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"It's funny, 'cause its a joke...right?"
January 21, 2010 8:24 PM   Subscribe

TSA plants white powder on someone as a "joke." via Consumerist
posted by plaidrabbit (132 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
And if he (or a cop or anyone else in law enforcement) actually wanted to frame her, she would have proved her innocence...how?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:26 PM on January 21, 2010 [31 favorites]


The TSA didn't do it, some soon to be ex-TSA employee did this all on his own. What a jerk.
posted by caddis at 8:26 PM on January 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


To be fair, this seems entirely appropriate - the TSA is pretty much just a big joke at this point.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:27 PM on January 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Not sure why you didn't link to the quoted article...
posted by amro at 8:28 PM on January 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Heh. Real funny joke. Hold on a second . . . yeah it's a real knee slapper. Those guys at the TSA a bunch of cut ups those guys.
posted by nola at 8:28 PM on January 21, 2010


I'd like this article more without the heavy handed editorialising within it.
posted by Effigy2000 at 8:28 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm sure it was a lot funnier in their head.
posted by aubilenon at 8:29 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"AAAAAAAAAH I'M JES FUCKIN' WITH YA! You can pull your pants back up."
posted by fatbird at 8:33 PM on January 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


What this woman went through was plenty bad (and imma let you finish), but my reserves of liberal outrage and empathy are pretty much spent right now.
posted by Flashman at 8:42 PM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, I feel safer already. I can just imagine laughing.

No wait, that's terror. Yes, I would be terrorized. After the waterboarding (because clearly, I must be resistant to normal interrogation techniques with my frantic pleas of innocence), then it would be funny.

Oh, wait, no it wouldn't, I'd still be terrorized.

Yeah, TSA. I feel safer already.
posted by yeloson at 8:44 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey! I know a good joke!

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because you're going to jail for 15-25 years for possession of narcotics!
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:47 PM on January 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


This is so bizarre. Like Flashman, it's hard for me to summon a lot of outrage for it, but the whole thing squicks me out something awful.

Also, I'm not usually one to play the gender card, but does anyone else get the feeling that the soon-to-be-ex-TSA-employee wouldn't have done this to a male?
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:48 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"AAAAAAAAAH I'M JES FUCKIN' WITH YA! You can pull your pants back up."

Mountain Man: I bet you can squeal like a pig. Weeeeeeee!
Bobby: Weee!
Mountain Man: Weeeeeeee!
Bobby: Weee!
posted by bwg at 8:52 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thousands Standing Around (and planting illicit white powders on you for a laugh. C'mon, laugh!)
posted by porn in the woods at 8:59 PM on January 21, 2010


She should have grabbed it from him and ate it. Then the joke would be on him.
posted by longsleeves at 9:04 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does this mean I can tell the joke about the bomb on the plane now? It kills 'em every time.
Um. I mean, it's funny... right?

Hey! Where are you taking me?
posted by bashos_frog at 9:06 PM on January 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


What this woman went through was plenty bad (and imma let you finish), but my reserves of liberal outrage and empathy are pretty much spent right now.

Yeah, I'm usually pretty outraged by just about everything I read involving the TSA at this point, but I find myself putting this more into the 'soon-to-be-ex-employee with a quirky sense of humor and poor judgment' category.

Not that I would be surprised if some bureaucratic nincompoop at DHS over-reacts, has her followed, taps her phone, bans her from flying, and then refuses to discuss the issue based on some bullshit claim that it is a matter of national security. That sounds more like the government I've come to expect, so I'll save my feelings of outrage for when that happens.
posted by Avelwood at 9:06 PM on January 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Think of the fun they could have with those full body scanners! Hahahaha!!!
posted by Meatbomb at 9:11 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


When they steal your awesome laptop out of your baggage, no one says, "Haha, just kidding!"
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:12 PM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Next up on TSA Agents Do The Funniest Things...

When rectal searches go wrong!
posted by djgh at 9:14 PM on January 21, 2010


TSA plants white powder on someone as a "joke."

Security "burlesque" theatre?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:19 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't travel for business, and I don't visit my family much.

I may seriously never board another airplane again. I may just wait for peak oil to end casual air travel and call myself "ahead of the curve".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:22 PM on January 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Rebecca's firsthand account in her university's main student newspaper, which this article seems based on.
posted by mnemonic at 9:24 PM on January 21, 2010


Let's give a bunch of morons arbitrary power over everyone who wants to travel! I'm sure it'll be great!
posted by grobstein at 9:24 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Delta informed her that she would be fully reimbursed for the stolen items as long as she had original receipts for anything costing more than $150. Some employees told her it would take 2 months, others said 6 months. As for reimbursement for fees or airfare, the initial response was that her request was unreasonable and she would only get what she deserved.

Delta's position that they shouldn't refund the checked bag fee when it turns out the service of baggage transportation was not rendered as agreed is unreasonable.
posted by wierdo at 9:28 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The TSA didn't do it, some soon to be ex-TSA employee did this all on his own.

