Friday, February 15, 2008

The TSA, Our Officers, The Public and Theft

As we know and you have reported on this very blog, theft in our nations' airports is a big problem. It's an issue that has plagued the industry for decades, but now, as the relatively new kid on the block and the agency charged with opening more than 1 million checked bags every day, the finger has been pointed directly at our workforce.

And in some cases, rightfully so... Unfortunately, TSA has experienced its problems with theft. To date, we have terminated and sought prosecution for about 200 of our employees who have been accused of stealing, either from checked bags, passengers’ carry-ons or fellow employees. While 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage (less than one half of one percent) over the short life of the agency, one theft is too many when you are in the position of public trust as we are. We do not tolerate, condone, cover up or minimize theft by our officers by any stretch of the imagination and in most cases, it is fellow employees uncovering the theft and the organization pushing hard for prosecution of those that would abuse their authority.

From our perspective, we don't want thieves in our workforce and will do all we can to root them out. We rely on security cameras, two to three person integrity - with managers present, reports of theft by fellow employees and sting operations conducted unilaterally or with law enforcement partners at our nation's airports.

For instance, you may have read a news article from the Chicago Tribune about an officer stealing gift cards from baggage at O’Hare. What you didn’t read in that article is that TSA’s Office of Inspection (our version of internal affairs) actually ran down the stolen gift cards at Target and Best Buy, obtained surveillance video of the thieves redeeming the gift cards and worked with the Chicago PD to make sure they did not get away with this.

A few other examples include: TSA working with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department during a sting operation last summer which netted two airline contractors who stole the weapons of two service members on their way to the Middle East; a TSA-led investigation conducted in New Orleans about three years ago had similar success in netting a small group of thieves working for us; and two years ago, a TSA baggage screener at LAX attempted to steal a high-priced watch from Paris Hilton, then had second thoughts and put it back. In that case, a fellow employee reported the incident and the TSA convinced the city attorney of Los Angeles to prosecute. All of these TSA employees were terminated immediately.

Additionally, to prevent theft, our employees are prohibited from taking backpacks, lunchboxes or any other personal carrying item into baggage screening operation areas. Some airports time and date stamp bag screening cards and today more than half of all travelers use airports that have “in-line” baggage systems. These systems greatly limit the personal handling of bags by our officers and enable them to screen these bags remotely. In short, we have implemented many tools to protect your belongings and ensure your safety.

The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future.

Now many of you have referenced television reports that talk about claims and claim data that seem to implicate our workforce in wide-spread thievery. A Seattle television station aired the original story that was based on data they had requested through the Freedom of Information Act. The data, several hundred pages, listed claims that had been submitted by passengers from airports around the country. In the data, there were no categories for theft or disposition because that information was not requested. The facts, that went unreported and un-requested, were that the majority of those claims were denied or canceled because they lacked sufficient grounds for us to use your tax payer dollars to reimburse passengers.

Now, after the five or ten minutes of time that we have your bag...what happens to it? Well, we estimate that between five and eight airline employees touch that same bag, many times outside of the view of passengers, sometimes in the cargo hold of aircraft.

So what can you do if you feel you have been ripped off? First and foremost, file a police report. Most airports have law enforcement in the terminals, many airports could have a police officers respond in minutes. Second, file a claim with both TSA and the airline. We analyze this data and if we see a trend at a particular airport, we are in a better position to investigate further. Third, check to make sure you have all of your belongings prior to departing the checkpoint area. Fourth, check with lost and found. Everyday we itemize, catalog and store thousands of items that passengers may think were stolen, but in fact are waiting to be claimed. Our lost and found link on our web site can be found by clicking here, Fifth, when traveling through the security checkpoint, to prevent another passenger stealing from you, put your phone or watch or wallet in your briefcase, purse or carry-on bag. That way it all stays together and won't fall out of one of those bowls we have for screening or make for easy pickings from a thief.

Also, I can't tell you how many times I have heard of passengers putting expensive jewelry or even wads of cash in their checked bags! Keep it with you.

TSA Evolution Blog Team

02.15.08, 2:10p.m.
Christopher said:

Couldn't agree more with anonymous at 12:31, "the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level." That's what the post is all about. One case of officer theft is one too many and we're doing our level best to find, fire and aid in the prosectution of any officer that is stealing. Beyond the obvious lack of honesty and abuse of the public trust that has been mentioned, officers stealing sully the reputation of the great majority of the workforce and make their jobs much more difficult.

I'm not familiar with what a public affairs "gonk" is but I'm sure it's not a term of endearment. I was not trying to be intentionally vague when I wrote about 200. Let's agree to about 271, okay?

If you reply with a link to the Austin article, I'll track it down and get some facts and update this post later today. I've been with TSA three years and have never heard us characterize any theft as "minor" and am interested in this.

02.15.08, 3:10p.m.
Christopher said:

Great comments and questions about the locks. Hopefully this will clear up a couple issues. First, TSA is not cutting TSA recognized locks off your baggage. We have the keys and have no need to do this. In fact, it would take longer to grab bolt cutters (which we do keep for non-TSA recognized locks) and cut the lock off, pick up the pieces and replace the bolt cutters than it does to use the master keys we have.

The reality of the airport is that there are literally miles of belts with twists and turns everywhere. Belts the airlines use to get your luggage from the ticket counter to us, belts we use to move the bags through the mini-van sized explosive detection machines, belts to get the bags back to the airlines and to the areas where bags are collected for specific flights and of course belts to move the bags into the underside of the aircraft. This doesn't even include the belts at the destination airport that get bags from the plane to the carousel. The point about all these belts is that twists and turns in the belt system are notorious pinch points for bags and particularly locks. Go to any airport in America and the floor of these areas will have broken locks on them. Yes it's a design issue and it is being addressed in some of our more modern airports and systems but the plain truth about these locks is that more often than not, it's a belt that broke your lock, not a person.

As some have mentioned, these locks aren't built to withstand a serious pounding and can be broken, pulled apart, picked or otherwise disabled. These locks provide a modest amount of protection from opportunistic thieves, they will not stop someone bent on getting into a bag just like a lock on your front door would not prevent a burglar from breaking your window.

TSA Evolution Blog Team


Anonymous said...

Why does TSA cut our TSA approved locks. This is the only defense that a traveler has against the baggage handlers.

We hand over our checked bags, get them back with locks cut and you don't understand why we suspect you for theft.

What we have here is failure to communicate!

Anonymous said...


As usual, you're doing a great job deflecting the issue. First of all, the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level.

One of your own public affairs gonks used the figure of 269 screeners fired as of July 2007. This number doesn't include today's model citizen nor anyone else caught since last July. So, it's a heck of a lot larger than the "about 200" figure you threw out there.

Also, an Austin article reported that three screeners were caught stealing but not presecuted because the theft was considered "minor." Completely unacceptable!

Don't pat yourself on the back about Internal Affairs "actually ran down the stolen gift cards at Target and Best Buy, obtained surveillance video of the thieves redeeming the gift cards and worked with the Chicago PD to make sure they did not get away with this." You write this as if it was an extraordinary effort. This is normal police work we expect you to do.

It goes on & on. Sugar-coating to the American people is insulting.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you want to steal from Paris Hilton, I'm OK with it. ;)

Seriously, though, a big problem with theft stems from TSA's insistence on passengers using TSA-approved locks. I used to be able to lock my checked bags (on the very rare occasions I'd take a checked bag) with a serious lock. Now I'm forced to use TSA-approved ones. These are trivially easy to pick with a device called a "sesamee decoder" (although TSA004s are warded locks that can be popped with the wire grasp from a small binder clip).

I've no idea how secure the master keys are (at least I haven't seen any sets for sale on eBay), but it wouldn't surprise me if there's some illicit ones floating around out there. So now I gotta worry about all the unseen baggage handlers either picking or keying open my bags.

It would be a lot better if airports moved to scanners near the ticketing counters, so the customer could lock their bag with a lock of their choosing.

AirSafe said...

I applaud the TSA's efforts to root out the small number of thieves within your ranks. There are other issues that may have to be dealt with. I run the site, and in a recent interview on the site's podcast, my guest told of how on more than one occasion, a Transportation Security Officer allegedly confiscated expensive makeup, claiming that it was above the size limit for liquids and gels. My guest assures me that it was not, and related that it was only the expensive items that were taken (visit for the 2/5/08 show for details). I'd like to know if this type of behavior has been reported to the TSA and if specific actions have been taken to make sure that Transportation Security Officers avoid this kind of behavior.

Dr.Todd Curtis,

Anonymous said...

If there is a widespread problem with theft from our checked bags... how do we know that TSA employees will not being bribed to plant explosives in said bags? WHat about things like weaponized bilogicals?

I know this is silly, but if bottled water can't be trusted, how can bags in the hold of a plane?

Anonymous said...

A "serious lock" isn't going to do much. I've seen plenty of examples where the thieves simply sliced a bag open with a knife.

Unless you're using metal luggage, a lock (of any kind) will only keep you safe from opportunistic thieves. A serious thief (which includes those likely to have cutters, counterfeit keys, or lock pick sets) isn't going to be stopped by any kind of lock, since he can still cut the bag itself.

Anonymous said...

TSA-approved locks is a huge security hole -- there's basically a single master key that opens every lock. TSA can say "trust us; we won't let the key get into the public" all they want, but all it takes is one leak of one key, and suddenly every checked bag is completely vulnerable. Essentially, there's no baggage security at all.

Anonymous said...

Yes the TSA has 110,000 employees, out of that how many of them are screeners at an airport?

Lets face it the TSA's policies have made theft easier. Bags have to be unlocked so those five to eight airport employees can steal from bags easier.

Use a TSA lock, why bother. Any lock that type that can be opened by a master key can easily be opened with a pice or wire. Or broken off completely.

Anonymous said...

The best way TSA can prevent theft of passenger belongings, both from checked & carry-on baggage, is to keep the rightful owner w/their belongings throughout the screening process. Most importantly, a locked bag should never never NEVER be opened without the passenger present. The temptation to steal will be greatly reduced if rightful owner is watching every move the screener makes.

W/re: to the rest of your post, Christopher, anonymous @ 12:31pm hit the proverbial nail on the head; couldn't have said it better myself. The only thing I would add is that it's too bad Kip didn't feel it was worthy of HIS time to address the theft issue on the TSA's own blog himself & instead sent you to do it for him-THIS is the kind of issue I would expect the Director to be addressing personally, but I guess he felt he did his part w/his Welcome message.

Anonymous said...

This whole response conveniently ignores the main issue-- checked bags are vulnerable because TSA policy will not allow me to securely lock them in the first place!

You make the comment that the bag is handled by a number of people other than TSA. That wouldn't be an issue if I was allowed to secure my bag with a lock of my choosing.

Instead, my choices are either leave it unlocked or use a 'TSA-approved' lock (which often-times get cut off regardless)
and leave it vulnerable to any number of TSA and non-TSA individuals.

Checked bags should only be opened in the presence of the owners, who should then be able to re-lock them!

All we ever hear is whining from TSA that it is logistically too difficult, or threaten that passengers will be required to come to the airport several hours in advance of their flight.
Why has every other country been able to avoid opening bags without the owners presence, but the TSA can't figure out a way? (I'm sure if another country were to do what the TSA does, there would be howls of indignation of how that's inappropriate, a security threat, etc.)

