Oct. 22, 2012 – 04:00PM |
By SARAH CHACKO
The Transportation Security Administration plans to fire 25 employees and suspend 19 others who failed to follow baggage screening procedures at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, the agency announced Friday.
Using hidden cameras, TSA investigators found that screeners in a private screening room failed to physically search bags flagged during X-ray screenings and that supervisors did not provide adequate oversight, according to TSA. Supervisors and managers are among those being disciplined.The agency fired eight employees for similar problems in June. In total, the disciplinary actions at Newark amount to the most that TSA has taken at a single airport since the agency was created in 2001.
“The decision … reaffirms our strong commitment to ensure the safety of the traveling public and to hold all our employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability,” the agency said in a statement.
The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and the TSA Office of Inspection started an investigation last fall following reports that employees were stealing from luggage in a baggage screening room, but the investigation was broadened to look at screening procedures and supervision, TSA said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Homeland Security, said TSA’s action will help address recurring problems at the Newark airport. Lautenberg asked the DHS inspector general to investigate security breaches at Newark in February 2011, following breaches that included a bag containing a knife bypassing security and a box containing a dead dog being placed on a passenger plane without being screened for disease or explosives.
TSA’s problems are not isolated to Newark, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a statement. Mica pointed to TSA actions last year to suspend or fire 48 employees who failed to properly screen baggage at Honolulu International Airport.
“Clearly this is not a Newark problem or a Honolulu problem, or a problem isolated to one or two airports,” said Mica, who pushed measures this year that would allow for more airports to hire contractors for security screening. “Every new security lapse, each one worse than the previous, demonstrates more that this agency is in disarray, and we must transform the TSA from a vast and unsuccessful human resources operation into a true security agency.”