The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Transportation Security Officers (TSO) have the difficult job of searching for contraband items passengers may pass through security with. Along with TSA TSOs searching for prohibited items, the agency’s Behavior Detection Officers (BDO) watch and interact with passengers to determine passengers that they determine to be a threat to aviation security … despite BDOs often blurring the line between aviation security and law enforcement.
So … at what point does the TSA questioning passengers cross the line? There are stories all the time of TSA TSOs crossing the line from their job description into the realm of offending passengers. Passengers have been stopped for traveling with crutches, insulin pumps, a TSA TSO at Hartford’s Bradley International Airport informed me that my cameras could not pass through the X-Ray scanner unless they were put away in a bag … despite the fact that the cameras were on my shoulders and I was not traveling with any bag … but every once in a while a new incident of a TSA TSO crossing the line comes to my attention.
This morning an incident around 5:15am, at Sacramento International Airport, involving “Betty” (she asked that her real name not be used in this blog post) caught my attention. This incident probably won’t make headline, or make it into the media, but for me, it is an incident that is completely unacceptable … TSA BDOs using their unfettered access to passengers, and duty to ask them questions, to go beyond professionalism and use their position to get irrelevant personal information from passengers.
This morning “Betty” was in the gate area at Sacramento International Airport, waiting to board her flight, with a TSA Agent approached her and asked her if she was on Facebook, and personal questions of that nature. After a moment, “Betty’s” husband, who was traveling with her realized that she was not being detained and questions, but rather than TSA Agent was flirting with her and hitting on her. “Betty,” a PhD Candidate who has been researching the TSA for part of her thesis, was not amused by this line of questioning.
Following the incident, the TSA Agent once again found “Betty” in the gate area and apologized for being so forward, but the damage is done.
The TSA cannot tolerate this type of behaviour from any of its Agents, at any airport, for any reason. Passengers who are approached by TSA TSOs or BDOs must not feel as if they are prey, they must not feel sexually harassed, Agents must act professional and show strict professionalism at all times, otherwise they undermine the seriousness of the TSA’s mission.
Abuse of power by a TSA Agent, such as the line of questioning “Betty” encountered this morning is unacceptable, and is on the same level as TSA TSOs questioning passengers on the origin of their cash, having passengers remove a sweater if the passenger informs them they only have underwear on under the sweater, separating an autistic child from their parent or not allowing a an adult to assist their incapacitated parent should secondary screening be required.
Aviation security is a serious responsibility … and one that must adhered to at all times from the highest levels of the agency right down to the bottom rung screeners.
Have you had an experience like the one “Betty” encountered? Drop me an e-mail at fish @ flyingwithfish.com or find me on Twitter at @flyingwithfish