What’s Worse Than a TSA Pat Down? Actually Working for TSA

The TSA doesn’t keep us safe. TSA detection rates are likely worse than before the federalization of security. But that’s not all.

Over 20,000 TSA employees have been accused of misconduct, more than half of those multiple times. You’re just as likely to die at a security checkpoint as a TSA employee is to get fired. That’s true even when a TSA employee mocks a deaf man, steals his candy, and eats it.

You’d think this freedom to harass would be enjoyable, or at least attract people who would enjoy such things. But the only travel experience worse than going through TSA is actually working for TSA.

That’s because the misconduct of senior officials goes unpunished, too. In fact frontline staff who speak out suffer from retaliation, according to a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform report.

The toxic combination of unchecked misconduct by senior officials and retaliation against rank-and-file whistleblowers undermined employee morale, reflected in the agency’s astronomical attrition rates (as high as 20 percent in some segments of the workforce during the period in question) and abysmal ranking in a government-wide job satisfaction survey (336 out of 339 agencies and components in 2017).

The report details an official accused of sexual harassment — allegedly the deputy director of security operations — where a supervisor trying to stick up for the harassed employee was threatened.

“[H]e told me if I didn’t lie for him that I was going to be on his ‘S’ list,” Livingston told the investigators. “And then when I told him that I would not lie after he sexually harassed her, he told me that if I didn’t, him and the others couldn’t work with me.”

A senior TSA official “called Muslims ‘stupid ragheads’ and made ‘mooing sounds’ at a pregnant worker” and the behavior was permitted to go on for seven years.

That’s because if you complain at TSA you get involuntarily re-assigned often hundreds of miles away. And when the Department of Homeland Security itself tries to investigate, the TSA won’t give up documents.

Here’s how to finally fix the TSA mess. We should separate safety regulation from screening. End TSA screening entirely to focus on oversight, and move towards private screening entirely.

The FAA is responsible for airline safety but doesn’t actually fly the planes. In fact the area where the FAA ‘does it themselves’ is also the most problematic, air traffic control, which is severely broken and underfunded for long term capital expenses while also being wasteful and suffering from stagnation rather than innovation.

The same agency shouldn’t be responsible for setting screening standards and for carrying out the screening itself. That creates conflict and it creates poor performance and makes us less safe.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Interesting: in China the men get pat down by both men and women. I was going to apply for the job but then I found out the men do not pat down the women. Never mind then.

  2. And the TSA summarily executes people, drowns puppies and hates all things that are good.

    We get it. The TSA is the single biggest obstacle in us having the perfect experience because they just choose to be evil, Satan worshipping monsters.

  3. Former TSA employee here. Didn’t know all of us are/were bad eggs. Guess some people know more about a place from the outside looking in. Funny how the same topic gets rehashed but Gary usually bashes it. Secret crush on the topic I’d say…

  4. Gary…wildly delusional as usual…..it gets tiring man. How about writing about travel stuff? Or are you that poor at finding good information and putting it into words. I mean really man, your articles are a constant bitching session about TSA, Trump, then Trump and then back to TSA again. I try to avoid you now but sometimes click on you by mistake after being mislead by your usually bait titles. Boarding Area really shouldn’t host you. Try harder.

  5. Wow bad day Gary? Stick to informative information. Seriously. Your whole everybody in government sucks gets really old after a while. Thankless job. Rushed passengers, nobody wants to follow the rules, can’t follow simple instructions. Yes definitely a couple bad apples, yes there are some issues, but really? You want to just flush everything down the toilet?Thank God you’re not in charge

  6. “The misconduct of senior officials goes unpunished”
    “The report details an official accused of sexual harassment”
    “Called Muslims ‘stupid ragheads’ and made ‘mooing sounds’ at a pregnant worker”

    I’m confused, is this an article about trump???

  7. Everything you’ve described about the TSA applies to police departments all over the country except cops also get to kill people if they feel like it. Law enforcement in the US in general are a bunch of unaccountable racist power abusers.

  8. Yeah, Gary, you should write about Travel related stuff, not this process that everyone has to go through when they travel, they aren’t related AT ALL, you’re so blind!

  9. To all those who have chosen to pillory @Gary over this post: You clearly don’t fly enough.
    In *overall* TSA is a national disgrace. Some locations are better than others. DEN is the worst — rude, disagreeable agents. PHX is pretty good these days. At smaller airports, e.g., RSW, they have standards for PRE — taking devices out — that I don’t see anywhere else.
    Take home: Local management is extremely inconsistent. If McDonalds can be trusted to deliver the same burger over 52 States, how is it TSA can’t?
    Answer? It’s the gummerment. PRIVATIZE IT!!! And put in incentives. If you disagree please tell me any personal experience you have had that government intervention has improved.,
    Go for it Gary, keep it up. My personal safety is not improved by TSA.

  10. In the years since I got Pre-Check via global entry I’ve never been searched and never had any issues. Best investment of $100 I ever made.

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