And speaking of which, if a bag is vulnerable to several individuals once it has left TSA's control, isn't it a security threat that something could be put INTO a bag as well as have something removed? How come this has been conveniently ignored and never addressed by TSA, in this or any other forum?

hawthorn said...

If people can take stuff out of checked bags, they can put stuff into checked bags. This is the #1 reason why you should have an airtight checked baggage pathway from check-in to pickup.

And you did not address the locks problem. Locked luggage should stay that way. If you do not want people using TSA approved locks, don't approve them in the first place.

Anonymous said...

So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

Anonymous said...

The issue isn't that the TSA has "a few bad apples" working in the baggage screening dept. The issue is that this supposedly secure area is not.

If these employees (both TSA and non-TSA) are able to steal items from luggage what would prevent one of them from slipping a bomb in?

The security of the back areas of the airports is obviously criminally lax. This has been brought up time and again and the TSA has failed to address it. Just more spin and more security theater while real threats go undetected. Why are aircrews subject to intense screening while cleaners and baggage handlers are not?

Anonymous said...

Stop cutting our locks off. Period. Also, at the checkpoints, your TSO's often take personal belongings out of sight. Questioning this results in a threatening "DO YOU WANT TO FLY TODAY?". Ridiculous.

Dave X the first said...

One response to airport thievery is to fly with guns -- you can pack your valubles in with a starter pistol and get a hand-inspection and actually lock your luggage with real locks.

It may take even more time to check in, but your luggage will get special treatment, and no one along the line will want to be responsible for losing a firearm on their watch.

fred said...

Some of you seem to be a little nutty. Complaints of people stealing from your bags because you can't lock them, well didn't they say keep your valuables with you? Put your valuables in your checked bag? I know, you want TSA to be responsible for your stupidity so you have someone to blame. Why not hold yourselves accountable?

I've been through the airport dozens of times since TSA came around, and have never been asked to take out my wallet, remove my watch, remove my piercings, may be because I am .... prepared. Do some homework and get ready before you leave for the airport. This is kind of ridiculous. Keep firing the bad apples TSA, one of these days you'll get through the growing pains and look just like the organizations each of us works for... 100% competent. Right people? We have no comaplints with our employeres either, do we?

Dave X the first said...

Bruce Schneier had a post about how to protect your valuables in checked luggage: Flying with expensive cameras.

Basically, add a starter pistol, use real locks, and get the luggage classed as a firearm and to get extra special handling.

Anonymous said...

When I am required to hand over my belongings to TSA you become responsible for those items until they are returned to me.

I don't care how many people or hands it goes through in the process.

If you must have access to my stuff then you are responsible for safeguarding that item until it is returned to me in the same condition as you received it.

TSA cannot duck its responsibilites and obligations; you required certain actions and by doing so become accountable for the results of those actions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

February 15, 2008 2:06 PM

So if they came back and told you they caught 7 terrorists, you wouldn't believe them anyway. thankfully they are doing something about their problem

Dave X the first said...

In a related story, the Onion mentions TSA in a story on thievery: DHS: Has Anyone seen a blue folder?.

Hat tip to Bruce Schneier

Colin said...

Hey, I understand that in any large organization, there will be a few bad seeds. And you fired them, and even helped investigate? Well, great! That's above and beyond.

I hate what your agency represents, and dislike having to deal with you even on rare occasions. But I'm also not silly enough to think that you're "evil", or that your employees are thieves.

Save your energy, folks. Complain about TSA policies, but the employees are doing the best job they can, and paranoia doesn't serve anybody's best interests.

Anonymous said...

I know that in Milwaukee, the bag check machines are right in front of the ticketing counter. They have a "drop and go" policy. You drop your bags off across the line, and you're free to leave. Some people stay to watch their bags go through. If people want to use a non-TSA lock, the TSA there asks them to stay present to make sure they don't have to open their bag back up. If there's no bag check needed, the bag can stay locked with a non-TSA lock. Once the TSA puts the bags on the belt, though, they no longer have control of the bags, I think the airlines do. I think that's the way all airports should be. You can stand there and watch your bag go through, and if it doesn't have to be searched, you can go knowing that the TSA didn't open your bag.

Bob said...

February 15, 2008 12:33 PM Anonymous said... I've no idea how secure the master keys are (at least I haven't seen any sets for sale on eBay), but it wouldn't surprise me if there's some illicit ones floating around out there.

The master keys are listed on inventory sheets for each area that uses them. Inventory is taken at the beginning of each shift by a Supervisor and then the paper work is turned in to management at the end of the day. Anything missing from the list at any time is reported immediately.



TSA Evolution Blog Team

Anonymous said...

You wanted proof of failure to prosecute, here you go:

The pertinent quote is half way down and reads;
"Besides that incident, two other Austin TSA screeners have been fired over the past five years. One took a $20 bill. Another took a pocket knife. They were not arrested. Federal prosecutors decided the value of each item was too small to pursue charges. "

If I could find this using Google so can you Christopher

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christopher said...

Thanks for posting this. I must admit I was not familiar with this incident. As your post indicates, the individuals were fired by TSA. Unfortunately we are limited to firing and supporting local prosecutors with evidence or witnesses. The local district attorney, state’s attorney or U.S. attorney actually presses criminal charges.

Bob said...

February 15, 2008 12:55 PM AirSafe said... in a recent interview on the site's podcast, my guest told of how on more than one occasion, a Transportation Security Officer allegedly confiscated expensive makeup, claiming that it was above the size limit for liquids and gels. My guest assures me that it was not, and related that it was only the expensive items that were taken...

Dr. Curtis,

I’m curious. Did your guest report this to any TSA Supervisors or Management? Did they contact the Airport Police Department or the Airline?

Any allegation of theft by a TSO is taken very seriously. There are reporting procedures that go straight to our TSA Operations Center in Virginia. I know of a case where a TSO was fired for stealing pocket change that didn’t even add up to a dollar. The TSA has zero tolerance for theft. It’s one of the quickest ways out of federal employment.

I listened to your interview.This could be a misunderstanding of the procedures by the passenger or even the TSO. Or, it could indeed be a case of theft.

I would like to remind the flying public the TSA does not confiscate prohibited items. They are abandoned by the passenger. I know… it sounds like a play on words, but we really do make every effort to enable the passenger to keep their belongings. We offer to let the passenger check the item in with their checked luggage, hand it off to any friends or family that might be at the airport, mail the item to themselves, or walk it out to their car. More often than not, the passenger is running late for their flight and simply abandons the item with the TSA. If a TSO does not give you any of these options, request a supervisor.



TSA Evolution Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Not to beat a dead horse but elsewhere in this blog TSA agents have stated that locks have been cut because they cannot locate their keys.

Want to try again?

Anonymous said...

Bag security with any lock? Forget it. You'll never see it. Especially if you use high-end luggage. Think like a thief. People who are going to pack jewelry in their luggage are usually going to have to have matching designer luggage.

I check 1 bag for all my flights. A battered USN Seabag. These are those big green duffel bags you see soldiers lugging through the airports. I pack clothes and clothes only in it. The inner flap is zip-tied closed, and the gussets are zip-tied as well. I then close the actual hasp with a zip tie and add a real padlock just for show (not closing anything). The padlocks have never been cut, because the bag is 'clean' on x-ray, and I've never had a zip-tie cut either.

Don't put anything in your bags that you wouldn't leave on your dashboard in the parking garage.

Anonymous said...

There is a disconnect here.

The flying public is entrusting the TSA with the safety and security of not only the possesions that they carry on their person and their persons, but also the possesions that the TSA accepts responsibility for through taking control of their checked baggage.

Working inwards from both ends would help dramatically. As far as the flying public is concerned, the TSA maintains positive control over the bags from end to end, at least on domestic flights, and are directly reponsible for those bags. Look at the chain of possesion. The TSA is both the first, and the last, and therefore the final.

If baggage security [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft]is as critical as it sounds to prevent 'prohibited' items from being brought onto the plane, why is it that USPS and Cargo [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft] is 'vouched' safe instead of being screened in the same manner?

The TSA needs to take a step back and take a good long look at where the actual holes, instead of just the pretend holes, are in the way they do business.

Nohwhere Man said...

Bob wrote: I would like to remind the flying public the TSA does not confiscate prohibited items. They are abandoned by the passenger. I know… it sounds like a play on words, but we really do make every effort to enable the passenger to keep their belongings.

It -is- a play on words. If there is no ready for me to send the item to myself at a reasonable cost, check that item, or hand it to someone else, they I am -forced- to abandon it if I want to fly. In most cases, the passenger is left with the Catch-22: loose something, either the ticket or the item.

Point- If I've already checked my luggage, it's difficult, or not impossible, to retrieve it, deposit the item, and check it again. So this is generally not an option.

Point- Many people get themselves to the airport, so there is no one to hand the item too. Even if someone brought me to the airport, parked the car, and came into the terminal with me, they've probably left before I get to the front of the screening line. If they -were- still there, I imagine that it would be rather hard to get the item to that person. So this is not an option.

Point- There are seldom any resources -to- send that item either to my destination or home. The one time I saw something that would allow me to mail an item home, the charge was something lie $20 for a 9x12 envelope. This is exorbitant. Not really an option here, either.

So, I come back to the Catch-22- I'm forced, without recourse, to abandon -something-. My only choice is what to dump.


Anonymous said...

"If baggage security [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft]is as critical as it sounds to prevent 'prohibited' items from being brought onto the plane, why is it that USPS and Cargo [which is stored under the floor in the aircraft] is 'vouched' safe instead of being screened in the same manner?"

Cargo is screened by the TSA, in special cargo facilities, at some airports.

Once the TSA screens your bags the first time, it's in the hands of the airlines. They TSA isn't your luggage babysitter. They verify there is nothing dangerous in the bag, then it's sent on it's way on the airline. If people want to pay more taxes to hire the TSA to follow their bags around..well...that seems like that's what you're asking for. As I recall, prior to the TSA, once your bags were screened by security, they were in the hands of the airlines.

Also, I think the TSA is looking to start screening all airport employees at the beginning of the shift. From cargo guys, to bag loaders, to fuelers, to air traffic control.

Anonymous said...

Nohwhere man-

If you need a prohibited item that badly on your trip, mail it to your destination beforehand.

The list of Prohibited items is clear for both checked bags, and carry on bags. If you can't figure out if your knife/wrench/hammer/mace/pepper spray/grenade can or cannot go, get someone to assist you in packing. The list of YES items and NO items is clearly marked. How are you still confused on what and what isn't acceptable on an airplane? Oh, and it's not illegial search and seizure, because you know before you even buy your ticket you have to get screened. Even if you didn't know that, you know when you get to the airport. Oh, and even if you don't know then, then you notice when you try to get onto the airplane and there's a line of people waiting to be screened. When you present yourself at the beginning of the checkpoint, you imply your consent to be searched. If you have an item on the prohibited items list, and you know yourself that you can't have it, why complain and make a scene when you knew since before you left your home that it isn't allowed? Do you think that they're just going to allow you to have said item because you put up a stink about it? If you think something should be removed from the prohibited items list, write your congressman or to the TSA. The list is cut and dry. How are you failing to understand?

