Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Response To Judicial Watch Press Release

Earlier this year, when a Transportation Security Officer noticed something did not seem right with the passenger screening process at an airport checkpoint in Denver, supervisors were notified and an investigation was initiated.  At the time, I stated that the alleged behavior of the employees involved was egregious and intolerable and I stand by those words. Our workforce is held to the highest standards of personal and professional integrity and everyone is accountable for their actions.

Yesterday, the advocacy group Judicial Watch issued a press release detailing what it claims is a number of “alleged sexual-related assaults” on passengers by Transportation Security Officers at several airports. The basis of Judicial Watch’s press release is a compilation of complaints filed by passengers who received a pat down as part of the security screening process.  For more than a decade the passenger security screening procedures in place at airports throughout the country have been designed, implemented and modified with one overarching objective – to ensure the free and secure movement of people and goods from place to place. It is one of our nation’s most cherished freedoms, and safeguarding it is vital not only to our economic prosperity, but also to our national character. 

Following the brutal and unprovoked attacks against our nation September 11, 2001, the United States Congress moved swiftly to federalize airline passenger screening and established the Transportation Security Administration to get it done.

As a central component to the mission we are sworn to uphold, TSA personnel safely screen nearly 640 million travelers every year, preventing thousands upon thousands of prohibited and potentially dangerous items from being carried into the cabin of an aircraft. This includes more than 2,200 firearms last year alone, the vast majority of which were loaded.

To ensure we remain one step ahead of our adversaries, TSA built a formidable, layered system of security based on identifying and mitigating risk. Technology plays an integral part in our ability to detect potential threat items, including non-metallic improvised explosive devices, understood to be among the greatest threats to aviation security. When the screening process indicates a potential threat, it must be resolved and one way to do this is by patting down the area where a potential threat item has been detected.

There is nothing sexual about a resolution pat down, and we take every passenger complaint to the contrary seriously. If an investigation is warranted it will be conducted swiftly and thoroughly and the employees involved will be held accountable for their actions. Our singular objective is and always will be the security of every passenger on every flight every day. To present as fact a handful of passenger complaints from the hundreds of millions of screenings performed each year is a far cry from any standard of objectivity and only serves to perpetuate misinformation and mistrust in an organization dedicated to serving the American people.

Melvin J. Carraway
Acting Administrator, Transportation Security Administration

52 comments:

Joshua Tolley said...

A "handful of complaints" are most certainly fact, even if it's uncomfortable. That it's only a handful indicates that abusive screenings aren't the rule, or at least that victims of such screenings don't tend to complain loudly. But to dismiss them as non-factual indicates only that the TSA still doesn't take the accusations seriously.

SSSS for Some Reason said...

So many words, so little said.

Here is what I read, see if you agree:

Earlier this year some TSA agents went too far with the enhanced pat-downs.

Yesterday, an advocacy group released a report.

OMG! September 11th! Look at all the people killed!

OMG! Guns! Some of them are even loaded!

Fluff about our layer cake of security theater that mentions pat-downs, you know that thing that started this whole kerfuffle.

We take complaints seriously, which is why this article started way over there with a statistically insignificant number of agents and that nothing bad happens to passengers at our hands because there are hundreds of millions of people who don't complain.

I might have oversimplified in a few places.... the article starts off interesting enough then descends rapidly into buzzwords and mission statement obfuscation and look over there! Bad things! You don't want to have those things happen to you so shut up and do as you're told because we know best.

Your days are numbered TSA.

Anonymous said...

How many complaints about inappropriate contact by TSA staff
have been received over the last 5 years? How many of those resulted in disciplinary action? How many resulted in criminal charges? Both Judicial Watch and this TSA response lack specificity so the public can understand the scope and import of the data. Not all incidents are reported and different people have a range of responses to the pat down. How many incidents are "a handful"? Reading through the Denver events was disquieting and makes me wonder about the scale of the problem. TSA needs to be forthright with real data, not sweeping generalities. Recent agency scandals make everyone suspicious and TSA needs to honestly respond or it will lose the essential trust it needs to operate.

RB said...

TSA's "formidable, layered system of security" can bee defeated easily by being an airport employee.

Why did it take over a year for TSA to respond to the Judical Watch records request if TSA had nothing to hide? And why has TSA still failed to complete the Whole Body Strip Search Machine public notice of citizen concerns that was solicited well over a year ago?

And why should the public trust TSA to investigate itself when there are plenty of reasons to not trust the integrity of TSA employees, especially the integrity of the TSA Acting Administrator?