That's a false distinction. The employee was only able to accomplish this by acting as an agent of the TSA. I hope she finds a good lawyer and sues the living fuck out of them both.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2010 [22 favorites]


On not preview: To forestall any confusion, that was a quote from Jimmy Havok's link, not from the post at hand.
posted by wierdo at 9:32 PM on January 21, 2010


Hey, it's just a joke! Everyone knows if you get offended by a joke you're just a humorless bitch/asshole who needs to lighten up!
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


This seems like an indication that there are some major problems either with the screening process for TSA employees, the training, or both. This prank smacks of some bored high school student snickering about blowing snot rockets into your cheeseburger at the drive-through. It does not scream 'law enforcement official' or even 'mall cop'. It's like no one's taking this seriously, least of all the TSA.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 9:39 PM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Surely this....
posted by dhartung at 9:40 PM on January 21, 2010


That's a false distinction.

Not really. If you wanted to be accurate, you'd say that a TSA agent did this, not the "TSA" (which implies that the agency as a collective unit committed the act, presumably as a matter of policy). Even the Consumerist, which is often prone to amping up the outrage, makes this distinction.
posted by dhammond at 9:47 PM on January 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


This security theater shit is just the latest in a long line of deeply offensive, ineffective, inexplicable, government fuckups. Any reasonably informed person can cite countless instances of the TSA doing absolutely nothing to retard terrorism or other types of criminal behavior at airports. Thus far the most effective counter-terrorism policy at airports and on airplanes appears to be unassuming private citizens kicking suspicious people in the nuts.

The TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the ineffective surveillance programs employed by (at least) the CIA and FBI need to be disbanded and the individual morons responsible for idiots like this need to be named, shamed, and excluded from future public employment. I don't need to go through a metal detector to travel half a day from my home, I don't need to take off my shoes and belt, I don't need to play along to cover up the (occasionally sensible) profiling that obviously goes on currently, and I certainly don't need to make nice with some rent-a-cop reject unfit to police the fucking Orange Julius trash can and glare at unruly teenage girls outside of Hot Topic.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:47 PM on January 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


That's a false distinction. The employee was only able to accomplish this by acting as an agent of the TSA. I hope she finds a good lawyer and sues the living fuck out of them both.

Nonsense. What the agent did could not, in any sense, be considered part of his job or part of what the TSA hired him to do or was conceivably inside the TSA's mission. If I go to the office and unpredictably punch out a coworker, is my employer responsible for facilitating assault?
posted by fatbird at 9:51 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a hard time believing that the destruction of the airline industry is by accident. The TSA seems specifically designed to make sure no one ever flies by choice again.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:56 PM on January 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


What the agent did could not, in any sense, be considered part of his job or part of what the TSA hired him to do or was conceivably inside the TSA's mission.

There would have been no way for him to do what he did unless he had a TSA badge. This incident points to the larger problem of how much undue power a broken security agency has to abuse passengers without much apparent consequence. Thank God she wasn't flying to Thailand.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:57 PM on January 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know...I think it's kinda funny.

Did I just fail OutrageFilter?
posted by ford and the prefects at 10:04 PM on January 21, 2010


Actually, I'm pretty sure you can be arrested if you represent something as narcotics, even if it is not, so I'd be pretty happy to see this TSA agent get put away for a long time. They hold us to a ridiculous, humorless standard when it comes to, say, joking about bombs. I think the converse is only fair when they joke about planting drugs.

Actually, I kind of like the idea of a generalized 'give no tolerance, get no tolerance' policy for anyone charged with enforcing no tolerance rules. You want to live in a universe outside of mercy, you should be the one to live with the downsides.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:05 PM on January 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


If I go to the office and unpredictably punch out a coworker, is my employer responsible for facilitating assault?

Maybe. Was your employer on any sort of notice that this you had violent tendencies? If so, were any actions taken to reduce the risk to coworkers? Was a background check performed before you were hired? If so, what did it show? If not, what would have it shown? When you take a case like that to a lawyer these, and others, are questions that will be asked.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:31 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge deserves to be planted with a kilo of powdered favorites for hitting on why it doesn't matter if this was one rogue TSA dumbshit or Obama himself ordering the joke.

This is about as clear a counterpoint as we're ever going to get to the platitudes about how "our security agents are just trying to keep us safe and how dare we question their motives et cetera."

And consequently, it's as clear and strong an argument as we would ever need to demand accountability and transparency and basic rights to those who have been accused of crimes; whether they be drug-related, terrorism-related, or even the dreaded more-than-two-ounces-of-mouthwash traitors.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:32 PM on January 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Mitrovarr wrote: "Actually, I'm pretty sure you can be arrested if you represent something as narcotics, even if it is not, so I'd be pretty happy to see this TSA agent get put away for a long time."

While the schadenfreudey part of me agrees, the rational part of me hopes that doesn't happen. Narcotics analogue laws are high up there with civil forfeiture on my list of "stupid things the anti-drug hysteria has gotten us."
posted by wierdo at 10:53 PM on January 21, 2010


There would have been no way for him to do what he did unless he had a TSA badge. This incident points to the larger problem of how much undue power a broken security agency has to abuse passengers without much apparent consequence.

Which still says nothing about what the TSA wanted him to do, or told him to do, or implicitly condoned through an atmosphere that encourages jokes like that with travellers.