Screener Joe said...

Anonymnous, on 15 Feb, said: "When I am required to hand over my belongings to TSA you become responsible for those items until they are returned to me."

But you are not turning checked baggage over to us. You are turning them over to the airlines, jsut as you have been for the last fifty years. We just side step them briefly for inspection, and return them to the airlines.

Hawthorne, on 15 Feb, said: "Locked luggage should stay that way. If you do not want people using TSA approved locks, don't approve them in the first place."

You misunderstood, perhaps. We do want you to use the approved locks. Very much we want you to use them. We want you to use them very much. We want you very much to use them.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "the TSA maintains positive control over the bags from end to end, at least on domestic flights, and are directly reponsible for those bags."

Ah, not really. My job is to make sure no one puts a bomb in their luggage like what happened to Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland on Dec 21st, 1988. Once I have cleared your bag, I don't babysit it all the way to the plane, into the plane, back out of the plane, and back into your hands. Once I have inspected it, that's the last I see of it. And if I actually have to go into your bag, I am on several cameras in case something does come up missing. TSA-Joe

Fernando Valenzuela said...

Wowie! More Dave X posts, my day is complete. How about some helpful hints?

"It -is- a play on words. If there is no ready for me to send the item to myself at a reasonable cost, check that item, or hand it to someone else, they I am -forced- to abandon it if I want to fly. In most cases, the passenger is left with the Catch-22: loose something, either the ticket or the item."

Hot tip!

You have read about and heard about what not to bring... Don't bring it! Don't put it in your bag and no one will tell you your options.

"Point- If I've already checked my luggage, it's difficult, or not impossible, to retrieve it, deposit the item, and check it again. So this is generally not an option."

Actually Mr. Where, It happens quite frequently at our airport. Oooh, the fun facts Dave-O will bring up... I can't wait.

"So, I come back to the Catch-22- I'm forced, without recourse, to abandon -something-. My only choice is what to dump."

Which brings me back to my original point, DON'T BRING IT! So, yeah...

About the tool who stole the stuff, I don't think the TSA was looking for a pat on the back. It was more to the effect that TSA recognized it and remedied it. I know he pointed this out, but AIRLINE baggage handlers touch your bag more than the TSA does. And they don't have cameras pointing at them while they do their jobs. Our baggage room does.

Dave X, spare us your rants. We still don't care about fun facts. We understand you are not a fan of the TSA. We got the point, sparky. Take a step away from your computer and experience life (Even if said experience doesn't include airline travel, I still encourage you. Be bold, message board troll!). It's A-OK!

ROY 1981

Anonymous said...

tso msp: I work for the TSA and I work behind the scences in the baggage area. And I can tell that their are alot of locks that are being ripped of the luggage by the belt system ,TSA locks and every other lock you can think of are laying everwhere under the belt system. So if your TSA lock is missing do not assume that we cut it off your luggage. Know about the stealing that everybody claims that is happening everywhere. Do not assume that if something is missing that TSA stole it from you. Once your bag is cleared with us their are numerous airline employees that handle your bags after they leave our area with no cameras watching them. Several years ago some airline employees that load the food onto the airplane were caught down in the cargo hold stealing items out the the bags.SO DO NOT ASSUME WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THEFT! In our work area there cameras everywhere. Stealing anything out of a passengers bag is not worth losing my job over! Period!

Anonymous said...

I had the experience once of checking an unlocked duffel bag of clothing, and the TSA decided to search it (they left one of their flyers inside), but didn't re-zip the bag when they got done. Fortunately, my belongings were still there at my destination.

Here's what I do when I check a bag now...

I create an inventory list of the contents of my bag, put one copy in the bag atop my belongings, and keep another copy with me. Indirectly, it's a way to put the TSA on notice that "I know what was in this bag when I packed it, expect it will all still be there at my destination, and I will be checking."

Jake Cohen said...

Interesting stuff, very interesting. I didn't know this was happening.

My blog.

Anonymous said...

Funny to hear that locks get removed by the baggage handling systems. In my 30 years of flying before the TSA, I never lost a single lock. With the TSA involved, I've lost several approved locks.

Explain that one.

Anonymous said...

No matter what the TSA manages to do (or not do), someone will complain. They'll complain that either the TSA isn't doing the job, are over-doing it, are flat out wrong, should be disbanded, or something similarly short-sighted and trite sounding.

I know I wouldn't last a day as a TSO without strangling somebody. There are some rude people out there. How about we all work on being a little more civil and polite out there?

Nobody seems to ever give the TSA a break. Personally, I'd say the TSA is saddled with trying to do far too many things at once, doing them slightly better than what we had before, and aggravating us all more than needed because their implementations are varied. They are also with PR issues because everyone expects everything to be fixed "right now". Fixing one problem is achievable. Fixing all problems simultaneously is not. You perfectionists can wait over there in the SSSSCAVITY line wearing hospital gowns, thank you. I'd rather have slowly-getting fixed implemented security than to have none while waiting for perfect security to be implemented.

I agree with the annons of 18 Feb 13:42 & 15:15. Removing the TSA baggage screen from behind closed doors to a Milwaukee style system would remove much of suspicion focused on the bag screeners. I know that having my own lock on my bag would make me feel more secure about my belongings making it to the baggage claim carousel.

For every evolutionary step forward in natural history, there are a million dead-ends that didn't work. Unfortunately, as this blog sub-title alludes to, security is constantly evolving.

Captain John Konrad said...

When is a blog about MAritime Affaris or the TWIC card coming?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marcus said...

So you can tell us how many of your own employees you've caught stealing, but you can't tell us about even one terrorist you've stopped in your agency's existence?

Robert Johnson said...

Quote from Christopher: Thanks for posting this. I must admit I was not familiar with this incident. As your post indicates, the individuals were fired by TSA. Unfortunately we are limited to firing and supporting local prosecutors with evidence or witnesses. The local district attorney, state’s attorney or U.S. attorney actually presses criminal charges.

So in other words, with the gift cards TSA saw a PR angle it could exploit whereas these guys were small potatoes and wouldn't generate a buzz so there was no need to push for charges. Got it.

Red said...

To quote from the original post:

"The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future."

EXACTLY! Given that we are in agreement on this point, please explain why the TSA allows the existence of the CLEAR program. That program allows individuals who pass a background check to go through security with the knowledge that they won't be randomly selected for a secondary screening. This removes a layer of security from the process for those individuals even though their ability to pass a background check is no guarantee they won't commit a malicious act in the future.

Why does the TSA support a program that actually makes it easier for someone to attempt to get a dangerous item past security? Not to mention the inappropriate use of my taxpayer dollars.

Jack said...

Beating a dead horse? I fly with a tool chest. I wanted to comply with TSA rules and equiped that tool chest with TSA approved locks. I've had those locks cut off. How do I know that they were cut off? The locks were dumped into the tool chest. I've been told to return those locks for credit. If you were a store owner and the same person came in week after week for new locks then at what point would you begin asking questions of that person?

I give TSA a secured item with locks. I expect them to search that item and to properly resecure that item so as to dissuade baggage theives. When TSA fails to properly resecure that luggage who is responsible for any losses I may incure? Currently TSA points at the airlines and the airlines points at TSA. Looks like no one is willing to take responsibility for neglectful behavior that costs a flying customer his/her belongings.

I witnessed my tool chest being checked and resecured at Newark Intl airport. When I arrived at MPLS both locks were cut off, placed inside the tool chest, and the luggage tag had two TSA inspection stickers on it. That resulted in several pointless phone calls to TSA operatives at Newark since this problem occurs on a fairly regular basis.

The lighter duty TSA locks don't provide much security and have snapped off during luggage handling. I've even talked to the president of the organization that spec'd the locks. To his credit he told me that the lighter duty locks don't take abuse very well. FYI I took one of the damaged locks apart with a pair of linesman's electrical pliers. That isn't good.

I've complained before and will complain again. What do I have to do to get TSA to properly resecure my luggage after a luggage inspection? Please don't tell me to stand by while the luggage is being inspected. Several airports do the luggage inspection inside a passenger denied secure area and as such it isn't feasible.

Tell me what I must do to travel with secured luggage. Be consistant, and you most likely won't hear from me again.

I've told a TSA agent "I don't trust you and want to speak with your supervisor." The supervisor came over and the TSA agent said "he just called me a thief." I told his supervisor what I said in the first place and there is quite a difference between not trusting a total stranger and calling someone a thief. To his credit the supervisor cleared up this miscommunication.

Anonymous said...

As usual, you're doing a great job deflecting the issue. First of all, the screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level.
I am ashamed to say that yes, TSA has people who are less than "honorable" and do not deserve to be called TSA employees! Unfortunately again, this is an issue that would be seen in any civil service position as there are always people who are willing to take chances to get something for nothing. Let it be known though, that TSO's who are caught stealing face Federal fines and jail time as well as losing thier job.

Anonymous said...

Why does the TSA Contact Center not respond to questions that are emailed in?

One heck of a contact center you guys have.

Anonymous said...

To Christopher:

I have to respect your guts in addressing the topic of theft immediately after a TSA employee was arrested at ORD. You put together a well reasoned posting on the subject. It pains me to respond with, "I don't believe you."

You said that TSA does "not tolerate, condone, cover up or minimize theft by our officers by any stretch of the imagination". And yet, we see a link to an article about an incident in Austin that was certainly "minimized".

You said that employees "are prohibited from taking backpacks, lunchboxes or any other personal carrying item into baggage screening operation areas." And yet, while standing in the screening line last Sunday at BNA, I watched a TSA employee bypass the line and walk into the screening area (reporting for work?) with a huge backpack on her back. Who am I to believe, you or my lying eyes?

I don't think you are intentionally misleading us with your post. I'm sure that you honestly believe what you said to be the truth. I'm convinced that TSA policy does prohibit backpacks, lunch boxes, etc. However; what you - and more importantly TSA managenent -have to come to grip with is that TSA policies are routinely disregarded at airports across the USA. "Inconsistencies" is enough of a problem to have been the topic of an earlier topic on this very blog.

I am a victim of theft and I place the responsibility solely in TSA's lap. While I readily concede that many people have access to my checked bag, no one but me and TSA have access to my carry-on. And I've had things taken from carry-on bags.

As a result of my experience I am very wary of letting my carry-on out of my sight while going through security. When my bag occasionally gets a second pass through the x-ray machine I often notice TSA employees trying to open up bag up well away from me where it is hard for me to observe. This is totally unacceptable. Sad experience has taught me to suspect theft as the motive for such behavior.

If TSA were truly serious about limiting theft it would publish a statement at screening stations that passengers are entitled to observe as their carry on bags are opened and searched and it would discipline those employees who disregarded the policy.

When I see such a sign prominently displayed I'll believe TSA is getting serious about theft. Not before.

Nohwhere Man said...

Anon at 6:29pm said:
Nohwhere man-
If you need a prohibited item that badly on your trip, mail it to your destination beforehand.

You've made a rather long logical leap- I was arguing a position, not something that happened to me. Please consider studying rhetoric and debate skills.