There is never an acceptable reason for a TSA clerk to touch the breast, buttocks, or crotches of anyone. Such acts violate the limited administrative search carve out and if a TSA clerk believes someone has contraband hidden in such places the matter should be turned over to police.

What evidence can TSA show that proves non-metallic explosives present any threat at all? Just more TSA grand standing snd hogwash.

No wonder Melvin didn't get the nod to be Administrstor, he is full of nothing but (censored) and hot air.

What a fricken joke!

Jean P. said...

While working at an international airport as contract labor, I was required to be patted down up to ten times every day. The many TSA officers who I worked with were ALWAYS professional and respected every person with whom they interacted. They do a great job, protecting people who do not appreciate them, and don't understand the difficulty of their job.

Anonymous said...

I feel the TSA does what it must to prevent unsafe materials brought on planes. I feel that everyone who attempts to carry a gun or other restricted item should be arrested on the spot. Pat down anyone who has a suspicious item being registered by electronic equipment. People just want to sue to get a free ride. No way- pat them down for my safety.

Anonymous said...

TSA is doing their job well. Flying out of RDU, CVG, AUS, SAT, DFW and JFK on numerous occasions, I have never experienced any negative issues with TSA or with their screening process.

They have also been both professional and polite.

Anonymous said...

In any group you'll find a rotten apple. Discard it and be done with. I am assuming your people forewarn verbally, before the physical inspection. Any individual claiming ignorance carrying illegal items should not let go that easy, specially with today's communication so much improved.
REMEMBER DECENT PEOPLE ARE BEHIND YOU
PROTECTING PEOPLE FROM THE NON DESIRABLE

Anonymous said...


The TSA has a responsibility for today. Yesterday was to late for New York City; tomorrow is not An An acceptable procedure.

Read the TSA accumulation for the weapons of violence today and yesterday since September 11, 2001.

The personal search may have identified some sensitive areas of the body, only the citizen knows this and the TSA United States of America representative does the procedure because they protect you and I.

Dave Ashmanskas said...

Thank you for your continued support and understanding,although TSA may at times hiccup during the processes to protect American freedoms and passage of enterprise- we-the Officers on the front line are dedicated and rely upon the unequivical support of yourself, Congress and the American people.

Susan Richart said...

"To present as fact a handful of passenger complaints from the hundreds of millions of screenings performed each year is a far cry from any standard of objectivity..."

Those complaints come from just 3 airports, Melvin. Would the TSA produce every single complaint of sexual assault from every single airport for the years 2010-2014? If so, what would we see then?

Further, most people, sadly, take the attitude that filing a complaint won't do any good so they don't bother to do so.

Why don't you ask your passengers, in front of television cameras, how they feel about being touched in "private places" by the TSA? You'd change your tune then, Melvin.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Anonymous said...

I continue to wait for some justification for active duty military being included in pre-check, but not retired military or holders of current DoD or LE background investigations. military retirees have at least 20 years documented service to this Nation, pretty much proving their lack of risk. both DoD and LE background investigations should reveal any risk factors. active duty military do not, necessarily, have a background check or any significant length of service. neither citizenship nor a background investigation is required to enlist in the military, in fact there are likely illegal immigrants serving. if it is really about safety, then why are potentially unscreened non-citizens allowed through? sounds like it is just pandering to an admirable group to get PR, not adjusting the rules to ease screening on those who present a lower likelihood of threat.
Let me be clear: pre-911 screening should be the norm. it is all that is required, now that cockpit doors have been reinforced and locked, and flight crews and passengers know that the rules have changed and passivity=death. however, if we are going to continue this massive waste of tax dollars on security theatre, at least have _some_ of the rules make sense. now you're even allowing college kids (kaydets) to endure more reasonable screening, but those who served and sacrificed for 20+ have to take their bloody shoes and belts off!!

Anonymous said...

You can say there is nothing sexual about the pat downs, but your employees are still touching areas that shouldn't be touched than someone's partner. I don't care if they are using the back of the hand to touch these areas, they are still touching these areas.

I think there aren't more complaints because people are intimidated and fear retribution including missing flights. Other people may feel that the assault they receive is ok because anything for safety. Also pat downs are inconsistent from airport to airport. I've had some where they seem reasonable with no genital contact, no fingers in my waistband, etc. Others are excessive with repeated contact with my genitals, hands inside my waistband, etc. Then I have to hope the explosive test swab doesn't false alarm because my hotel had the wrong soap.

It's sad that this report is only for three airports. How many more assaults take place at the many other airports around the country?

Anonymous said...

"Following the brutal and unprovoked attacks against our nation September 11, 2001, the United States Congress moved swiftly to federalize airline passenger screening and established the Transportation Security Administration to get it done."

