Sunday, January 24, 2010

Those Funny Funny TSA Employees

Because I'm not scared of flying enough as it is. What with all the rules about no liquids, 3-ounce bottles, removal of my shoes (and thus walking across the scuzzy airport floor barefoot), the underwire in my bra that sets off the security machines, the full-body scanners that do everything but give me medical test results and may or may not work, potentially drunk pilots, arriving at the airport 2 hours early, crotch bombs, strangers man-handling my toothbrush as they manually check my luggage, and more, NOW I need to be afraid of the very people who are paid to ensure 100% safety at the nations' airports stuffing bags of white powder (as in cocaine or other contraband) in my carry-on baggage as a joke.

I hope this TSA employee was fired on the spot (since the TSA won't say if he was fired or quit, just that there was disciplinary action taken). And I hope it was a criminal offense. Because it sure as heck is not funny. Lord knows passenger pranks in airports are never treated with a benefit of doubt (and they should be taken as seriously as they are).

Student Pranked by Philadelphia Airport TSA Worker
Associated Press in the Chicago Sun-Times, January 24, 2010

PHILADELPHIA -- A college student returning to school after the winter break fell victim to a prank at Philadelphia's airport by a Transportation Security Administration worker who pretended to plant a plastic bag of white powder in her carryon luggage.

The worker is no longer employed by the TSA after the incident this month, a spokeswoman said.

Rebecca Solomon, 22, a University of Michigan student, wrote in a column for her campus newspaper that she was having her bags screened on Jan. 5 before her flight to Detroit when the employee stopped her, reached into her laptop computer bag and pulled out the plastic bag, demanding to know where she had gotten the powder.

In the Jan. 10 column for The Michigan Daily, she recounted how she struggled to come up with an explanation, wondering if it was bomb-detonating material slipped in by a terrorist or drugs put there by a smuggler.

"He let me stutter through an explanation for the longest minute of my life," Solomon wrote. "Tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with him to understand that I'd never seen this baggie before."

A short time later, she said, the worker smiled and said it was his.

The worker "waved the baggie at me and told me he was kidding, that I should've seen the look on my face," she said.

Solomon said she asked to speak to a supervisor and filled out a complaint, and during that process was told that the man was training TSA workers to detect contraband. Two days later, she said, she was told he had been disciplined.

"I had been terrified and disrespected by an airport employee," she said. "He'd joked about the least funny thing in air travel."

There was no answer Saturday at a telephone listing for Solomon at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. An e-mail message seeking comment from her was sent Saturday by The Associated Press, and a telephone message was left at her parents' home in suburban Philadelphia.

TSA spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said late Saturday that the employee was no longer with the agency but did not say whether he had been fired or quit, referring only to "disciplinary action" taken by the TSA. She also declined to identify the worker or his job title, citing privacy laws. She said she did not know whether his actions would be subject to criminal charges.

"The behavior exhibited by this TSA employee was highly inappropriate and unprofessional," Trevino said in a statement.

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