Homeland Security to visit Fla. TSA offices to investigate harassment claims

By Ed O'Keefe
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Homeland Security Department investigators plan to visit Transportation Security Administration workers in Orlando and Tampa next week as part of a review of allegations of harassment against gay, lesbian and African American workers there, according to e-mails obtained by The Washington Post's Federal Eye blog.

The department's Office of Inspector General began looking into the allegations in October, and the complaints gained national attention when CNN aired a report in January alleging that managers at the Orlando field office of the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS) used an assignment board resembling the "Jeopardy!" game show to ridicule and keep score on women, gays and minorities.

Lawmakers have heard little about the investigation since it launched, said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

"Several credible sources with direct, firsthand evidence into this matter recently contacted my staff," Issa wrote last week in a letter to DHS Inspector General Richard L. Skinner. "They expressed serious concerns about the sufficiency and expediency of [the Transportation Security Administration's Office of Inspection] investigation. In particular, these witnesses have advised they have not been contacted by OI or by your office. This is puzzling."

Inspectors then e-mailed TSA and FAMS employees in the Orlando and Tampa region announcing plans to visit next week.

"We will conduct site visits in other FAMS field offices across the country during the next several months," the e-mail said. "We are interested in any information, concerns or ideas you would like to contribute to this inspection." Investigators also will probe allegations from workers in Cincinnati, congressional aides said.

The e-mail, which was passed on to The Washington Post, promised to maintain workers' anonymity if necessary.

Paul Wood of DHS said in an e-mail, "It is our policy not to comment on our ongoing reviews."

The agency has faced embarrassing headlines since January, including claims about officers who beat a co-worker, acted erratically in public and stole money from a passenger in a wheelchair.

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