That's the problem. The swift creation of the TSA and other government acts were overreactions to 9/11. It was a tragedy and shouldn't be forgotten. However the loss of liberty and harassment endured from the TSA is also a tragedy. The locking of cockpit doors and passengers refusing to cooperate with hijackers has done more to prevent another 9/11 than anything the TSA has done.

Now we have the body scanners that are used to facilitate sexual assault. They false alarm too often which allows the TSA to touch passengers when there is nothing there. Plus they are easy to defeat. There are videos elsewhere showing this. The explosive test swabs alarm on common household items such as soap. It's hard to take them seriously when they alarm on harmless items. The liquid ban is idiotic. One large bottle is bad but several small bottles of the same liquid are ok. We have to pay extra for Pre Check which gives us a chance at being screened at a level that everyone should be screened at anyway.

Sadly no politicians will seriously work to eliminate the TSA. They don't want to be seen as weak on security. I think the American public will force them to. The tide is turning.

David C. Hook said...

Dear Mr. Carraway,

Your support of all at TSA is both noteworthy and expected. The guardians of our U.S. Transportation System deserve nothing less. Conducting "nearly 640 million" security screenings per year while discovering over 2,200 firearms is a testament to the effectiveness of TSA's astute and professional employees. Even the dismissals of the two TSA screeners at Denver International Airport last year serve as proof that TSA has processes and procedures in place that help to police itself.

Having reviewed the moderately redacted pages provided to Judicial Watch and knowing that there are likely more screening complaints than those of the five listed airports in the FOIA request, the number of screenings compared to the number of screening complaints represents a formidable and positive signal-to-noise ratio for U.S. National Security. Therefore, I hope that you, the TSA, and the DHS Inspector General take these complaints to heart and resolve them fairly.

There are few things worse for the flock than a sheepdog that develops a taste for sheep.

Thank you for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

David C. Hook, CFII, ATP
Publisher
General Aviation Security Magazine

Adrian said...

When you quote a document directly, it's a good idea to proofread the quotation to make sure you copied it correctly.

Anonymous said...

What term other than "sexual assault" would you use to describe screeners using the naked body scanners to single out attractive passengers in order to grope their genitals?

Anonymous said...

Melvin, have there been more or less complaints about sexual assaults in the form of pat downs since your agency decided to make slow, invasive, and ineffective naked body scanners the primary means by which it screens passengers?

Did you or anyone at the TSA brain trust think that there might be something wrong with a screening technology that has to be supplemented by sticking your hands in people's pants?

Why do you refuse to let people you've singled out to be the victims of "resolution pat-downs" receive such pat-downs in public?

Anonymous said...

How do I know if a screener has exceeded the scope of an "acceptable" pat-down and committed sexual assault against me?

Anonymous said...

http://www.judicialwatch.org/press-room/press-releases/judicial-watch-tsa-records-detail-alleged-sexual-assaults-of-travelers-at-three-u-s-airports/

Susan Richart said...

Where's my first comment, Bob/West?

Did I use the correct word instead of "resistance" and therefore, my comment got censored?

Posting the supportive comments first?

Anonymous said...

How many attacks like 911 have we had since then????
Perhaps TSA is doing the job they were created to do... in spite of the public's ignorant objections!

Anonymous said...

Forget the pat downs, what explanation does O'Hare have for letting hundreds of passengers go through pre-check who have not been pre-screened? My husband and I surrendered personal information over to TSA in order to go through pre-screening and O'Hare allow many others who were not prescreened to pass through. This was done because they were backed up. So how does this make us safer?

RB said...

"The basis of Judicial Watch’s press release is a compilation of complaints filed by passengers who received a pat down as part of the security screening process."

Ok, then post the records of investigations and results so we can all see what TSA did in response to passenger complaints of sexual assault by TSA screeners..

This reponse shouldn't take the year that TSA stonewalled Judicial Watch for requesting the complaint records.

Anonymous said...

Hey Melvin,

What are you doing about protecting your employees and the millions of innocent passengers at airports?

Faulty equipment leading to exposure to x-rays and even higher failure rates of the scanning equipment.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/11/politics/tsa-inspector-general-report/

Puddintane said...

Interesting reading here:

http://tinyurl.com/l5scn7e

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, just perhaps if you would train you clerks to do their job correctly, you may not get any complaints from the public.by the way when are you going to answer my question on answering questions asked to you with a straight answer?

Anonymous said...

