The US Transportation Safety Administration says 381 officers have been fired for theft since 2003, 11 so far this year. And one convicted officer says a culture of indifference allows employees to steal from passengers without fear of getting caught.
Pythias Brown, a former TSA agent at Newark's Liberty International Airport admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and at security checkpoints over a four year period. He tells ABC News, "It was very convenient to steal." "It became so easy, I got complacent."
Brown often worked alone, screening luggage behind the ticket counters and says he was told when the surveillance cameras to prevent theft weren't working and was never asked about suspicious behavior. He says he would often read the x-rays to find out which bags had the most valuable items inside.
Brown says his crime spree only ended when he tried to sell a camera on eBay, that he stole from the luggage of a CNN producer but forgot to remove all the CNN stickers. When he was arrested, he had about 80 cameras, video games and computers on his personal eBay page
In a blog post, the agency says it has a "zero-tolerance policy for theft," adding ,"We are well too aware of how the actions of a few can influence the perception the public has of our agency. It’s truly a shame, because the majority of our workforce meets the expectations set forth to them; integrity, professionalism and hard work." The blog post points out that the 381 officers charged since 2003 "represents less than 1/2 of one percent (0.4%) of officers that have been employed by the agency."
But Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation Committee says the TSA fails to do proper background checks on personnel hired to handle security screening, adding, "TSA is probably the worst personnel manager that we have in the entire federal government." "It is an outrage to the public and, actually, to our aviation security system."
ABC News also has video of a TSA officer allegedly taking an iPad that was left behind on purpose, as part of a sting operation, at the Orlando airport.
The network also set up a Facebook page, Your TSA Experiences, asking people to talk about their experiences with the TSA, and in its first day has received over 160 responses from people telling about items they had stolen and how their theft complaints were ignored by the administration.
What about you, have you ever had anything go missing during your travels?