(Since I always have tools, I always have to check some luggage.)
Anon further said:
The list of Prohibited items is clear for both checked bags, and carry on bags.

It's mostly clear, and I usually have a printout of the most recent version in my carryon. The problem comes when one screener decides that an otherwise or previously-permitted item should not be allowed. -That's- what we were discussing.


Andrew said...


I can assure you that TSA officials are cutting TSA locks off luggage. I've had this happen both at Chicago Midway and Knoxville TN.

When it happened in Knoxville , it was especially frustrating, because at Knoxville the inspectors are out in the public near the ticket counter. The TSA inspector cut the lock right in front of me. I would have gladly provided the key if I knew he wanted it open. He was so quick with the bolt cutters I didn't even get a chance to object.

Anonymous said...

From Christopher: "First, TSA is not cutting TSA recognized locks off your baggage. " -- sorry, but not my experience. I bought TSA locks for my daughter, and she used them. When she arrived home, the locks, neatly cut, were inside her luggage with the usual TSA note explaining not to lock your luggage. I had my own negative experiences with rude TSA staff before, but whatever remnant of positive feeling I had toward TSA (at least they give us a way to lock luggage now...) is gone. I no longer fly unless there's a death in the family.

JD said...

Yeah, I'm fairly certain that the "employees" of the TSA steal from the traveling American public. I'm sure Chertoff doesn't have a problem with this.

Joe said...


Thanks for clarifying these concerns. I appreciate the straightforward answers you provide -- despite all the excrement that people sling at you.

Had a suggestion that maybe you can help cover:

It's frustrating to understand exactly all the ideal ways to quickly and efficiently travel via the airports. Can you provide a short guide that provides the best short cuts that make travel easier for the public?

On a related topic to the concern about TSA-approved locks on baggage; can you please identify the IDEAL lock and the BEST location where to keep it zipped at to prevent alleged "missing" locks. That is, should the zippered lock be located on the sides or the center?

Many thanks,

Eliza said...

I fly frequently, and my baggage has been searched every single time for at least the last 5 trips. I understand that security concerns mean that you have to do random searches - but, why is my bag getting 'randomly' searched so often? I can't believe that my number comes up that often by random chance. I'm wondering whether I'm on some sort of 'watch' list, or if something about the way I pack makes my baggage suspicious.
I don't pack expensive things, and I've never noticed any missing or broken items - it just bothers me to think of strangers going through my things so frequently.
I've definitely had some bad experiences with TSA workers, but I've noticed that if you treat them nicely and smile and say thank you, they usually are nice back. It's weird how that works, I know. I have to admit, sometimes I do get somewhat suspicious looks (as if the TSA person is thinking "are you mocking me?") when I smile. I'm not, though.

Anonymous said...

OK, Robert -- I challenge you to blow this one off. And you question whay we, the public, have zero trust for you and your agency? You might need Ellen Howe's help spinning this:

Just in case you missed it, here's the title of this article:

"3 TSA, Delta Employees Accused Of Drug Smuggling"

Anonymous said...

This news article on CNN is not going to help with public trust either:

3 TSA, Delta Employees Accused Of Drug Smuggling

Anonymous said...

How about this for a solution to the TSA theft problem?

Disband the TSA!

Flying wouldn't be any less safe, and fewer of our possessions would be stolen.

arioch said...


If you're the Eliza that comes through Detroit frequently, you're probably the friendliest passenger on Earth and I don't think anyone halfway rational would ever mistake that for mocking.

To everyone else, every organization has some bad apples. 99.9% of us do our best to follow the rules and help people out. It is a shame that the majority of the press / attention seems to constantly cover that .01%

If you have had stuff stolen, I'm sorry. I would be mad too. If someone has been rude too you, again, that is unfortunate and hopefully that is the exception not the rule since most people I work with are friendly/helpful most of the time.

TSO - Chad

tai_pan1 said...

Eliza said...
I fly frequently, and my baggage has been searched every single time for at least the last 5 trips. I understand that security concerns mean that you have to do random searches - but, why is my bag getting 'randomly' searched so often? I can't believe that my number comes up that often by random chance. I'm wondering whether I'm on some sort of 'watch' list, or if something about the way I pack makes my baggage suspicious.

Eliza, it may be what you pack, not how you pack it.The machines used in most locations look for the "density" of an item. Items like peanut butter, chocolate, heavy glass bottles, crystal items and thick books may appear as "suspect" to the machine. Once it's tagged as suspect, the TSA must check the bag to verify what the item is. Of course, the items I listed above aren't the only items that appear this way to the machines, but it should give you a good idea of items that may cause your bags to be searched.

Anonymous said...

Dave X the first said...
In a related story, the Onion mentions TSA in a story on thievery: DHS: Has Anyone seen a blue folder?.

Your quoting a story from the Onion? Next thin you know, you'll be taking stories out of Mad Magazine. You Dave are a piece of work.

Anonymous said...

Ok I have been reading this blog and have to make a comment.

First of all if you are really concerned about someone stealing something that you consider valuable from your checked bag then either don’t take it with you or pack it in your carryon. It’s very simple -don’t pack expensive jewelry, electronics, cameras, etc in your checked bag. Use some common sense when traveling. Pack only what you really need.

Spend a few minutes doing some research before going to the airport so you know what you can take through security. Call the airlines or check the TSA website if you have questions or think you have an exception to the rules. The more knowledge you have, the better prepared you will be, and hopefully traveling will be less frustrating for you.

When I fly I pack my bag using space saver bags. These are plastic bags that you just fill, seal, and roll out the air (and no you do not need a vacuum cleaner to suck out the air). Not only can I pack more this way but when my bag is searched no one is actually touching my clothes. The bags are clear plastic so it’s easy to see what’s in them and if my luggage does come open my clothes are somewhat protected from getting dirty or torn. I have found notes in my bag saying it has been searched by TSA many times and nothing has been missing and it looks exactly like I packed it. None of the bags have ever been opened from what I can tell.

I do have a couple of questions for TSA. I have had my carryon searched and I stood right next to the table and watched everything the sceener did. Some comments on this blog have said the carryon was taken out of sight and then searched. What is the correct procedure? Can I insist that it be searched with me watching??

I have read another travel blog and someone said TSA searched their wallet. Supposedly the TSA sceener looked at every credit card, every picture, and every slip of paper this person had in the wallet. Is this appropriate? What would cause this type of search??

Anonymous said...

So now TSA is stealing Baby Food. Explaing please!

Anonymous said...

I'm posting this in response to the comments by the TSA bloggers that "confiscated" items from Security Checkpoints.

So apparently the TSA uses swiss army knifes they "confiscate" (because they're so dangerous) as an additional source of income?

Brandon said...


1. You advise us to carry valuables such as jewlery & cash on our person but a jewlery often has to be removed at the screening checkpoint or we will risk setting off the metal detector. Your post also highlights the risk of theft at primary screening. I am particulary weary when my watch and me are separated if I am selected for secondary screening. Why can't we ensure the security of our property prior to undergoing secondary screening?

2. I recently flew out of ROC where it was evident that the TSA has subcontracted all screening to a 3rd party. I found it a staggering coincidence that out of the 8 people we were travelling with, everyone's baggage was opened and manually searched, on our return trip from PBI, no one in our party had their lugagge opened.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that a lot of people are blaming the TSA for something that could have been done by anybody. It doesn't matter what lock you put on your bags - if somebody wants to get into them they will.

Anonymous said...

I don’t believe TSA is responsible for the bulk of stolen items. There are too many people working behind the scenes to credit only one agency with sticky fingers. The airlines should also be held accountable for stolen items. Sad truth is, they’re not.

It seems as though The Powers That Be don’t consider the back areas of the airport a security concern. The fact that something can disappear from a piece of luggage also suggests something can be placed in it. Who is responsible for an unwanted item in their luggage? The owner of the luggage is responsible, even if we’re separated from said bag for hours if not days at a time.

If we have to go through contortions to get on a plane our guv’mint thinks we’ll feel better – and many people do. It doesn’t matter how secure the entire airport is. It’s only a matter of public perception. Our guv’mint thinks we’ll believe what we’re told to believe. We’ve been forced to give up our civil liberties in the name of “security” so we feel safe. A friend of mine once said, “I don’t want any civil liberties. They can take all my freedoms away if that’ll kill all the terrorists.” Hmm, seems to be working.

I fly, and I do it often. I will continue to fly because the destination is what’s important to me. Let’s face it air travel sucks. I don’t fly to experience the joy of air travel. I fly to see the world in which I live. I fly because it’s either impossible to drive, or takes far too long. If there were another way to see the Atlantic in the morning and the Pacific by afternoon, believe me, I would do it in a second. So the choice becomes; deal with it or stay home and see the world on the Travel Channel. Do I like it? NO. Not one bit. Stop flying? Sure I could, and who exactly will notice or care? My boycott won’t change one thing. Everyone stop flying? We all know the odds on that happening.

Others created TSA to make us feel safer. As we all know, “it” rolls down hill. This security drama started at the top. ‘It’ has been rolling down hill ever since. TSA is just part of that slope.

Brian said...


You can say that the TSA doesn't cut off TSA-approved locks but when I open my suitcase to find my TSA-approved lock with the cut-off pieces taped to the TSA card telling me my suitcase was opened for inspection, what am I supposed to believe?

Granted this only happened to me once but it has happened. Interestingly enough, my second bag with more "interesting" contents such as tools was untouched - no broken lock, no TSA card, no apparent opening.

Now, I make sure that the locks I use come with a free replacement guarantee if they're cut by TSA (something I didn't have with the lock in question) so if it happens again (and I have the TSA card and lock pieces), I'm covered.

Anonymous said...

I don't leave valuables in the trunk of my car so why put them in a suitcase. Travel is a luxury not a right. I would rather have my luggage gone thru that to have another Atta flying beside me. Secondly, at least with TSA you have some recourse. Try to find the baggage handler you saw do a heisman pass with your luggage as you look outside the window at the luggage handlers. Somehow we have managed to think that government employees are perfect, and just like EVERYSINGLEBUSINESS on the planet it is not possible. I carry my camera and computer on my backpack I never let out of my site and I never put anything in my suitcase that I couldn't replace cheaply.
At least the TSA is trying to do something about it. See if you find a blog like this at Alaska, United, Delta or bozo airlines. They don't exist because their, the pretend it doesn't.
Why lock your suitcase... use a plastic tie and put extras in the suitcase so it can be re-tied. If a thief wants your stuff they TAKE THE WHOLE SUITCASE!!

Steve said...

Don't tell me TSA is NOT cutting off TSA approved locks b/c that's pure BS! I've had two MasterLock TSA approved locks with the little symbol and everything cut off (both at DFW). Yes TSA replaced them (with cheap Chinese "equivalents") but that's not the point. Point is the screeners are too dang lazy to go get the keys if the cutters are closer.

Anonymous said...

It's impossible to lock your luggage now. The TSA sets up the casual thief so nicely by immediately cutting any decent lock you put on the luggage. Then anyone can steal from it after that.

I have bought 6 different TSA approved locks. The expensive ones are always cut -- does the TSA know the locks that are on its own list? As far as the cheap locks, the key that came with it opens all the other locks, including those made by a different manufacturer.

