Our regular readers know we’ve got a lot of heartburn when it comes to the antics and actions of the Transportation Security Administration and a number of goofballs this rogue agency regularly employs. As we have well documented, it is one of the most lawless federal agencies in existence.
But for the most part, that is us talking; it’s incredibly more damning when one of the agency’s current, – or, in this case, former – personnel talk about the TSA’s culture of criminality.
Pythias Brown, a former TSA employee at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, who spoke to ABC News recently in his first public comments after being released from prison, said he was part of a “culture” of apathy within the agency that permitted corrupt employees – and there are a lot of them, apparently – to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal items with abandon, thanks in large part to nonexistent oversight and tips from fellow TSA workers.
“It was very commonplace, very,” said Brown, who admitted lifting in excess of $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year span. “It was very convenient to steal.”
‘I got complacent’
Brown told ABC News his lengthy crime spree came to a close only after he tried to sell a camera he had stolen from the luggage of a CNN producer after forgetting to remove all of the stickers identifying the network.
“It became so easy, I got complacent,” he said.
Brown is but one of scores of TSA thieves who have been fired for stealing passengers’ items in the past decade. The agency says 381 of its agents have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012; 11 have been fired so far this year.
Of course, in a statement to ABC News, the rogue agency said it has “a zero-tolerance policy for theft and terminates any employee who is determined to have stolen from a passenger.” Incredibly, the agency went on to claim that theft is not a widespread problem, saying the number of employees fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by the agency.
Critics of the agency in Congress tend to take more stock in what Brown is saying, however. They say the level of theft that is taking place is no surprise considering the agency’s unimaginable failure to properly vet its security screeners.
“TSA is probably the worst personnel manager that we have in the entire federal government,” said Rep. John Mica, (R)-Florida, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “It is an outrage to the public and, actually, to our aviation security system.”
Beware, the TSA…
Brown said his job was to screen luggage behind the ticket counters. There, he says, he often worked alone and knew when overhead security cameras were not working. He adds that he was never questioned about suspicious behavior.
“It was so easy, I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand,” he said. “Nobody said a word.”
In the interview, Brown said he learned how to read the x-ray scans to find the best stuff to steal.
“I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag,” said Brown. When he was arrested, Brown was offering more than 80 cameras, video games and computers on his personal eBay page.
“It was like being on drugs, it was,” he said. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ but the next day I was right back at it.”
Brown turned his admission of guilt into a public service message for the traveling public: Beware, the TSA; it’s an agency rife with corruption and ineptitude.