BLOG - An Unruly TSA?

My wife and I had an interesting conversation last night. It turns out Mr. Neiderer called my home and spoke with my wife while I was in Iraq. My wife of ten years said he knew I was in Iraq when he called our home. Of course, she was the only one home when he called.

She said he acted like he knew me, and since I had been a Federal Air Marshal (FAM) under the arm of the TSA, and since the caller ID read “U.S. government” with an area code “703” out of Virginia, she thought he may have been an old friend of mine. With that in mind, she told him I was in Iraq. “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he said, and then he laughed.

There’s nothing funny about that, Mr. Neiderer.

To everyone else, Mr. Neiderer is not an old friend, or even an acquaintance. In fact, I’ve never heard of him in my life until a couple of days ago.

When I got home from Iraq last Monday, he didn’t even allow me a week to relax before calling me and probing me with questions in a supposed all-important government investigation. One would think the nature of this investigation would be terribly serious given the fact that Mr. Neiderer and his ilk at the TSA office in Virginia took some painstaking strides to conduct a thorough search on my recent activities since leaving the air marshal service.

From my personal email he, 1) found out I was a former air marshal; 2) found out I was in Iraq with the Army Reserves and knew that I wasn’t home yet; 3) dug up my personal phone number and called my wife while he knew I was in Iraq. What else did this guy find out about me or my family? Oh, probably everything. Shoot, I wonder if the private email conversations I had with my wife while I was in Iraq were being monitored too! It makes me livid.

All of this just because TSA wanted to know who sent me an email I forwarded in March of this year from my personal email account asking for current and former air marshals to talk to CNN.

I’m flabbergasted. What an extreme waste of tax payer money. It’s absurd. It’s outrageous. Who would have guessed that was more important than fighting terrorists in Iraq or safeguarding commercial aviation assets in America.

Come on! I left the Federal Air Marshal Service in early 2007. Why would government investigators from the TSA violate my personal privacy over something so ridiculous? Why would they violate my personal privacy, period?! It’s outlandish.

But then again, it has been said that the TSA stands for Thousands Standing Around, so maybe they have nothing else better to do with our taxpayer money than harass a soldier who has just returned from war.

My wife, who’s been all alone with our young children for the last year and a half, and who was all alone while I was traveling weekly as an air marshal for years before that, has been very scared at times for her personal safety. It was Mr. Neiderer’s laugh and the uncomfortable way he said things that made the whole conversation seem unusual and odd to my wife, but by then it was too late. She thought she could trust someone calling from a U.S. government telephone line. That is a disturbing fallacy.

The truth is not everyone in the government can be trusted, and not everyone in the government is smart or looks after our best interests. And that infuriates me.

In October of last year, The Star-Ledger out of New Jersey ( reported the following on the hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee’s subcommittee on transportation security.

Kip Hawley, who runs the TSA, told members of Congress during that meeting, “You can’t do this job if the work force is not trusting of the leadership team.” And then speaking of whistleblowers, who often go to the media since management won’t listen, he added, “Chasing after leaks is not a productive activity.”

Well, Mr. Hawley, I like what you said. But you are either lying to Congress, or someone – probably a lot of “someone’s” – in your organization are outright disregarding what you testified about before Congress. My guess is it’s not just one TSA Investigator named Greg Neiderer, but an entire group of miscreants. And if that’s the case, sir, either you’re guilty of perjury in a federal hearing or your own people are making you look incompetent as a leader.

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