C'mon, you're really reaching here. He abused his position in a way that no TSA official would ever give him permission for, and got fired for it. There's plenty of reasons to hate the TSA without blaming someone's monumentally misguided sense of humour on them.
posted by fatbird at 11:11 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If I go to the office and unpredictably punch out a coworker, is my employer responsible for facilitating assault?

Maybe. Was your employer on any sort of notice that this you had violent tendencies? If so, were any actions taken to reduce the risk to coworkers? Was a background check performed before you were hired? If so, what did it show? If not, what would have it shown?


Which part of 'unpredictably' can't you read?
posted by Avelwood at 11:12 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe. Was your employer on any sort of notice that this you had violent tendencies? If so, were any actions taken to reduce the risk to coworkers? Was a background check performed before you were hired? If so, what did it show? If not, what would have it shown? When you take a case like that to a lawyer these, and others, are questions that will be asked.

Agreed. Has there been any indication that the fired employee in question had a history of pranking travellers like this and gotten away with it? Then there'd be a supervisory issue to his joke. But if I walk into my office one day and punch out a coworker with no history of violence and no indications to anyone that I might do it, it's really a stretch to hold my employer culpable.
posted by fatbird at 11:13 PM on January 21, 2010


got fired for it

That's not confirmed, is it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 PM on January 21, 2010


That's not confirmed, is it?

Well, he's not at his job anymore, and it's a safe assumption the two are connected, I think.
posted by fatbird at 11:19 PM on January 21, 2010


it's a safe assumption the two are connected, I think.

He's gone, and that's great, but given the general hijinx and crazy mix-em-ups going on at the TSA, and that, apparently, no spokesperson on TSA's blog has appeared to make a no-nonsense statement about how utterly inappropriate its agent's behavior was, it's hardly conclusive he was fired, as opposed to, say, given indefinite paid leave or something else that keeps higher-ups from being embarrassed publicly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is all covered at the original story at Philly.com:

Davis said privacy law prevents her from identifying the TSA employee. The law prevents her from disclosing what sort of discipline he might have received.

"The TSA views this employee's behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional," she wrote. "We can assure travelers this employee has been disciplined by TSA management at Philadelphia International Airport, and he has expressed remorse for his actions."


Pretty straightforward stuff, and it seems about as "no-nonsense" as you're going to get from a government entity like the TSA.
posted by dhammond at 11:38 PM on January 21, 2010


Looks like it's also been posted on their blog.
posted by dhammond at 11:42 PM on January 21, 2010


Pretty straightforward stuff, and it seems about as "no-nonsense" as you're going to get from a government entity like the TSA.

I'm being honest when asking what "disciplined" means. What laws are preventing disclosure? Using a law enforcement (or "homeland security") position to frame people for carrying narcotics seems like a fairly serious matter, doesn't it?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:46 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like it's also been posted on their blog.

About twenty minutes ago.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:48 PM on January 21, 2010


Not sure what the specific law is that prohibits the TSA from talking about this, but my guess is that if the guy broke a specific law (and I certainly hope that there's a law against what he did), there's a good chance he'll be charged at some point. But that's up to a prosecutor and not something the TSA is likely to comment upon at any point. This is a pretty standard operating procedure for federal agencies.
posted by dhammond at 11:55 PM on January 21, 2010


Seriously, BP, do you not have enough in your day to get angry about?
posted by fatbird at 12:04 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously, BP, do you not have enough in your day to get angry about?

I'm more amazed at the apathy, than angry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:05 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apathy at what? A dumbass in a position of authority played a heartless joke and isn't in that position of authority anymore. Health care reform is dead, the U.S. tortures people to death, and this is something we should get excited about?
posted by fatbird at 12:11 AM on January 22, 2010


Apathy at what? A dumbass in a position of authority played a heartless joke and isn't in that position of authority anymore.

Apathy would be agreeing to call it a joke, for starters. I don't know, that's just me, sorry.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:13 AM on January 22, 2010


What would you call it? A cruel prank? Sure. An asshole display?
posted by fatbird at 12:16 AM on January 22, 2010


I'd use an adjective like symptomatic, perhaps. If the TSA used incidents like these to publicly lead calls for internal reforms, like staff training and better pay and screening protocols, wouldn't that mean they take the issue more seriously?

Beyond the matter of pranking, what if an employee planted an explosive device in a passenger's carry-on after inspection? The apathy masks a lot more about what's wrong about this than just wacky hijinx, to me.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:23 AM on January 22, 2010


Take what issue more seriously? Shitty pranks by employees?

A dumbass did a dumbass thing and lost his job for it. It happens in large organizations around the world every day. I'm pretty sure that a very sternly worded memo will go around first thing tomorrow. It's not symptomatic of anything. If it wasn't such a wrongheaded attempt at being funny, it would probably have been welcome. On my last trip to Vegas the guy who inspected my companion's bag swapped gambling tips with him. A little humanity is usually welcome in the authority figures we confront every day.

what if an employee planted an explosive device in a passenger's carry-on after inspection?