I do not see anything inappropriate with TSA's response to the Judicial Watch report. Comments that mock the identification of individuals in possession of loaded firearms while attempting to board an aircraft, accurately portray the intellect of purveyors of the "Great TSA Conspiracy" to rob them of their civil rights. Be assured, those screeching the loudest would the first in line to file a lawsuit were TSA to fail at what they do.

@SkyWayManAz said...

TSA doesn't seem to understand or even care that Denver happened because they allowed it to. Their policies time and time again have encouraged inappropriate behavior and allowed it to continue despite complaints. How many postings have there been on this very blog over the years by passengers claiming they received a painful retaliation pat down? I haven't seen any concern expressed by TSA officials over that type of behavior so is anyone really surprised this happened? No, not really. So much so this story pretty much dropped off the radar after a few days. Except now TSA is being forced to respond to a group that has taken governmental agencies to court. Unfortunately that's the only venue TSA has ever really been answerable to the American public. That may be why the TSA inspector witnessing the crime let the victims in Denver slip back into the crowd. That prevented any potential investigations they wouldn't be able to control. Again is anyone really surprised by that behavior? No, because it sounds like how a major religious faith or a very prominent university football program handled accusations not completely dissimilar to avoid bad publicity.

Chris Boyce said...

Mel,

Did Francine Kerner tell you it was legally OK to assert that a resolution patdown isn't sexual? What is your rationale, especially the rationale you plan to use in court under oath some day?

While we're on the subject, what legal authority do you have to demand that a citizen submit to a resolution patdown in a private room? What are you trying to hide from the American public?

RB said...

 David C. Hook said..

.Dear Mr. Carraway,Your support of all at TSA is both noteworthy and expected
. .................snipped.........................

Publisher General Aviation Security Magazine
May 14, 2015 at 11:02 AM

*****************************
Since you are so Pro for TSA security why sren't you calling for full time TSA screenings at General Aviation airports?

Anonymous said...

It took a long time to get new comments "approved" and I know my comment was not posted even though it met all of your posting guidelines.

I contend that the there have not been any successful attacks since the TSA took over because terrorists aren't trying. They don't have to do anything. They've already succeeded in making us spend billions of dollars and wasting countless hours with invasive security measures that don't make us safer. I see it like Lisa Simpson's "Tiger Repellent Rock". Since she hasn't seen any tigers, it must be working. The same logic applies to the TSA.

Alfred Baum said...

Thanks to TSA air travel is the safest it has ever been, period. The very few that complain about security related matters at our airports, will always complain regardless, they should be ignored.

Anonymous said...

I dont fly that often and would not at all if I had a choice. I use to love to fly but since 9-11 the quality of passenger service has gone down the toilet. I get the need for security etc. But there is no need for rudeness and belittling travelers. That is the only experience I have had with all TSA employees and about 95% of airport employees. No thank you please etc. I saw several people made to cry by the rude behavior and agents / employees laughing or smirking about it.

You can complain, which I did, and it was made clear that it would go on my travel record etc. The rules are very confusing and you are expected to move like lightening, god help you if you have a disability, you are given a special hazing from what I have seen and read about.

I am glad we have safer airlines but there is no room for anger, mocking, rude behavior to do this job. Like I said I wont fly unless it is absolutely needed. I have turned down a few really good jobs because I just cannot stand how people are treated at the airport and on the airlines.

Brian

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Alfred Baum said...
Thanks to TSA air travel is the safest it has ever been, period

~~~~~~~~~~

Citation needed please.

What data are you using to come to the conclusion that TSA has improved security? How many years before TSA are you using for comparison? And how are you calculating the impacts of September 11th? Because the current TSA, if moved back in time to September 10th, would not have prevented what happened on September 11th.

Anonymous said...

This is the FIFTH time I've tried to submit a comment on this post. ALL FOUR previous comments met blog policy. ALL FOUR were deleted by West Cooper, Lynn Dean, Curtis Burns, or an anonymous co-worker.

Why is a government agency deleting American public comments on a government website?!

Lisa Simeone said...

Still censoring comments, I see.

Anonymous said...

Odd how some of the comments with the same sentiments, and often the same words, were approved, but none of mine were.

It's almost as if the blog team is looking at the IP addresses, and deleting all comments from place X.

So strange since the blog team insists it never looks at identifying information of the commenters. I mean, they claim that they cannot tell who is a TSA employee, but TSA employee and apologist comments are always approved.

How many comments have you delayed, blog team?

How many comments have you deleted, blog team?

When are you going to start answering real questions by American citizens, instead of sucking up to your "anonymous" buddies?

Screenshot taken.

Paul A. said...

Good job Mr. Carraway, keep up the good work. To all of the naysayers, the TSA is absolutely necessary for the protection of all travelers, including you. I personally don't have a problem with a simple pat-down if it is warranted and the justification can be easily articulated to me. Too many people are simply looking for something to stir the pot about or seeking a frivolous lawsuit. I have been in public safety all of my adult life and can tell you from first hand experience that the world as I knew it has changed. Procedures are put in place to keep people as safe as possible and that need will most likely continue long after you and I are gone.

Anonymous said...

Paul A. said...
Good job Mr. Carraway, keep up the good work. To all of the naysayers, the TSA is absolutely necessary for the protection of all travelers, including you.