In their defense, now every time I check luggage one of my zipper handles goes missing. So the baggage handling has gotten more aggressive lately.

The starter pistol trick works like a champ, FYI.

Anonymous said...

I lost all respect for the TSA this last summer when my brightly colored TSA approved lock had been cut off, my bag opened, and a note to the effect that my lock had been cut off because it was a non-TSA lock inserted. Theft is one thing. But this is sheer incompetence by the TSA.

Anonymous said...

As some have mentioned, these locks aren't built to withstand a serious pounding and can be broken, pulled apart, picked or otherwise disabled.


I agree, these TSA approved locks often fail after TSA uses bolt cutters to remove said locks.

PolarB3AR said...

Enough is Enough. Look everyone, I am a TSA Baggage Screener, so I know exactly what goes own during the screening process in the baggage screening area. You all have NO IDEA what the screening process is, or how it works. What gives you the right to question my job, when my only purpose in life, right now, is to ensure your safety! Some of you have genuine concerns and are posting questions about them, and for that I personally thank you! For the rest of you, your just wanting to complain about something because you have nothing better to do. I do NOT steal, and if I HAVE to take something out of a CHECKED bag, it is because it has been deemed a Danger to the aircraft. The AIRLINE companies ALSO have a say and CAN tell us what THEY DO and DO NOT want on THEIR Aircrafts. Heres a little free tip for some of you....If you have valuables such as: Laptops, Jewelry, MONEY; take it on the Plane with you!!! Also, the TSA is NOT the only person that has a oppurtunity to go through your checked luggage. Your luggage goes through several Other Airport and Airline Employees BEFORE it gets to us and AFTERWARDS as well.

For those of you who have had items stolen from a TSA employee, I am extend my deepest apologies and regret. I took an Oath in the U.S. Marine Corps to defend this country with my life and I still take that Oath VERY seriously. Once again, to those of you, who have serious concerns, please express them. If you are one of those who are complaining just because you have NOTHING better to do, GO POUND SAND!

Anonymous said...

PolarB3AR said... "What gives you the right to question my job,"

plus more.

Well Marine, that oath you took was to defend the Constitution.

"We the People" think that TSA may be acting in a manner that violates your oath.

"We the People" have an obligation to protest illegal acts by the government.

"We the People" have obligations under our Constituition also.

And just because your lawyers said something is legal does not automatically make it so. There are always two sides to a question. I think the courts will be hearing many more cases in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a way to solve the lock issue.

Any time a lock is cut a member of TSA management must be present and observe the process. A written report must be filed detailing the lock type (brand/TSA approved or not),why the lock was cut, outcome of the inspection that was performed and a copy of the report provided to the traveler and the Senior TSA official at that facility.

Provides information to the public and some CYA to TSA.

If you cut a TSA approved lock then someone should be explaining why the proper keys were not available. That would be a failure of TSA management.

Anonymous said...

this comment was reformatted because of the long url. -Editors


As you requested, here is the source material for my post of Feb 15, 12:31 pm:

Austin article.

The reference to screeners who weren't prosecuted because their thefts weren't of sufficient value is about halfway down. I don't want them to just be fired -- I want every screener accused of theft or other violation of the public trust PROSECUTED to the fullest extent of the law. The American people who pay your salary, benefits, and retirement deserve nothing less.

The other reference to the public affairs "gonk" is in thie article.

If you checkout in the travel safety & security forum, you'll find more graphic terms of endearment of the TSA spokespersons. Posters noted that the TSA was slick enough to trot out only female spokespersons for the intense heat you took for breast gropings and other female issues. BTW, it didn't work.

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Anonymous said...

I continue to be absolutely disgusted with the way airlines and airports deal with delayed passenger baggage. How many times have you been at a baggage claim and there are piles of luggage that didn't make an earlier flight just sitting around for anyone to steal or rummage through? (Many of them probably have broken locks courtesy of the TSA's intiial inspection.) And the airline representative that is supposed to be keep an eye on them is too busy dealing with the 50 irate passengers filing lost luggage reports.

As passengers, we are not supposed to leave our bags unattended at ANY time. Yet it's perfectly appropriate for airlines to just dump delayed luggage on the floor in a public access area. This is a golden opportunity for thieves and a golden opportunity for terrorists looking to leave an explosive bag amidst the 100 delayed bags from the latest snowstorm.

This may not be a direct TSA responsibility, but the TSA needs to have a hand in doing something about it because it's a major SECURITY AND THEFT ISSUE.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous (1:59pm)--
Hey, the airport bathrooms are dirty too. I guess you think that's TSA's fault as well? Good grief people!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
@anonymous (1:59pm)--
Hey, the airport bathrooms are dirty too. I guess you think that's TSA's fault as well? Good grief people!!

Leave your carry on luggage at a gate and see what the police do to it. What the airlines preach about not leaving your luggage lying about to passengers, they, the airlines doesn't practice. The airlines often displays a callous disregard for the physical security of passengers luggage.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone who accuses a whole agency of being thieves because of some dishonest individuals are really ignorant and needs to truly check themselves one day they can also be in the same shoes as the people that are being falsely accused for being in the same agency as some thieves. First think about the real honest people and stop judging everyone in general there is alot of honest people at TSA including me thank you.

crankyoldmaninboise said...

I've been with TSA since my airport "stood up" in 2002. There have been and still are things about the agency that irritate me beyond belief, but I also believe that things are improving a little more each day. However, the one constant that absolutely infuriates me every day is the absolute ignorance, indeed, stupidity of many of the "traveling public". Many of the posts on this blog come from just the sort of people I refer to.

Exactly what would you have us do, people? Go back to the way things were on 9/10/2001? Or perhaps 1967 would be more to your liking, when everyone just walked out and sat down on the plane?

At least face the simple fact that the world is a far more dangerous place now than it has ever been. And for all your narrow-minded, uninformed bitching and complaining, not one of you has brought anything new to the table. I have yet to see one reasonable, constructive suggestion from any of the complainers here.

As far as all the things TSA supposedly steals, I wonder who was stealing all those things prior to 9/10/2001? Little green men, no doubt.

Is TSA perfect? Of course not. Neither is Ford Motor Company, Boeing, Microsoft, New York Life Insurance, AT&T, or any other organization with more than two employees. It' just a damn shame that TSA is essential, but there it is. Deal with it.

JR said...

I'm glad I found this post. For a minute, I wanted to believe theft from baggage by TSA staff wasn't a common occurrence. It's unfortunate that I was proven wrong.

My fiancee spent a weekend in Minneapolis with her bridesmaids looking helping them find things for our wedding and also to find a pair of shoes that matched her dress.

After days of searching, she finally found a pair of shoes only hours before her flight back home to Denver.

Once we came home, we found that TSA had checked her bag and left a notice inside. Gone were her shoes though, without any note or explanation as to why.

One may think that this could possibly be a mistake. However, she had also bought a pair of shoes for my sister, who will also be a bridesmaid. Her shoes were left inside the bag.

At this point, I can only think of this as a theft, and that whoever did this preferred one of the pairs over the other.

The sad thing is that my fiancee needed the shoes to get her dress tailored this Friday. We are funding our own wedding without the assistance of our families, and every penny counts, and time is very valuable.

Of all the things anyone can steal though, why women's shoes? Is there a TSA employee at Minneapolis that just can't control him or herself when a pair of high heels happen to be in a bag?

Thanks TSA, for an excellent way to cause problems for a young bride to be, and showing that your issues with theft by your staff are anything but improving.

Anonymous said...

Why is it every once in awhile I will catch a news segment about airport security and it seems every time TSA are tested they fail? I saw a CNN report a few months ago about an undercover agent who hid a bomb on the small of his back and he got in the terminal. There was a hidden camera set up by CNN and you could see the TSA guy pat the agent down but he still got the bomb in. At the end of the segment, the under cover agent said that he gets the IED into the terminal 95 percent of the time. Even the TSA or OIG releases reports that show that most of the times the TSA are failing when it comes to security at the checkpoints. I think the TSA needs more and more help.

Also what is wrong with the current TSA uniforms? The US is in the beginning of a recession, the US Government is in the negative for cash and now the TSA decides to spend millions of taxpayer’s money on new uniforms and gold badges? Are you kidding me? Why the new uniforms?

alexander said...

I am not shure about all of the approved locks, but I know that all of mine fit into 2 catagories.

1. They all have the same generic key type.
2. I can stick a pin inside of it, and unlock it.

If we could have the option of putting the lock on the bag after it is screened, or of giving the keys to a screener if nessesary, this could help solve the problem. Also, in miami, and in many south american airports, many people choose to wrap their bags in plastic wrap. First of all, is this legal/ok to do, and if it is ok, why isn't this all across the country.

And insted of ranting, point out problems, and suggest ways of fixing them.

Free said...

The TSA began inspecting all checked bags at the end of 2002, a security measure ordered by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The requirement created a new chain of custody for checked bags that goes from the airline to the TSA back to the airline. Previously, the airlines had sole responsibility for bags once they were checked.

Airline passengers have since been caught between the TSA and the airlines, who have failed to agree on who would compensate them for missing or damaged items..

That's seems reasonable.

Anonymous said...

I'm Jean and I had Hip replacement surgery last summer. Last week was the first time I flew since then. I am 73 and find it very humilating to be patted down and to know it will happen as long as I live just because I had my hip repaired.
What bothered me the most happened in the Mobile airport. My bag with all its valuables went though the line while I was being patted and was just sitting there where anyone could steal it! When I got home I realized that the Shea butter face cream that my niece gave me as a gift was missing. I wasn't there to see them confiscate it and no body told me. I will feel very vulnerable when I travel from now on.

Anonymous said...

My concern is less with the TSA employees being thief's, but when I have been pulled aside for additional screening my laptop and carry on have been left at the end of the xray where anyone can pick it up. The officer refused to let me retrieve it and if that $2000 laptop had walked away I would have been out of a job. Doesn't it make sense that if an individual is pulled aside that their belongings should go with them. Not only for the security of the passenger's belongings, but if a person needs further scrutiny their bag should get it as well?

Meghan L said...

No complaints on the job well done by the TSA as a whole. I feel perfectly secure when I fly. However, doesn't it say a lot that the second option on the TSA phone number is "If you would like to make a claim, press 2". Pathetic. In other words, "We know you're probably calling because your stuff got jacked from your bag". If the Post Office operated with the same expectations of theft we would all be using FedEx instead.

Europe Woman said...

I've had things stolen while being held at the airport, let me tell you - it's not fun. I do realize that it's a monumental task, to prevent this, though. I applaud your effort to bring to light issues like this, which are so often overlooked by big agencies.

Denise said...