Or what if he hadn't told her it was a joke, and took her in the back room and threatened to arrest her if she didn't have sex with him... I can't believe the TSA isn't jumping on that scenario with both feet and mandatory training classes.
posted by fatbird at 12:48 AM on January 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's called "vicarious liability". I've no idea how the law works in PA but here the question is whether the employee was doing what they're paid to do but in a douchy way (not the precise legal term). So essentially what BP said. If it's what you get paid to do and you could only do it because that's your job, then your employer is liable if you do it in a nasty way.

Your job is to write programs but you turn up to work and punch someone? Employer probably not liable. You job is to punch people who cause trouble and you punch someone not causing trouble? They probably are. Your job is to check people for white powder and exploding underpants and you make a bomb joke? Exercise for the reader.
posted by GeckoDundee at 1:46 AM on January 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


What would you call it? A cruel prank? Sure. An asshole display?

It's called "an abuse of power" and the shithead who did it should have his name plastered all over the internet since I can damn well guarantee that it's not the first time he abused his position.
posted by cmonkey at 1:59 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can't believe the TSA isn't jumping on that scenario with both feet and mandatory training classes.

With that, fatbird, I think you're proving Blazecock's point: TSA is culpable in that they put joker-boy in a role of authority -- and not just as a front-line TSA guard, but as a trainer who is supposed to impart knowledge and a professional example to the front-line guys --, gave him a gun and a badge, and yes, the baggie of fake coke as a training tool.

And yet they either didn't give him the training you agree they should have, or they did but didn't supervise him closely enough to figure out he didn't take that trainig, and his badge and his oath seriously.

When a low-level or mid-level type like this screws up this egregiously, when it's not an accident but an intentinal and willful contravention of rules and training, it's often a symptom of a management that isn't doing its job of managing, that has created or allowed to flourish a fuck-all, fuck-off, or cowboy atmosphere.

It's a management problem, and it needs to go up the chain, rather than -- as has become habit, written off as "a few low-level bad apples". It used to be that something like this meant that a political appointee took personal responsibility for fuck-ups on his watch, and did the honorable thibngt and resigned.

Now we get mealy-mouthed non-apology apologies from PR hacks who invariably end with some version of "it's a permanent emergency, so ignore this and support our troops".

Or as the TSA blog avoids responsibility: "Incidents like this are a kick in the gut to our entire workforce who strive daily to do their best and keep the next attack from happening on their watch." Hey look, it hurt us more than it hurt the op poor girl, we're all an edge waiting for the next attack. No, your guy wasn't on edge, he was being a goof-off and a bully, and he figured he could get away with it because the TSA has routinely sidestepped accountability.

TSA blog should have told the truth: "we fucked up" and then added: "and here's our plan to prevent this in the future".
posted by orthogonality at 2:03 AM on January 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


It's also interesting to see the imbalance of power here; the TSA agent may, may have lost his job.

Had she tried something similar, trying to 'fool' a TSA agent in some way, she'd be facing 10+ years in Federal prison.
posted by Malor at 2:17 AM on January 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


The action of the TSA employee is criminal. Attempting to plant drugs is a frame up - whether he owned up to it or not is not the issue. He's committed an offence of providing false evidence, false testimony in order to falsely prove someone guilty of a crime they did not commit — By His Own Admission.

Given his position and authority - this is doubly egregious.


The police should have been called in and witnesses names taken down.


May she hire a criminal lawyer who specializes in these cases and press criminal charges and sues for being victimized by this employee of TSA. The guy is a predator and things could have taken a much more serious turn here.
We passengers want to be protected from abuse, thank you, it Is our right.


This is not a 'joke' as that TSA employee thinks.
posted by alicesshoe at 2:24 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one that thinks it would be kind of a funny exciting thing to have added to your travels? Unprofessional for sure, but I think if it happened to me or a friend of mine I'd think it was pretty funny.
posted by floam at 2:49 AM on January 22, 2010


If a cop planted drugs on me (real or not), I would absolutely go after the department. This case is no different. It was an on-duty TSA officer, in the course of his job, committing a "prank" directly related to his official duties.

Those of you arguing the TSA shouldn't be sued are in effect saying the TSA is not responsible for the misconduct of its officers. But they need to be held responsible because they are the ones charged with hiring, training, supervising, and disciplining the officers. And why does any organization train its employees? Mostly it's to avoid getting sued.

This specific incident is most likely the result of poor judgement and an unprofessional approach to the job. These deficiencies can be corrected by better employee training and supervision. Lawsuits motivate such improvements.
posted by ryanrs at 3:04 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


There is no such thing as a few bad apples in a barrel! The whole point of that metaphor is that rot spreads when it isn't dealt with fast. And whoever his managers are should be fired for gross negligance.
posted by Francis at 3:16 AM on January 22, 2010


"The TSA views this employee's behavior to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional," she wrote. "We can assure travelers this employee has been disciplined by TSA management at Philadelphia International Airport, and he has expressed remorse for his actions."

Not fired? Now it is also the TSA not just some dumb employee.
posted by caddis at 3:34 AM on January 22, 2010


"...and as of today, the employee is no longer with TSA," she continued.

