5/2/2010 –TSA Hires Felon & Forces Airport To Issue Security Badge
It appears the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has placed Richmond (VA) International Airport (RIC) in a troubling situation regarding the issuing of a security access badge to a convicted felon … and that the TSA’s own policy for criminal background checks of Transportation Security Officers (TSO) has a gaping loop hole that has allowed this situation to arise.
Richmond International Airport (RIC) like many airports controls the security badges issued to those with access to secure areas of their airport. Like most airports, RIC will not issue a secure area badge to those convicted of a felony or convicted of ‘disqualifying crimes’ … unless of course they are forced to issue a security badge by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) & Transportation Security Administration.
This problem begs the following question … should the TSA employ someone convicted of Felony Robbery within the past 10 years?
Now that I have your attention…let’s get to the details here.
The TSA has recently hired a front line Transportation Security Officer who at the age of 17 committed felony robbery. Although a minor at the time of the offense, this person was convicted of the crime when they were 18, thus they were convicted as an adult and their records were not sealed. The TSA claims that since the crime occurred when the person was a minor it is not disqualifying crime … however they served their entire felony sentence as an adult and they have direct access to passenger’s personal property.
At the time the TSA TSO submitted their employment application, and again at the time they were hired, they failed to disclose their felony conviction to the TSA. All applicants are required to disclose a felony conviction within the past 10 years, as per FAR 108.33(c)(5). (*FAR 108.33(c)(5) has been replaced by 49 CFR Part 1542, I was directed to an outdated law by the FAA at the time I was originally seeking the correct regulations*)
Upon being hired by the TSA the TSO was required to submit to a routine background check by the Capital Region Airport Commission to be issued a secure area display badge. The TSA TSO failed to disclose their felony conviction, as required in the security badge application process, to the Airport Commission. The background search discovered the conviction and RIC refused to issue a security badge.
Following the Capital Region Airport Commission’s discovery of the undisclosed criminal history the TSA stood behind their Transportation Security Officer, rather this fire them, and further demanded that RIC issue a security badge to the TSO.
The TSA’s demand that a badge be issued to this TSA Officer is disturbing on a number of levels, but two really stand out in this situation.
1) RIC’s security badging policy is a Transportation Security Administration approved security program. This program expressly prohibits issuing security badges to people convicted of any disqualifying crimes.
2) The TSA policy for criminal background checks at time of employment, as dictated by FAR 108.33 (c)(5) leaves holes for felons to slip through. In this policy, those applying for jobs must disclose felony convictions in the past 10 years, however criminal background checks are only conducted if there are specific deficiencies in the applicants employment history. This means someone can easily create a faux job history to cover their felony convictions and be hired by the TSA.
FAR 108.33(2) Is even a bigger loop hole, stating that felony conviction must not disclose conviction by reason of insanity, or espionage, murder, rape, interfering with an in-flight crew, extortion, sedition…but it does include armed robbery…but not “robbery.” Felony convictions not on the list and over 10 years old may not disqualify applicants from being employed by the TSA as a TSO.
(This info can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Volume 2, Revised Jan 1, 2001, CITE 14CFR108.33, between pages 340-344)
To make matters worse for the TSA, rather than admit its error, the TSA’s Principal Deputy Chief Counsel, Margot F. Bester, who has been with the TSA since 2002, is quoted as stating the following when confronted with the agency hiring convicted felons:
“Our [transportation security officers] are highly motivated and talented individuals who have come from law enforcement, the military, the business community or out of retirement following 9/11 to make air travel secure for the American people”
While Ms. Bester may be correct about many of the TSA TSO’s, clearly in this case the Agency has hired a convicted felon. The TSA must admit what happened, since it has already been discovered and rather than follow its usual course of action, stonewalling the outside world and facing no oversight penalties, it should handle the situation properly.
The system in which travelers must place their trust to protect them is not working.
When will the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration start focusing on real solutions to real problems in passengers’ transportation security? When will the Transportation Security Administration begin to at least follow its own guidelines?
…also would it be so hard for the TSA to lose its RMA tone with those it should be partnering with. What is RMA you ask? “Respect My Authority”