Just so I don't have to be annoyed by TSA's inane policies, I no longer travel with toiletries when I'm visiting friends or family. Regardless of weather, I wear sandals or slip-on shoes so I don’t have to struggle to re-shod in the screening line. Clearly housekeeping is not allowed in these areas in many airports – the floors are disgusting. Only once did I travel with a knife and that was for a camping trip in Africa. To my knowledge, my bag was not opened.
The point is, I don’t want to test the limits of a misguided system so I try to make my travel experience as hassle free as possible. I travel with the bare minimum and with nothing that could even be questionable. I am a graduate student and on occasion I have to travel with books as well as clothing. I pack these things in a rolling duffel bag and a regular duffel bag. Sometimes I lock the bags, sometimes I don't. Locking the bags doesn’t matter because on each of the last half-dozen legs flown, someone opened my rolling duffel bag – only this bag. Sometimes I received the “TSA was here” love note, other times – nothing. I’ve lost locks, luggage straps and handle grips. Yesterday, I lost a box of cartoon band-aids and three empty space-saver clothing bags. I’ve never complained before now because these losses, even to me, are minor. But minor or not, TSA or carrier responsibility, something is rotten in the baggage custody chain.
Since we’re stuck with TSA (the newest Federal jobs program), I would rather know that money is being spent on fixing the problem of baggage handling than on new uniforms and high-tech conveyor belts (Gate A at Baltimore-Washington Int’l airport).

Anonymous said...

When my B-I-L's son and son's wife flew home for Christmas last year after serving overseas, they stopped for two days in North Carolina. While there, she did some shopping for relatively inexpensive small presents. Their three bags of hard-sided luggage were secured with TSA locks when they checked them at the airport. Upon arrival in St. Louis they appeared to be untampered. It wasn't until the next day that they discovered half a dozen DVDs, CDs, and two brand new blouses were missing. Only a little had been stolen, little enough that without an inventory it wasn't missed. Obviously a pro who knew what he or she was doing.

And no, there was no compensation. Claim denied.

TSA employees should be subject to security checks on LEAVING the so-called secure areas. Better yet, issue them coveralls without pockets and require them to change into those work uniforms before entering a secure area.

Anonymous said...

The number one thing that would correct just about all theft and damage problems would be to simply let passengers watch as their luggage is searched. This is in NO way a security risk and is simple common courtesy. If my luggage is searched and items are missing or put back in a way that subjects them to damage, someone aside from me is paying for it, one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Until TSA stops pushing THINGs thru and making PEOPLE wait, its sometimes near impossible to watch your stuff go thru the conveyer belt. THe person ahead of you - his/her stuff goes thru, but then they have to go back thru the security gate once, so ANYone could pickup your stuff.

IMHO, TSA has NO RIGHT to go thru your stuff at the security gate UNLESS ITS IN YOUR PRESENCE.

In Mexico, I got thru all the checkins just fine, but with the EXTRA security check AT THE GATE, Cash went missing from my wallet (I admit it wasnt properly tucked away), but I'll be DARNED if I can figure out how they did it. (Granted it wasnt TSA).

erivkin10 said...

I agree with at least one poster about the loss of a TSA approved lock. I have two identical bags and checked both for a domestic flight.

Both had TSA approved locks on them. The one missing the lock at our destination had a TSA notice of inspection in the bag. There was no damage to the bag suggesting that it "broke off" in the baggage belts. The uninspected bag came through with the lock and no baggage belt damage as well.

I talked to a TSA supervisor on my return to our trip origination in Atlantic City. He told me that sometimes an inspection occurs and the inspector puts the bag back on the conveyor system forgetting to replace the lock; i.e. an honest mistake. He further assured me that TSA takes this very seriously and that I should file a claim and would be reimbursed for the missing lock.


I submitted a claim Two months later the claim was rejected. The rejection letter refers to non-TSA locks as well as a conveyor belt ripping off the locks.

TSA must think I'm a mental midget to buy those lines. Clearly stated in my claim was the fact that I had a Master TSA lock and there was absolutely no damage to the luggage. Even though these are not high-end locks, it would be impossible for a conveyor belt system to rip off the lock without any damage to the bag.

TSA is not stepping up to their responsibility. They are leaving my bag contents exposed to potential theft, not reimbursing me for their carelessness, and probably not providing any feedback to those creating the issue to improve.

TSA has done a lot of good things to help insure our security while minimizing the inconvenience. This experience has demonstrated how bureaucratic they can still be. The only suggestion offered in the letter was to sue TSA in Federal Court. Perhaps we should file a class action based on all that have lost TSA approved locks at $12/pop.

Seymour said...

I believe the best way to protect ourselves from theft by the TSA is to make the penalty so severe for anyone caught stealing they would never do it.
How about a minimum of five years in prison?
The theft of even a very small item may be very dear to us and ALL should be prosecuted!

Heather said...

"The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future."

I don't think there would be a future background check for employees you need to check.

Anonymous said...

NOVEMBER 2008: An estimated
300 MILLION DOLLARS worth of property stolen by TSA EMPLYEES at LAX. TSA REFUSED TO PAY for over 98% of these claims. XRAY screening devices were used by TSA to determine which items to be stolen from which bags using text messages on cell phopnes. See this TV news clip.

How much does Michael Chertoff get for his cut of the stolen items?

Anonymous said...

THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS WORTH of baggage stolen by TSA e,ployees at LAX. READ THE CBS NEWS this moring. TSA refuses to publish this post.


Google THESE words: See the news that TSA censors about TSA employee arrests at LAX.

CBS news
David Goldstein reporting
"Hey you stealing stuff out of luggage?"

This will get you the NEWS clip that TSA censors don't want you to see.

Anonymous said...

TSA in the news today. More TSA employees arested at LAX for theft. See CBS news. Six full time Los Angeles Police detectives are trying to stop the thefts by TSA crime rings.

Over three hundred million dollars worth of property stolen in last few years from Los Angeles International airport.

Anonymous said...

Why is TSA censoring public information about the TSA crimes rings at LAX.

Bob said...


This is a moderated blog. Your comments won't be published right away. All of your so called "censored" posts were sent in a 20 minute time frame. We didn't censor anything.

Also, you should actually listen to the story next time. Nowhere does it say that TSA is responsible for all of the theft.


EoS Blog Team

Anonymous said...

Locks keep an honest person honest. That is the extent of it.
Since the TSA/Airlines pull the "miles of baggage lines the break off locks" I learned a great trick. I travel a lot overseas and the best way to "tamper proof" your bags is to use heavy weight seran wrap and packing tape to seal the bag. if someone opens it it is obvious compared to a tear from a handling.
The more "layered security" you can add the better off you are; items in ziplock bags with your name and number on a piece of paper taped in it. The ziplocks in the suitcase. Ziptie the zippers shut. Lock them witha TSA lock. Wrap the suitcase in saranwrap (overseas airports offer the service after at airport counters).
The more work you make for a thief the more likely they will get caught. And the more ammo you have to prove a suitcase was opened and items stolen.

Anonymous said...

TSA screeners steal, again!
Just today, 1/3/09, 4 music CDs were stolen by TSA screeners at Miami Int. Airport. The bag was marked as "opened for inspection" and the CDs are missing. It is unfortunate that we the people helped put this TSA mess in place are helpless to do anything about it.

Anonymous said...

Another "Anonymous" wrote:
"I have read another travel blog and someone said TSA searched their wallet. Supposedly the TSA sceener looked at every credit card, every picture, and every slip of paper this person had in the wallet. Is this appropriate? What would cause this type of search??

The experience that the other Anonymous recounts happened to me at MIA one Sunday morning a few months back. I apparently made the "mistake" of smiling back at the stonefaced TSA officers who were standing at the checkpoint doing nothing other than staring at the queued-up passengers.

A big fellow in plainclothes (a suit, actually) walked up behind me as I was unloading my personal effects into the plastic bins just before the xray machine. He lifted his hands high and pointed down to me with his index finger gesticulating several times, apparently signaling to the inspection personnel that I should be somehow singled out.

(Being a top-tier frequent flyer, on a first class ticket, I was in the preferred lane, with the appropriate airline card to gain entry to that lane.)

After the xray, I was detained (I have no other word for it) in a glass booth next to the xray machine until an officer opened the door and let me out, asking me to follow him to an inspection table together with a second officer.

While one officer attempted to engage me in trivial small talk (which I found insulting to my intelligence and generally annoying), the other officer went through my leather laptop carry-on bag, and then began to deconstruct my wallet.

Maybe my $450 Louis Vuitton mens breast pocket wallet seemed unusual to the officer, so much so that he removed every credit and other card, item by item, and carefully read each one and its reverse (meanwhile peering in each slot in apparent effort to see if I was hiding miniature items behind the cards!).

I suppose the fellow found it suspicious that I would have credit cards from my broker, Morgan-Stanley, and my bank, HSBC, not to mention a drivers license and a United States passport (the visa pages of which he glanced through). Then there was the AAA card, the PayPal card, a Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum and AMEX card, a few business cards and my Porsche registration.

After tediously studying each item, they returned my wallet and case, and said I could go. But never, at any point, did I receive an apology or explanation for this strange and bizzarre wallet micro-inspection. I got the uneasy feeling that this inspection was for something other than airline safety, but nobody wanted to fess up what their real aim was.

Of course, I object to the procedure of reading through my wallet cards and papers when I have already fully and properly identified myself with federally approved ID (which was not an issue at this point, as I had been passed by the ID screener before the xray stage).

If this procedure is legal and proper, I see no reason why the TSA agent(s) shouldn't have explained what they were doing together with the specific authority for doing so. But to fail and especially refuse to answer an inspectee's simple, non-challenging questions about an unusual inspection technique in inexcusable.

Neither officer apologized to me, answered any of my inquiries about what they were doing or sought to find. On exiting, I saw the big suited fellow who initially singled me out leaning on a cabinet "supervising." He, too, would not tell me what the wallet and credit card search was all about, and looked at me as if I were a bit weird for objecting to it.

This horrifically invasive TSA experience prompted me, on my return to Miami, to send in a donation to the ACLU. So the next time the TSA goes through my wallet, they'll find my ACLU membership card, and will perhaps be reminded that civil rights do exist in America.

I do wish that the TSA moderator of this blog would kindly explain what happened to me, and what is the meaning, purpose or rationale for such invasive wallet fishing expeditions.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I just arrived today (3/11/09) from a trip and Googled "missing TSA lock" and found at least three forums discussing this topic.

I checked my luggage at the Washington DC Reagan airport (DCA) and flew Northwest flight 233 at 2:25 p.m. to Detroit then Northwest flight 276 at 5:01 p.m. to Madison, WI. When I claimed my luggage in Madison, the TSA lock was missing. There was no note inside from the TSA . There was no damage to the bag.

Before my trip, I read an article in a travel magazine that some people have had their TSA locks missing from their checked bags after trips. This was still fresh in my mind, which is why I remembered to check my luggage on this trip. Well, this has never happened to me until now. A theft is a theft no matter the amount. TSA should be investigating this instead of being defensive about it.

background said...

In the almost 200 commercial flights I've had in the last two years, my encounters with TSA have been uneventful. Never had a lock missing, items stolen or anything else out of the ordinary. Always checked my bags too.

However, It's obvious something is going on with with so many people affected by this. I think that Christopher summed it up by saying: "The screeners violated the public trust. That is completely unacceptable for a government employee at any level". Well said.....

Anonymous said...

Less than one percent of employees have been caught. How many remain unaccountable is hard to know, but is logically much higher.

