amnesty part means there are no questions asked,” said Deneen Perrin, the hotel’s director of public relations, in a telephone interview with Gadling on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter whether your grandmother took a silver spoon and put it in her purse or if someone’s parents maybe worked in the hotel and took something, we’ll take it back.”

Perrin said that the hotel has had a steady stream of returns, both in person and through the mail. Many of the mail returns had no return address and some who return items in person place them on the front desk and slink out. One gentleman pulled up in front of the hotel and handed a bellhop a circa-1912 doorknob from the hotel before speeding off. Others have sent in old stationery, a print likeness of the hotel, swizzle sticks, teacups, china, old brass keys, and a 20’s era utility knife with the hotel logo on it.

%Gallery-150435%”We haven’t received any old TV’s or clock radios, yet,” said Perrin, who noted that hotel bathrobes are now the most commonly pilfered item in guestrooms. She said that the hotel automatically charges a guest’s credit card if they steal towels or a bathrobe but demurred when asked if guests who returned recently stolen bathrobes could get refunds.

“I’m not sure about that one,” she said. “We’d consider it.”

The hotel opened on June 1, 1912, with rooms going for $2 a night. The opening of the hotel was actually delayed by several weeks because the man who was to manage the place died on the Titanic. Perrin said that the hotel plans to open an exhibit featuring all of the returned items from the last century on June 1 this year.

According to Perrin, everyone who makes a return seems to have an alibi. Some better than others.

“Everyone who calls says, ‘now I have something but I swear I didn’t steal it,'” she said.