The TSA blog says the employee was fired.
posted by ryanrs at 3:46 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You flyboys really crack me.
posted by Elmore at 3:48 AM on January 22, 2010


...once I reached the front of the security line, I was ready for my usual routine. I took off my coat and sweatshirt and put my scarf and shoes in the bins. I took out my laptop, placing it in a separate container, and sent it down on the conveyer belt.

TSA idiot aside, I hate people who do this.
posted by i_cola at 3:49 AM on January 22, 2010


Tefellin is all I gots to say.
posted by fixedgear at 3:50 AM on January 22, 2010


TSA AGENTS STOLE MY BABBY!
posted by banishedimmortal at 3:53 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems hardly fair to hold the management of a company with thousands of employees in hundreds of locations personally responsible for the truly stupid decision of one grunt. Having said that, go lawsuit!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:58 AM on January 22, 2010


TSA idiot aside, I hate people who do this.

Am I missing something? That sounds like the drill to me.
posted by floam at 4:19 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]



...once I reached the front of the security line, I was ready for my usual routine. I took off my coat and sweatshirt and put my scarf and shoes in the bins. I took out my laptop, placing it in a separate container, and sent it down on the conveyer belt.

TSA idiot aside, I hate people who do this.


Do what? Laptop in a separate container is mandatory, at least here in Canada. Or at least requested. Putting the shoes in the bin is a bit much, but it depends on the shoes: one pair of mine always go off, so if I forget and wear them, I'll remove them.
Unless you mean spelling conveyer with an (other) e, then I'm right with you.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:22 AM on January 22, 2010


It seems hardly fair to hold the management of a company with thousands of employees in hundreds of locations personally responsible for the truly stupid decision of one grunt.

Yes, the manager should not be personally responsible, assuming the truly stupid decision wasn't a recurring problem. Nevertheless, the company as a whole is collectively responsible.
posted by ryanrs at 4:36 AM on January 22, 2010


Sorry, the bolding dropped off

'...once I reached the front of the security line...'
posted by i_cola at 4:41 AM on January 22, 2010


Yeah, I'm down with collective responsibility, as it theoretically makes management more vigilant. Personal responsibility on management would come up if, for example, an interoffice memo surfaced reading, "Plant powdered stuff on random passengers."
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:51 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


In that vein, this reminds me of something that happened to me. I found a dollar on the floor of an electronics store. I pick it up, and seconds later a mallcop approaches me and tells me to come to the security office with him. There, he asks for the dollar, and then tells me he has me on tape taking other stuff. So I say "Show me," he pauses a beat, then laughs, saying he was kidding. Maybe this TSA guy had similar ideas of trying to land a bust through deceit. Pretty bone stupid thing to do either way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:00 AM on January 22, 2010


It's simpler than that: she's an attractive younger woman, and he's a bully who gets off on power-tripping and making her cry. She's going to college, probably dresses and carries luggage showing that she comes from an upper-middle class family, he's in a middle-middle or lower-middle class job.
posted by orthogonality at 5:18 AM on January 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wouldn't dismiss that theory, either.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:38 AM on January 22, 2010


Well, technically he may have been "allowed to resign". We really ought to know this guys name.

Oh, and the TSA still doesn't have an official director, because Senator Jim DeMint placed a hold on Obama's nominee, who finally dropped his nomination. All because he wouldn't say if he would allow TSA agents to be unionized. Not that he was for unionization, just that he said he didn't know what the situation on that was.
posted by delmoi at 5:47 AM on January 22, 2010


Nope, it's even simpler than that: He was hitting on her.
posted by LordSludge at 5:47 AM on January 22, 2010


If he was hitting on her, I shudder to think what some of his other maneuvers have been. What a smooth character.

I'm no psychiatrist, but I'm starting to lean towards "because he's a dick" on this one. IMAO.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:23 AM on January 22, 2010


You get what you pay for in this world. What's the salary range for any on the ground TSA job? Anyone know?
posted by spicynuts at 6:33 AM on January 22, 2010


I hope she finds a good lawyer and sues the living fuck out of them both.

According to the writeup on philly.com, her father's a lawyer.
posted by EarBucket at 6:39 AM on January 22, 2010


Starting salary for an entry level TSA screener ranges from $23,400 to $35,000 per year, just slightly better than the federal minimum wage of $14,500.
posted by caddis at 6:40 AM on January 22, 2010


When my wife and I flew to Vegas, a TSA employee joked about confiscating some of our stuff. Meanwhile, two others were jerking us around by alternately ordering us to stay where we were or keep moving. Yeah, fun times.
posted by Foosnark at 6:49 AM on January 22, 2010


On a flight back east from the West Coast last week, the TSA opened my luggage and rifled through my possessions. They found and pulled out a bag of dried, legal and edible Candy Cap mushrooms. The sealed bag was opened, and left on top of my things, with the standard calling card slip that they use. I can only assume that the mushrooms were what they were after, they're wasn't much else in the bag other than clothing.