That less than one percent number is interesting though. Thats about the percentage of people that are arrested after being selected for special screening. Seems like if the special screening is justified (it isn't) then a more in depth investigation of the TSA is also in order.

Anonymous said...

TSA in Las Vegas stole my laptop out of my checked on bag. Of course they denied my claim.


Anonymous said...

"Why lock your suitcase... use a plastic tie and put extras in the suitcase so it can be re-tied."

I did this for my flight today - the ties were cut, and in spite of my polite note and inclusion of extra ties, my luggage was not resealed. Now a lot of it missing. I wonder how much of it was stolen and how much was simply lost to gross incompetence. Thanks TSA! By the way, how many terrorist acts have actually been stopped by baggage checks? I'm honestly curious. I've never heard of such a thing.

Anonymous said...

I am devestated.
I am desperately looking for help. I flew out from O’Hare airport through United Airlines to Philly on November the 2nd on business. I checked my luggage and in my luggage was my company laptop bubble wrapped, my work projector, my GPS, and my engagement ring, and my medication. Yes, I know I probably should have taken the ring with me but thought it would be safe in my bag. It was in a black ring box in one of my gym shoes. I got to my hotel and noticed that TSA had inspected my luggage. They opened my bubble wrapped laptop and resealed it with TSA tape. I went to take my medication from my make-up bag and noticed that the container was there but my pills were missing. That is when the red flags went up and I quickly went to look for my ring in my gym shoe and it is missing as well. I am getting such the run-around. I spoke to United and they say they are not liable since TSA inspected my bag. TSA tells me that I shouldn’t have checked my valuables and to take it up with United. I don’t know what to do. I’ve asked TSA to check their videos and they refuse to do so.

This is nuts...And they cut my TSA approved lock.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe they are cutting locks off my bags, but I am convinced that some lazy SOB does not relock or put them back in place. Stephen Kink once said (Thinner) "the only really crazy person out there is the one whoe doesn't believe what they see." For me to believe otherwise is to accept that what is statistically improbable is occurring...that is that my random setting of the lock when I put it on is being shook and jostled to the exact combination! They have left three times with the lock on and come back three times with the lock gone, twice for me once for my wife. Right!

Anonymous said...

TSA theft? Honestly, I thought it was public knowledge that TSA will steel anything worth $10 at the pawn shop. Oh sure it's great that you caught 200 out of 110,000 theives within the TSA ranks, but I want you to know: usually when you see one roach, there are a thousand others hiding in the walls.

Facts: ever since TSA has been checking bags, "disappearing" items in my luggage have been common. Once, in Honolulu, I checked in my camera on the bottom of my bag, and by the time it arrived in my hands at LAX, it was missing.

The baggage handlers for the airline I was traveling were my cousins. They took my bag personally to the screening area. My cousins were crushed to find out this camera was missing (more crushed that our photos on it are gone forever). It was so obvious to me that the smoking gun was pointed at TSA, but not so to TSA!! I called the security for TSA, they claimed the airport was liable. I called the airport, and they pointed their fingers at the airline, and guess what? The airline said they have no control over TSA matters, I should call them.

And this same thing happened again when my Prada designer shirt disappeared from my luggage going from GEG - SEA.

I give up. Christopher, your advice is good, but niaive. So we're supposed to not check in the obvious: cameras, electronics, jewelry, but let's now add designer clothes and anything worth more than $100? Oh yes, and now we should pick through our luggage prior to and immediately after check in (in the airport?). This doesn't see realistic. And my experience, twice now, is that it isn't worth it. Reporting the crime only leads to frustration and finger pointing.

It used to be that only the airline handled luggage, but now with TSA injecting "security" it passes through two sets of litigious hands. A sad price to pay for alleged "security".

Security Gate said...

Public Officials should render their services in accordance to what they have swore.

For the theft, stop it! It's a crime!

Cbellabell said...

I have read that TSA officers are not searched when they leave the airport. Does anyone know whether or not this is true. If, as a private citizen, I am often searched before leaving the airport, why wouldn't people who have access to people's valuables not be searched?

AgentBB007 said...

Cbellabell you have researched correctly. TSA screeners must go through metal detectors and a security check before starting their shift, but when they are finished they just walk out.
I've sent complains to my senators and congressman but just get some responses about them not being on the transportation board.

Casinoman said...

I had an experience a while back as I was travelling through Washington on a transfer from the UK through to Florida.

It was during the height of security worldwide due to various international incidents, but even so, I was surprised by the lack of security.

At washington I was supposed to drop my luggage at the transfer hall to be rechecked. When I reached there, there was nobody in sight. I stood and waited for 15 minutes and no one. Soon I had to leave to catch my transfer flight and then a porter walked through that hall.

I signaled and asked him what to do and he simply said to leave it just there. With no one there, I had to leave it there. Imagine how terrified I was that I would lose the luggage.

Result: I did lose the luggage, it came 2 days late.

Anonymous said...


I will file a complaint with TSA and the airline I flew on tomorrow, but this will be difficult, as some TSA agents realize. I flew into one airport from out of country with a connecting flight. My bags were shrink wrapped and not tampered with from the out of country flight, intact through customs screening up to rescreening for my connecting flight. Upon arrival at my temporary destination, I found a TSA flyer in my bag and missing items. While the value of the items will be disappointing to the thief, some were invaluable and irreplacable to me. I suspect that the Nike Sports Watch Box was too tempting though it only contained hand-made clay beads I had worked on for several months as gifts, a carton of Duty Free Cigarettes, and a broken digital camera containing photos of a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Knowing where the items were packed, I cannot pass this off as an accident.

While it would probably be some crime or violation, I have had daydreams of packing dog poop in empty jewelry boxes to stratigically place in various bags of throw away clothing in my bags next leg of the journey as possible "gifts" for the next TSA agent who feels deserving of my things, or underpaid and under appreciated. I am angry and hurt, and while I obviously can't pack dog poop (can I?) I will never take anything of any value with me that I cannot take as carry on in the future.

The people who are busy riffling through our things for valuables are distracted by greed, not looking out for our safety. Give that some thought and police the ranks. Cameras on us...cameras on you.

Kevin said...

The TSA does not have the right to cut off locks and invade the privacy of law abiding citizens based on their "justified" intuition and racist prejudice.

Michael Bryant said...

I am so tired of the Theft. I willingly accept the need for all the security measures and as a seasoned traveller and road warrior I am as cooperative as i can be. Everytime I travel on American Airlines though in the past two years, something has been stolen. never much but it is irritating to have luggage with TSA approved locks which theoretically prevents the baggage handlers from rifling my luggage and then on receipt of my bag to open it find an inspection tag, locks intact and things missing. Clearly the TSA staff are guilty. It's always something we have to check owing to security measures like an expensive bottle of purfume or my wife's brand new curling tongs. It is absolutley galling. I have tried to complain on two occasions but the run around I received has taught me not to bother.

Michael ( Living in the Caribbean)

Jeremy said...

More theft perpetrated by TSA officials. Jewelry conveniently replaced with a "Notice of Baggage Inspection."

Robert18 said...

The TSA has many sectors where to address complaints about TSA’s mishandling of or (in my case) theft from one’s baggage. TSA Claims Offices, Contact Centers, Legal Departments, a “real” Ombudsman, and even this Blog. That Ombudsman is a real farce: an email address that doesn’t answer any email……and I tried a few under different names and regarding different matters. In fact, all departments are master in ignoring email messages.
It has become very apparently that no matter how “different” the names of these sectors, they are all part of (and paid by) the TSA, and are clearly created to protect themselves against complaints from their victims, the unwary traveler, and condone the malfeasance of its employees.

No matter how clear-cut the proof of TSA’s thievery is, the TSA simply denies unequivocal evidence to be evidence. They go even one step further, by claiming that “if” anything “inappropriate” has happened to one’s luggage, it must have been perpetrated by “non-US citizens”. What an absolute hogwash, and an insult to all non-Americans.

Why is my case so unambiguous?
1. My spouse and I checked in 3 pieces of luggage at Miami airport
2. Two pieces arrived in Tel Aviv with our flight, one didn’t
3. The airline confirmed that one suitcase was “intercepted” by the TSA in Miami airport. This suitcase was tagged weighing 60 lb.
4. Four days later the missing suitcase arrived, tagged weighing 30 lb, with the (TSA-approved!!) lock cracked open, and with two wide straps of TSA Scotch tape wrapped around the suitcase.
5. Upon opening the (lighter) suitcase, it was clear that most of its content was missing: a brand-new CPAP breathing device, 2 car parts, and plastic bags with new clothes, books and magazines, all tagged and with price labels.
6. One email from the TSA Claims Office explained that “hazmat” has been removed……even though the taken items do NOT appear on TSA’s hazmat list.
7. Later denials by the TSA asserted that there is no evidence that the TSA is responsible, and invited me to file a lawsuit if I don’t agree……sure, starting a lawsuit for $1,600 stolen goods, taking 2-3 years and about $100,000. With the TSA having a huge legal department with many full-time lawyers, this is “daily” business for them.

The TSA claims that its employees cannot remove items from baggage, since there are at all times 4-5 supervisors watching over TSA baggage handlers, omitting the many cases where the TSA lost court cases over thievery and had to fire stealing staff.

I wonder if it is worthwhile to post this matter on this blog, if ever it will get posted at all.

Pokies said...

The problem persists in Hungary too. I would not have thought that such instances occur in the US. Whenever I can I take luggage on board on small trips. And there are more screeners than ever at airports. TSA's policies may have made theft easier - I firmly believe.

Mike Jones said...

Although you say that 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage. How do you stop that small percentage? There will always be someone who is prepared to steal.

Anonymous said...

Bunch of jerk, every time I've traveled they've removed my TSA approved locks and have not had the courtesy to put them back.

Anonymous said...

I travel for work, so I am in many different airports around the country. Also, with my work I must carry a hard shelled toolcase, which is searched 100% of the time. I have gone thru at least 10 sets of master locks, it doesnt matter if I unlock them and ask them to relock, also I have watched them be relocked and put onto the belt only to have them missing upon arrival at my destination... SO what I have started to do is to ask for a TSA supervisor to recover the bag (of which I can no longer vouch for the contents) and have them open it and search.. The next time this happens I will be calling the airports police as well as the TSA supervisor... I have actually had a TSA person who was searching my toolbox tell me that, I made him feel like a Thief because I was watching him search my property (Atlanta)...

Anonymous said...

My name is Jean Upon arriving at the TSA checkpoint in a wheel- chair, I was asked to stand up on one foot. The chair was taken ahead through security, I was hand mauled and then told I could get back into the wheelchair. At this point the chair was a good fifty feet ahead of me. I asked if I was supposed to hop on one foot to the chair or would it be brought back to me. Finally after much conversation the chair was brought back and I was permitted to regain my seat. At the same time my purse and carry on were "being watched" by a TSA agent. The purse was watched so carefully that a woman walked up and claimed it. I started to protest and was promptly told to be quiet or I would be arrested. Finally, I was able to make TSA understand that the TSA agent who was supposed to be "watching" my purse had just permitted a total stranger to remove my purse and walk away with it. The person who took it mererly stated that she thought it was hers. The purse was made by me in and no way could it coincidently look like someone elses. In the meantime, I was threatened by the TSA agents to behave or they would have me arrested. Some security!

