TSA Agent Treats Traveler Courteously; Agency To Revamp Procedures
New York, August 3 (AP) – After Barney Willis, a Transportation Security Administration screener New York’s La Guardia Airport was caught treating travelers with dignity and politeness, the agency has promised to crack down on such rogue agents who violate standard operating procedure.
On Tuesday, July 30, undercover TSA agents conducted an operation to test the adherence of its La Guardia screeners to agency procedures. While preliminary results of that investigation point to the overall acceptability of the agents’ conduct, Mr. Willis, a two-year veteran of the agency, was caught addressing travelers without the required disdain, and not even pretending to steal from the luggage he was checking, despite full knowledge among the airport’s personnel that the TSA stations are continuously monitored by closed-circuit TV to ensure that the minimum theft quotas are met.
In eleven separate cases, Willis was observed greeting travelers warmly and apologizing for the invasion of their personal space and property, actions that constitute a serious breach of TSA agent guidelines, says agency director John S. Pistole, who has promised to restructure the entire TSA agent training regimen as a result of this incident.
“We cannot have travelers encountering any agent who is not surly, dismissive, bored, demoralized, or at least grossly incompetent,” he said at a press conference held at the site of the violations. Pistole sad Agent Willis has been suspended with pay, pending a review of his conduct since he began working at La Guardia last year.
The event marks the sixth incident is as many months that travelers at a major metropolitan airport have not been guaranteed a demeaning, utterly unpleasant security screening. In February, when the climate control system broke down in one of the terminals at Chicago’s O’hare Airport, agents were heard apologizing to travelers for the discomfort, and exhibiting actual empathy. Empathy is specifically barred under Section III of the TSA training manual.
Then, in March and April, agents were recorded on video as assisting a traveler in repacking a suitcase that had opened and spilled its contents after the passenger had passed her security check. In both cases, the agents were given a disciplinary hearing but not penalized, as the attractiveness of the passenger was seen by the oversight committee as a mitigating circumstance.
Twice in May, undercover TSA agents were checking the incompetence of security screeners at Los Angeles’s LAX Airport, and discovered that the security check failed to detect the fake bombs or guns only 20% of the time, representing a severe flaw in the execution of proper procedures. Agency guidelines mandate that at least 70% of hazardous materials smuggled onto aircraft remain undetected. In fact, according to TSA data, in May and June only the personnel at Logan Airport in Boston and Newark, New Jersey, were able to reach that mark.
Also in June, an agent at Ronald Reagan International Airport near Washington repeatedly refused bribes to let several suspicious-looking travelers through unchecked. the travelers were undercover agents, who quickly reported the offending agent to his superior. The agent was soon reassigned to other duties, where his job is to puncture the tires of cars in the long-term parking lots.