June 1, 2012 10:35 PM EDT
Rep. John Mica accused TSA on Friday night of keeping the press “in the dark” about an incident that may indicate a “dramatic meltdown of TSA operations” and a “significant system failure” at an unspecified Florida airport.
“I am calling on TSA to make details of this latest meltdown public, and disappointed they would try to keep the media in the dark about this latest system failure that is once again embarrassing to that agency,” the Florida Republican said.
An aide to Mica said the House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman received information of “proposed disciplinary action,” but declined to comment further. Background on a news release from the committee said the incident “may involve a substantial number of TSA employees, including high-ranking airport security officials.”
Five TSA employees at the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Fla., were removed from duty on Friday and replaced with TSA employees from other airports, according to a report from TV station NBC2. The employees were dismissed for not conducting random, supplemental screening operations during 2011, according to NBC2.
“We would expect TSA to be forthcoming about such incidents,” the aide said in an email.
A TSA representative declined to comment beyond a prepared statement that implied that several agency employees may be losing their jobs.
"TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace,” the agency said, adding that “the decision to take disciplinary action, including the proposed removal of several individuals from the TSA 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.”
Mica also said he is “disappointed” in TSA Administrator John Pistole for not developing a “meaningful risk-based operation that allows the agency to coordinate intelligence, connect the dots and concentrate on identifying potential terrorists instead of shaking down little old ladies, children and innocent travelers.” He also cited the paucity of private airport security operations in the United States while “other nations’ screening operations allow the government to properly focus its attention on security, not managing a massive personnel operation.”
TSA-bashing is nothing new for Mica — or congressional Republicans in general. In recent months, Mica accused the agency of deceiving him and his staff when they tried to conduct an investigation into wasteful equipment, said TSA has trained nearly twice as many people as it has employed and authored a congressional report with with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) in November that portrayed the agency as a top-heavy bureaucracy.
Mica, however, has stopped short of calling for Pistole’s resignation as Broun has or calling for the end of the TSA, as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did recently atop a fundraising pitch for the constitutionalist group Campaign for Liberty. Mica instead asserts the TSA must get leaner and get out of the “human resource business.”
This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 10:27 p.m. on June 1, 2012.