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TSA Chief says Americans should expect some airport screeners to be criminals

Americans shouldn’t expect more from their airport screeners than they would from the average guy on the street.

From sleeping on the job to running prostitution rings off the clock, agents in the Transportation Security Administration have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. But TSA Deputy Administrator John Halinski shrugged off critiques of his employees at a hearing this week, saying Americans shouldn‚??t expect more from their airport screeners than they would from the average guy on the street.

‚??If you have an organization of 60,000 people, that‚??s like a city,‚?Ě Halinski protested, when asked if Americans were right to be unhappy with the TSA. ‚??You‚??re always going to have crime in a city. You‚??re always going to have people who don‚??t do things that are proper and make mistakes. I‚??m not saying we are different from any other group of Americans; I‚??m saying we are exactly like every group of Americans.‚?Ě

Recent incidents of TSA worker malfeasance include a fiasco last June in which 47 agents and a federal security director were fired or suspended at the Honolulu airport for failing to screen checked baggage for explosives; charges against an off-duty agent in a stabbing death in Jackson, Miss., last September; the scandal after a TSA manager at Dulles was arrested on the job for running a prostitution ring in March; and the firing of eight screeners and investigation of dozens more in Newark, N.J. just last month after it was found that workers were sleeping at their posts.

When pressed by House Homeland Security Transportation Security subcommittee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) about the griping he was hearing about the TSA ‚??every time I go to Walmart or church,‚?Ě Halinski went after the complainers instead of taking responsibility.

While admitting that 47 percent of news stories and 80 percent of blog posts written about the TSA since 2009 were negative, according to the administration‚??s own statistics, Halinski implied that most of the critiques were coming from overcritical cowards.

‚??It‚??s very easy to put a negative comment in a blog and not put your name on it,‚?Ě he said.

In truth, any number of writers — and citizen watchdogs — have been willing to reveal their names to shame the TSA, and some have opted to reveal much, much more.

In testimony, Halinski said the administration was working to improve its employees‚?? performance, instituting ‚??Behavior Awareness Training,‚?Ě professional development courses designed to prepare screeners for ‚??all types of human interactions‚?Ě and a screening essentials course for supervisors. In addition, he said certain offenses, such as stealing, drug use, or lack of security protocol, could now get employees fired on the spot.

But Halinski would not say whether a new labor contract, on which negotiations have just completed this week, would keep the stringent termination protocols in place.

Rogers said he was pleased with administrative changes being made, but wanted to see results.

‚??In Americans‚?? minds, TSA represents everything wrong about the federal government, bloated and bureaucracy,‚?Ě he said.

Written By

Hope Hodge first covered military issues for the Daily News of Jacksonville, N.C., where her beat included the sprawling Marine Corps base, Camp Lejeune. During her two years at the paper, she received investigative reporting awards for exposing a former Marine who was using faked military awards to embezzle disability pay from the government and for breaking news about the popularity of the designer drug Spice in the ranks. Her work has also appeared in The American Spectator, New York Sun, WORLD Magazine, and The Washington Post. Hodge was born near Boston, Mass., where she grew up as a lover of Revolutionary War history and fall foliage. She also discovered a love of politics and policy as a grassroots volunteer and activist on Beacon Hill. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics from The King's College in New York City, where she served as editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and worked as a teaching assistant when not freelancing or using student discounts to see Broadway shows. Hope‚??s email is HHodge@eaglepub.com

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