I had always thought that the TSA existed only to search for bombs, weapons and and other security threats. But, according to this WSJ article, they often go further than that and search for drugs and "other contraband" as well. I guess it's just time to write my congressmen (again).
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:57 AM on January 22, 2010


23-35 k is not a bad starting salary, and with benefits is waay better than minimum wage. And yes, this is a terrible, stupid, hurtful joke. It is criminal. You notice the coward did this thing to a petite woman rather than a 6' 4" linebacker.
posted by Mister_A at 7:02 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fly too much, and out of Hartsfield, the world's busiest and hardest airport to navigate. I can completely relate to the poor student who was harrassed. Too often our interactions with airport personnel can color our entire traveling experience.

If something like this happened to me I'd be angry for days, it would rent space in my brain and probably cause my blood pressure to go into the red zone.

Air travel is stressful enough without some clown doing something stupid like this. If I were Ms. Solomon, I'd raise cain right there, insisting on a manager, etc. I'm fairly sure that if that were the case that some cops would appear from out back and attempt to "subdue" me.

We have handed much of our power over to the governement, the TSA and law enforcement can do pretty much anything in the name of "the war on terror" and we just have to chalk it up to the "way things are".

Is it too much to ask that a TSA employee be as pleasant and professional as possible while doing the job the government has employed him or her to do?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:06 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


...once I reached the front of the security line, I was ready for my usual routine. I took off my coat and sweatshirt and put my scarf and shoes in the bins. I took out my laptop, placing it in a separate container, and sent it down on the conveyer belt.

TSA idiot aside, I hate people who do this.


Why? I've been in many airports where the agents explicitly tell you to put laptops in a separate bin with nothing on top of them.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:10 AM on January 22, 2010


Is it too much to ask that a TSA employee be as pleasant and professional as possible while doing the job the government has employed him or her to do?

To be fair, most of them are polite and respectful.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:12 AM on January 22, 2010


Airport security is a joke. The only reason there aren't more attacks is that 99.9999% of us are decent people.
posted by zzazazz at 7:13 AM on January 22, 2010


German TV highlights failings of body scanners.
posted by gman at 7:24 AM on January 22, 2010


See, I like the TSA because they make me feel safe.
posted by Legomancer at 7:27 AM on January 22, 2010


To be fair, most of them are polite and respectful.

Sure, if you're not dressed in "ethnic" clothing, don't have a "funny" name, not from a "country of interest", or on their list (erroneously or not).
posted by gman at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2010


Sure, if you're not dressed in "ethnic" clothing, don't have a "funny" name, not from a "country of interest", or on their list (erroneously or not).

True, though I usually wear a kufi and I have a beard.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:35 AM on January 22, 2010


...not to mention that name!
posted by gman at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2010


The TSA's failing in this case is that they did not successfully impart to the employee the gravity of his position. It should be pounded into these guys' heads over and over and over how serious and important their job is.
posted by amro at 7:42 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The TSA's failing in this case is that they did not successfully impart to the employee the gravity of his position. It should be pounded into these guys' heads over and over and over how serious and important their job is.

Perhaps if they would be allowed to form a union, we might see some better training and incentives for better practices and standards rather than the joke empty uniforms at bargain basement contract bids that they are now.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:48 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, from the link:

Answer truthfully, the TSA worker informed her, and everything will be OK.

As an aside, elementary schools really need to start drilling into our kids that you don't ever ever have to answer anything without a lawyer so it wouldn't even occur to a jerkoff guy with a badge to use this kind of statement for leverage.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


We're all so much better off now that they're unionized government employees.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2010


We're all so much better off now that they're unionized government employees.

Eh, generalizations aside if you pay these people better, give them incentive programs, and generally inspire some sense of community and voice within their ranks it's a pretty safe bet that performance and attitudes will improve.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:22 AM on January 22, 2010


Eh, generalizations aside if you pay these people better, give them incentive programs, and generally inspire some sense of community and voice within their ranks it's a pretty safe bet that performance and attitudes will improve.

I will not be taking that bet.
posted by Big_B at 8:42 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paying these people better and giving them incentive programs is a good thing, whether they're unionized or not.
But you need to be able to easily fire or discipline people, otherwise you wind up with untouchable employees like this one.
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 9:00 AM on January 22, 2010


I do feel huge admiration for the young woman in speaking out.

It would have been so easy to decide that it wasn't such a great idea to have your name and drugs +airport +prank linked.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:30 AM on January 22, 2010


Burhanistan : Perhaps if they would be allowed to form a union, we might see some better training and incentives for better practices and standards

You mean that as a joke, right?

As much as I loathe the TSA in its current form, Zeus help us if it ever unionizes. Imagine this same scenario with a union - First, the "joker" wouldn't have lost his job, and the "director of security" mentioned would himself have received disciplinary action for not immediately summoning the union steward and the clown in question to challenge Rebecca's accusation. Second, you'd have tens of thousands of poorly educated hired thugs with access to every detail of her personal information - But of course, unions have no history of retribution against people who threaten "one of theirs", right?


And for those who consider this "just a joke", imagine yourself in her position. Not to sound like a "tough guy" or anything, but in the same position I would have figured someone had used me as a mule without my knowledge (a defense that never works in court), and acted appropriately to someone about to do 25 years for nothing - ie, suicide by cop rather than go along peacefully.


