(Washington, D.C.)—“We are fighting on behalf of all screeners to maintain the level of security we were trained to provide,” stated a report from three former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees. “It is our belief that poor management practices have compromised national security.”
provided to Senator George Voinovich’s (R-Ohio) office in a meeting with the Senator’s staff and the three former TSA screeners—Debra Cummings, Rick Fader and Robert Phelan—tells a startling story of a recent incident at the Dayton International Airport.
In early May, Screener Cummings asked an Air Tran Pilot to step into the secondary screening holding area for further screening—per standard operating procedure (SOP)—after observing suspicious behavior as the pilot went through the metal detection gate. As Screener Fader was completing the secondary screening, he reported to Screening Supervisor Phelan that he smelled alcohol on the pilot—per SOP. Phelen notified the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) stationed at the security checkpoint that a pilot was suspected of having alcohol on his breath and requested LEO intervention—again, according to SOP. The pilot filed a complaint regarding his treatment and on June 12 all three employees received termination letters citing the incident with the Air Tran pilot as the central reason.
The three former TSA employees pointed out to Senator Voinovich’s staff that their dismissal has had a paralyzing effect on Dayton security screeners. “The screeners need to be able to carry out their daily duties without fear of reprisal for doing what is right,” the three screeners said. They noted that screeners are currently without recourse when inappropriately disciplined, as there is no effective grievance or hearing mechanism available to redress inappropriate discipline.
“We believe the American public has a right to know that their safety could be at risk as a direct result of the mismanagement of the federal screening work force,” the three former TSA employees told Senator Voinovich’s staff. They urged the Senator’s office to conduct Congressional hearings to “investigate these serious issues in order to stop abhorrent management practices and management’s abuse of power.”
TSA screeners have reported at multiple town hall meetings held around the country by the Department of Homeland Security that the growing view among their coworkers is that TSA employment is a “job” instead of a “career” due to the arbitrary and capricious nature in which screeners are managed. The same screeners who once viewed their positions as ones of honor now just see a paycheck until a better job comes along. This demoralization of the screener work force is bound to lead to a lessening of national security. “We believe that these reports are consistent with our experiences at Dayton International Airport,” the three former screeners told the Senator’s staff.