~~~~~~

Really? Then about all those other countries that don't have TSA? They don't seem to have issues with terrorists taking down planes. Why is that if TSA is so necessary?

RB said...

Paul A. said...
Good job Mr. Carraway, keep up the good work. To all of the naysayers, the TSA is absolutely necessary for the protection of all travelers, including you. I personally don't have a problem with a simple pat-down if it is warranted and the justification can be easily articulated to me. Too many people are simply looking for something to stir the pot about or seeking a frivolous lawsuit. I have been in public safety all of my adult life and can tell you from first hand experience that the world as I knew it has changed. Procedures are put in place to keep people as safe as possible and that need will most likely continue long after you and I are gone.

May 19, 2015 at 8:35 PM
..................
TSA needs neither justification or cause to conduct a pat down.

Why is that standard ok for TSA but not for a real law enforcement officer?

If TSA thinks a person is concealing something illegal or dangerous it should be a police matter at that point as it is clearly no longer an Administrative Search.

Anonymous said...

Remember American citizens, if you ask Melvin Carraway if he is kidding with this ridiculous attempt to justify assault of innocent people, the comment will be deleted.

US Government employees are deleting comments that meet blog policy on a government website, in violation of the First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

West Cooper, what is the name of the TSA employee or contractor who deleted the comments mentioned below:

" Anonymous said...
This is the FIFTH time I've tried to submit a comment on this post. ALL FOUR previous comments met blog policy. ALL FOUR were deleted by West Cooper, Lynn Dean, Curtis Burns, or an anonymous co-worker.

Why is a government agency deleting American public comments on a government website?!

May 19, 2015 at 1:44 PM"

Susan Richart said...

"West Cooper, what is the name of the TSA employee or contractor who deleted the comments mentioned below:"

It's still there.

Adrian said...

Why was my comment not posted?

I spent a lot of time tracking down citations showing how the TSA seems to have more than its fair share of "bad apples."

Anonymous said...

To Susan, not the comment of May 19, 2015 at 1:44 PM, but rather the comments mentioned in that comment, if that makes sense. Four comments by an American citizen that met blog policies were deleted. What TSA employee or contractor did it?

West, do you have an answer now?

Susan Richart said...

"..but rather the comments mentioned in that comment..."

Yes, it makes sense. West/Bob/Whoever has been deleting many comments that meet the TOS of this blog. The OIG has received several complaints and is, I believe, acting on at least one of them.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Anonymous said...

You people will always find something to complain about. This is not even about "bad apples", it is about one unjustified complaint from another Officer. This is *ALLEGED* behavior, in case you can't read/comprehend simple English.

Melvin, you do not need to explain yourself at all to the crybabies who post here. They do not understand that what you are doing is for their own good. I know that the Officers in question will have their jobs reinstated immediately and they can go back to doing the good work of protecting the citizens of the Greatest Country that has Ever Existed on the Face of the Earth... yes, even those people who complain too much.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You people will always find something to complain about. This is not even about "bad apples", it is about one unjustified complaint from another Officer. This is *ALLEGED* behavior, in case you can't read/comprehend simple English.

Melvin, you do not need to explain yourself at all to the crybabies who post here. They do not understand that what you are doing is for their own good.

So you are saying Melvin is just following orders?

Anonymous said...

Hey TSAnonymous, if the US really was the "Greatest Country that has Ever Existed on the Face of the Earth," we wouldn't have the awful and unConstitutional TSA policies and procedures.

Stop trying to suck up to your bosses. They don't read this blog, obviously.

Anonymous said...

West, why did you approve another attack on the taxpaying American public by an anonymous TSA employee on this government website?

Anonymous, June 1, 2:59pm violates blog policy.

Anonymous said...

How would you recommend they find objects and potential weapons hidden between breasts, groin area and back pockets then? You want to chance the safety of our nation instead of having TSA thoroughly screen passengers? Have you seen some of the dangerous items that people carry on their person and try to bring onto planes? If you don't like it, get a car and drive. Nobody forces you to fly anywhere, that is your choice.