The "scariest" part of this whole story, though? "As passengers and patrons of airports, we have a lot of responsibility to comply with airline security. Our safety depends directly on how well we follow the rules. This same standard needs to be applied to the staff. Cooperation is necessary for successful system operation, especially on a scale as large as an airport. In order to cooperate with airlines, I want to believe that they will show me the same respect I show them as I comply with their rules and regulations."

I sincerely hope her lawyer advised her to take that stance, rather than her actually believing it... If not, the goons have already won.
posted by pla at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2010


I guess the good thing about all this is that the next time you're caught with your favorite illegal drug in your hand luggage, you can always claim that some TSA guy planted it on you. Hey, it's not like it didn't happen before!
posted by sour cream at 9:48 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Ground transport looks better and better.

Aren't there laws against framing people, even if it is only long enough to give the victim blood pressure and anxiety issues for the rest of the day, along with a lingering distrust of authority?

This guy deserves something more severe than unemployment. An hour of strappado would be a nice start.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2010


The unreasonable despot that lives in my brain demands a candid interview with the stupid "trainer".

How long afterward did he continue to reason - 'dudes, you so shoulda seen her! Man, it was worth it...c'mon!!'?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 9:55 AM on January 22, 2010


Hey remember how happy everybody was when they passed all those throw-em-in-the-dungeon-cause-we-can't-just-shoot-'em-in-the-head drug laws? That's what makes the TSA guy's joke so funny.
posted by telstar at 9:59 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


But of course, unions have no history of retribution against people who threaten "one of theirs", right?

Right, we get it, unions and their "hired thugs" are like a protection racket. Christ, is Reagan still president or something?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:00 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When they steal your awesome laptop out of your baggage, no one says, "Haha, just kidding!"

God, and I thought it was bad when those TSA assholes stole copies of my book I was taking to a tradeshow in California. You would not believe how incredibly difficult and annoying they've made it just to file a claim for the value of the goods that were stolen.

On the drug-planting jerkface? I hope she sues him and the agency both.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:19 AM on January 22, 2010


I too hope she sues TSA itself and wins though. A quickly reveled joke normally should not warrant lawsuits, no matter how bad the taste, but TSA has made their own security procedures into a special case.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:31 AM on January 22, 2010


A quickly reveled joke normally should not warrant lawsuits, no matter how bad the taste

I'm no fan of the litigious culture, but if anything screams in justification for personal lawsuits, planting drugs in a security area is 120 dB.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:33 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


To quote Janeane Garofalo, "that guy must get laid almost never."
posted by coolguymichael at 11:44 AM on January 22, 2010


Is it not a criminal offense for a passenger to make a joke about contraband in a security area? Isn't that what the signs say?
I would like to see this guy get the same penalty as the Newark Airport terminal boyfriend, whatever that turns out to be (5 years + fine, I think was mentioned as a possibility). It might be excessive, but - goose, gander, etc.
posted by bashos_frog at 12:25 PM on January 22, 2010


Also - didn't somebody just get in trouble for posting a "blow up the airport" joke on twitter?
posted by bashos_frog at 12:26 PM on January 22, 2010


“May she hire a criminal lawyer who specializes in these cases and press criminal charges and sues for being victimized by this employee of TSA.”

Yep, I don’t think there’s any question that was an illegal act.

As a matter of fact, internal affairs do investigate, and even set up stings, to catch officers who might fabricate evidence, lie about arrests, etc. There was a case in L.A. a bit back where the ethics enforcement section sent a guy undercover and busted some cop named Zamora. Of course, he didn’t have this brilliant ‘joke’ defense.

And he was an actual law enforcement officer with the actual power to arrest people.

It probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem if the TSA hadn’t insinuated (in their press releases, etc) that they have more broad powers of arrest, interrogation, etc.
Which is their whole problem from the top down. The majority of their authority isn’t derived from the law but from the tacit understanding that they have the ability to interfere with your travel and otherwise inconvenience you.

That’s why they think they can get away with something like this, and typically, why they do. Not because they have the right to, but because they have taken advantage of a modern pattern of necessity and assert a sort of hydraulic despotism, an exclusive control over access to ease of travel.

And people might be in a hurry for a business meeting or something important personally like a wedding or funeral or some emergency and suddenly they’re at the mercy of someone who has no real authority to inconvenience or harass them under the law.
Bit of a self-reciprocating cycle in that many people think of them as glorified security guards who are inconveniences in the first place so they have to sort of use their power to cause discomfort that to get any respect.

OTOH fuck ‘em.

I have zero sympathy for anyone who doesn’t take their job seriously. If you’re a dishwasher, you should be a kick ass dishwasher. As it so happens these people are supposed to be in the business of helping people fly safely and smoothly, not trip them up. I’ve had people under me. They did their jobs well. Know why? Because I did mine well.
I don’t care if you’re engaging in a theater wide operation or running a local garbage route, if your people are jerk offs, it’s because you’re a jerk off. Everything runs downhill, not just feces.