Thomas said...

Just found this blog. Had my iPod stolen from my checked suitcase on the way back from SXSW this week. There was even a pamphlet in the bag telling me that TSA had gone through it, so I know who the culprits are. I've emailed them, let's see if they even acknowledge my presence or complaint.

More and more, America is becoming a security state where the people who allegedly watch over us are actually crooks. Shame on them.

Cheng said...

Hi. I loaned my new 1200.00 canon digital camcorder to my parents who speak very little english who traveled through a chicago airport to get onto korean airlines on 3/2/11. My dad had the camcorder in his backpack which was taken into a separate room to be checked. he did not check the backpack until he boarded the plane and it was going down the runway. at that time, plane crew radioed the security check site and was told no such camera was there. ofcourse not. the security guys who inspected the bag most likely kept it. i dont know much more than that so i will have to wait until they return in afew days to file complaints with the police and TSA. i will also be writing letters to my local congress people, the attorney general and the president. who knows if any of the above will care but this is horrible why we have to put up with this. i could not believe how many stories like mine are on the web. sounds like i should be glad my camera was ONLY 1200.00. i doubt i will ever trust traveling via air again. i'll re-post when i find out more info. hmm..i wonder if i file an insurance claim if the insurance people will get further.

from MN

Anonymous said...

I just returned home( to Massachusetts) from Chicago last week. I had carefully packed a couple of bottles of beer(Spotted Cow-unavailable outside of Wisconsin) in my checked luggage, since I am now prohibited from taking them on board.

Needless to say, they were gone when I opened my bag in Boston but the TSA notification was sitting on top of my clothes.

Nice to know that someone at TSA O'Hare is a thief. Good work TSA.

Richard said...

Since I will be travelling with jewelry, I asked the TSA about how to avoid losing contact with the jewelry during the security check.

The TSA informed me that I have the RIGHT to have a personal security check in a private area with my travel companion present. So that is what I will be doing. Otherwise, it is just too dangerous given all the reported thefts, as indicated in this article and since then.

For all those travelling with any valuable items, you should ensure that you have a PRIVATE security check with your travel companion present.

I will report back if the TSA tries anything shady!!!

RMB said...

I usually never have a problem with TSA. I know that bags are checked for my safety and the safety of others. However, on a recent trip I had a bag checked, and I know it was checked as it had the TSA flyer inside of it. The checking of my bag didn't bother me, what bothered me was that they showed little regard for my personal items, even ruining two textbooks. I am a student and cannot afford to buy new books every time an agent haphazardly shoves my books back into my bag tearing pages, covers and breaking bindings. I am very upset and this seems to be the only place to express my discontent for TSA's handling of my luggage.

Anonymous said...

I have a huge problem with the new enhanced body scanners that are being used more and more. Let us forget the fact that someone is looking at me naked, I do not like the requirement that my pockets be emptied and the contents put through the xray machine out of my sight and control. The reason I have a problem with this is the same reason you make me take my shoes off and x-ray my baggage you don't trust me and I do not trust you. While I am locked in the x-ray tube, the chain of custody of my personal property is broken. This property can include my wallet, money, credit cards and my passport. These items can be easily removed from the x-ray belt and since I am removed from the line of site I would have no idea that something is missing until well after the theft occurs. I do not see why I have to give up my personal property so that the TSA staff can do as they wish and I have no recourse. Please give me the reason why paper (money), plastic (credit cards) and leather/nylon (wallets) need to be removed for the body scan as it was never necessary with the X-ray machines. Personally I think this is another overreach and adds nothing to anyones security. Surely equipment that can see through clothing can see through paper and a wallet. What is the reason for this requirement and if it not a requirement please direct me to the document stating so.

Anonymous said...

"While 200 out of more than 110,000 employees is a minuscule percentage (less than one half of one percent) over the short life of the agency, one theft is too many when you are in the position of public trust as we are."

Yes, it's a small percentage.. maybe we should look at it differently.

Is the TSA better at catching fake bombs/guns/knives going through security; or valuables they can lift and take home?

What is your success rate in each of these circumstances? Willing to admit your success/fail rate on tests of your people yet?

Anonymous said...

While most of the advice is sage there is one thing they don't cover. You are FORCED to take your laptop OUT of it's cover, thereby advertising to all thieves what you have. I never understood how the scanner can't see through a thin sleeve. You are forced to walk away from it and if you are delayed in the metal detector (left a metal hair clip in? a key in your pocket?) it's out of your sight for even longer. I believe I read that it's now up to 10,000 laptops a year that get stolen, most of which are never recovered. Someone I know who had her laptop stolen was told by the TSA that it was her fault she brought a laptop. In this day and age, this is ridiculous.

Tom said...

I just flew the 18th of a series of 27 flights on my current itinerary. I have received notice that the TSA has listed me as a "Trusted Traveler." Imagine my surprise when I got the, "Guilty until proven innocent" treatment in New Orleans on Friday. They were their usual brutal selves and more. But that wasn't enough I guess. When I arrived at my destination I found the little TSA note in my suitcase. A bag of gourmet coffee was missing. A hardbound book was broken. Everything had been tossed back in the bag in total disarray. My zipper case with vitamins is missing as well. Strangely, one sock is also missing.
If it were the first time I would feel justified in my mistrust. Unfortunately, it's not the first time. I meet power mad clerks on nearly every flight. I want my coffee back. I want my rights back. I want my dignity back. I want the TSA to catch bad guys and leave the rest of us alone. The "Theater" failed long ago. Stop it now please.

Anonymous said...

Every one of the TSA locks I've purchased and used has been cut open. In some cases, the ruined lock is put into my bag. In others it's just removed and my bag is unzipped when I retrieve it from the baggage carousel. I'm a retired 68 yo woman who travels on holiday. I only carries clothes and toiletries. It's pretty annoying to have to keep buying new locks (they're not cheap). I'm trying to do the right thing but this is really stupid.

Anonymous said...

... and the funny thing is that all this TSA lock breaking and theft happens mostly at US airports! You hardly hear of it happening in other countries (maybe because they use non-TSA locks?)

Jeff said...

>When is a blog about MAritime Affaris or the TWIC card coming?

Any progress on this?

KonaTom said...

I don't buy the comment about TSA not cutting locks. Over a good number of years prior to TSA coming on the scene, I was a frequent flyer and not once lost a lock off my baggage. I have lost five over the last approximately 12 months. I was able to get reimbursement for one, and only after first being told it had been taken off by the equipment. Last June 10th my ClubGlove golf bag (VERY Sturdy) came off the carousel with not only the lock missing, but the zipper pull tabs also. These are so tough that it is very unlikely that machinery snagged and yanked them off, likely impossible to do without also damaging the zipper itself, or at least scuffing the adjacent area. All five incidents have been on SJC/KOA round trips, with all 5 on the return trip from KOA to SJC.
Very frustrating, and costly, replacing TSA locks that often.

shovelDriver said...

TSA said: "The question will certainly arise... don't you do background checks on your employees? The answer: YES! The problem with background checks is they check the background, they don't predict the future."

The question then becomees "So why does TSA have the infamous list?"

It is based on past behavior, but it cannot predict future behavior.

Why? Why? Why?

Anonymous said...

I lost 2 locks already. I don't travel frequent but each time i have to buy a new lock. I travel from PHA to LAX to BKK. I saw the lock was on at LAX so it must have been taken at LAX or after. I got a TSA notice in my luggage + 1 dirty rubber glove. My lock is gone. Why can't you just put it back after you check the luggage. I don't want the dirty gloves in my luggage either.

Anonymous said...

TSA has took away my worn once designer shoes! They checked my luggage and did not put the shoes bak! i cannot believe they can just get away with anything!

Anonymous said...

What are the TSA standards for handling travelers' belongings? On my last two trips from SLC to SEA, using the same luggage, my bag was inspected (containing beer-making ingredients that understandably looked suspicious) but not relocked. Nothing was missing, but failing to lock my bag means that someone else could have opened it and stolen from it despite the fast that I had locked it before entrusting it to the TSA. On the most recent trip, a TSA officer had apparently opened one of the beer kits, removed the instruction sheet, and then left the sheet outside of the kit. If you want to inspect my bags, I get it, but I don't appreciate it when my personal property is disassembled and not put back in the same order as before. I take care to pack my bags safely and securely, yet after TSA gets done with them they're a mess. Shipping these kits would cost a small fortune (more than the cost of the kits), but I am starting to think it's almost worth it to keep TSA hands off of my property.

Leonard Karr said...

Why does TSA steal my locks? It's the insures that my luggage is does not open accidentally. It is bad enough that our government has devolved into a crypto fascist police state, but does it have to put in our face by blatantly stealing from us too?

Tabby Bizgan said...

Cleaners and baggage handler are not employed by TSA. There are numerous entities working at the airports, and of course theft can and may happen anywhere.

Tabby Bizgan said...

Love your reply. Thanks for your service. Thanks for doing your job. People complain of things they don't understand, and unfortunately, there are certain things that can't be explained to them.

David Hegglin said...

I think that the the TSA gets a bad rap - it's a tough job and travelers should be more grateful for their service.

Conex said...

I feel that in 8 years (since this post was created) the TSA has come a long way.

One area we would appreciate more info has been highlighted already but I'd like to reiterate it again because it's important:
>>When is a blog about MAritime Affaris or the TWIC card coming?
>Any progress on this?

Myron Buck said...

It's not just overt theft that is a problem. It's also inappropriate application of the guidelines...when a TSA agent removes a $30 pair of clamps from someone's fly fishing vest even though there is NOTHING in the polices that prohibit this item (it has no sharp edges like a knife, no points like's only crime is that it has finger holes like scissors), or when a TSA agent breaks a delicate and valuable Chinese puzzle box just to open it up. Or an action packer box that has the top secured with Zip Ties for an international move has the lid clipped off, and the replacement zip ties that are taped RIGHT ON THE LID OF THE BOX are not used, so the contents spill out across three airplanes and two continents.

I have had so many things broken, seized, opened up and spilled, and with NO recourse. No place to complain, no appeal, no return of my LEGAL items. I am just left with the feeling that I was robbed or assaulted without any protection or power.

It's a form of sanctioned theft and a massive invasion of privacy. The defense that "you have to give up some freedoms if you want to fly" does not defend the amount of free reign and immunity that TSA agents have. I am in no way convinced that I am more protected from terrorism by this amount of humiliation and abuse my belongings are subject to.

At the very least, that little piece of paper that gets put in your suitcase should have the TSA agents name and number on it, so there is SOMEONE to contact in case of abuse!!

Ziggy said...

I am an Australian and I simply do not understand why TSA would require to inspect my luggage without me being present. I cannot think of one valid reason for this.

On top of that, I cannot see why I should trust any government officials or their proxies to be honest. For instance, police have an appalling record of corruption and criminality. Politicians are just as bad.

So what makes TSA officials so saintly that they can go through the luggage of people when the people are not present? They can easily steal things or even worse, plant things in the luggage and the owners would find it very hard to show that they were not carrying contraband.

Luggage should ONLY ever be opened and inspected in the presence of their owners and there is no valid reason to do otherwise.