The TSA should be run like it has command responsibility commensurate with the authority it wishes it had. Until it can demonstrate from leadership down to a guy one day on the job it's serious and wants to be genuinely effective it and its employees won’t be shown any respect and won’t be trusted with any actual real legal authority.
And rightfully so.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:41 PM on January 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


From her own account:

I was clearly outraged and upset, yet, most of the people around me didn't offer to help me or commented on this completely unprofessional and mean “prank.” Two other TSA officials went about their jobs and a man in front of me walked away after hearing the entire ordeal. Only one woman behind me was as infuriated as me and followed to see if I was okay.


I wonder if this was the first time that a stunt like that was pulled by this officer. It seems easy enough to get away with if you have a victim who doesn't want to cause trouble.
posted by amicamentis at 12:53 PM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


You notice the coward did this thing to a petite woman rather than a 6' 4" linebacker.

No, he was hitting on her. I'm sorry, to me this is blindingly obvious. If he was simply asshole bullying, he WOULD have used his power to push around the 6'4" linebacker. (I'm 6'4" myself, and I get the stink-eye from cops, security guards, etc. All. The. Time. even when I'm just walking along doing nothing special.) I'd bet a fair amount of money he gives guys that he perceives as a social threat (bigger, richer, better looking, etc.) a hard time too -- and not in a "funny" way.

I'd bet even more money that the petite woman is also attractive, probably very attractive. ::checks original article, finds pic of woman:: Yep, she is. He was hitting on her, awkwardly and inappropriately -- criminally so, I think, given his position.

He should be in jail, and I hope she sues the TSA for lotsa money. Good on her for recognizing what a messed up situation that was and calling him on it. (And lucky for her to not call him out on the spot -- he could have easily flipped the script and insisted he DID find it in her bag to avoid getting in trouble.) Who knows how many other times this guy pull this little game and it wasn't reported?

To quote Janeane Garofalo, "that guy must get laid almost never."

Yep, and it's a feedback cycle. You don't get laid because you hit on girls inappropriately. You hit on girls inappropriately because you don't get laid. And then you take a job in security, because you think it'll make you Big Man and get laid more.

What a loser.
posted by LordSludge at 1:36 PM on January 22, 2010


Airport security is a joke. The only reason there aren't more attacks is that 99.9999% of us are decent people.

To give the TSA their due, they've also done a bang-up job at preventing tiger attacks at airports.
posted by straight at 2:04 PM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


To give the TSA their due, they've also done a bang-up job at preventing tiger attacks at airports.

Yeah, because those bastards stole my magic rock out of my luggage.
posted by elizardbits at 4:05 PM on January 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


amicamentis:

I wonder if this was the first time that a stunt like that was pulled by this officer. It seems easy enough to get away with if you have a victim who doesn't want to cause trouble."

It's a good thing she had a witness...because without one, this case would have gone absolutely nowhere. It would have been denied and buried.
posted by dejah420 at 11:14 PM on January 22, 2010


I wonder if Pennsylvania has a hoax device law like Massachusetts.
Section 102A1/2. (a) Whoever possesses, transports, uses or places or causes another to knowingly or unknowingly possess, transport, use or place any hoax device or hoax substance with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person or group of persons shall be punished by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
A quick look couldn't find anything but it's not my area of expertise.
posted by Tenuki at 9:53 AM on January 23, 2010


I guess I won't be packing my fart cushion when I go to Massachusetts. Or my LED-enhanced sweatshirt.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 9:58 AM on January 23, 2010


Could the TSA's "Blogger Bob" possibly come off as a bigger, smugger turd?

Go ahead, put me on your "No Fly List," I'm not contributing a penny to the swine at the airlines.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:55 PM on January 23, 2010


and he's a bully who gets off on power-tripping and making her cry

This. Outside of high school, being a young, cute girl does not protect one from bullies. IMHO, it attracts them.

No, he was hitting on her.

You'd think so, wouldn't you. I believe that the loser feedback cycle breaks after a while - in my experience as a once young and cute female, bullying the cute girls (who never give him what he wants) eventually becomes the default behavior. It's a "power over" thing after frequent rejection.
posted by _paegan_ at 8:45 AM on January 24, 2010


Starting salary for an entry level TSA screener ranges from $23,400 to $35,000 per year, just slightly better than the federal minimum wage of $14,500.

caddis, I can't tell if you're sarcastic, or really bad at math.

/ TSA ex-employee should do time.
// And have his name published.
/// TSA should lose money over this.
/ \/ It's what a normal company would be subjected to.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:57 AM on January 26, 2010


I am not sure what your point is. The Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hr and at an average 2,000 per year that works out to $14,500. That's the quick and dirty without a calculator. More accurate would by $7.50/hr * 40 hrs/wk * 52 weeks = $15,600 which is even closer to the TSA starting salary minimum of $23,400. For a family of four the Federal Poverty Guideline is $22,050 which is shockingly close to the minimum TSA starting salary and well above what a minimum wage job pays. Perhaps more disturbing are low pilot salaries.
posted by caddis at 8:00 AM on January 26, 2010


My point is: 23400/14500 (using your original numbers, not the oh-yeah-let-me-improve-my-case numbers) = 1.61.

Amongst my friends, a 60% pay raise is considered slightly better than "slightly better".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 PM on January 26, 2010


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