TSA Hires Felon & Forces Airport To Issue Security Badge

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 (*FAR 108.33(c)(5) has been replaced by 49 CFR Part 1542, I was directed to an outdated law by the FAA at the time I was originally seeking the correct regulations*)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

Happy Flying!



  1. Maybe convicted felons make good TSA agents — they ought to know a thing or two about how to conceal dangerous weapons!

    I hadn’t heard the term “RMA tone” before — so true!

  2. Be advised FAR 108 has not been used for over 8 years. The current regulations on Airport Security, including requirements on these types of background checks, is Title 49 CFR Part 1542. This change came about after 9/11 along with the creation of DHS and TSA. Specifically, Part 1542.209 lists the disqualifying crimes for obtaining an airport-issued ID for SIDA access.

  3. I agree with your stance, but you are building it on an inaccurate foundation. The quotes to FAR 108 are greatly outdated. FAA is no longer in charge of aviation security; FAR 108 has been superceded by Transportation Security Regulations in the 49 CFR series, with a number of changes from the 108 language.

  4. Bernard & Frank,

    You are correct, the current regulations would be 49 CFR 1542. In researching this information I was actually directed to FAR 108.33 by a US Gov’t Agency. I had believed 49 CFR 154 to be the current set of regulations … but once again it seems that those in the US Gov’t are unsure of the rules, in this case an FAA representative directing me to FAR 108.33.

    Thanks for pointing out the error, I appreciate it.

    Happy Flying!


  5. I thought the point was rehabilitation, especially with juveniles. Obviously the guy has kept his record spotless if that was the only strike against him. It seems like he has worked to keep himself clean. I would think the airport and these politicians would show pride that here is an example of someone who turned their life around. Get off this guy’s back.

  6. Actually, 49 USC 44936 specifically lists “armed robbery: US Code is Law that has been passed by the congress. CFR, or code of civil regulations is Administrative Law, created by a Federal Agency through “enabling statutes” created by the congress.

    The true loophole here is the 10 year limitation. 49 USC permits it, and that flows to the CFR which also permits it.

    It appears this convict committed his felony more than 10 years ago.

  7. Hello,

    Just a quick note on the story above. I’m sure that quite a few citizens are concerned with a TSA TSO being hired with criminal history; however, most police officers have a criminal history as well. In my personal and professional opinion, this increases our personal security. I’m sure you are wondering why this is my belief. Ask yourself this, would you feel safer being protected by somebody who has no street knowledge and has no idea what warning signs to look for? Would you let a doctor operate on you who has no experience in the field?
    Everybody deserves a second chance, regardless of their criminal history. If somebody is willing to change and use their new knowledge for the protection of others, why not give them a shot at proving themselves? All of us have skeletons hiding in the closet. Where would you be if you didn’t get a second chance?

  8. John

    The person in question hired by the TSA at RIC was convicted as an adult. Additionally, they failed to reported they were committed of a felony within the past 10 years to both the TSA/DHS and Richmond International Airport. This double failure to disclose a felony conviction, where legally required to disclose this information, is a sign the person was simply not being honest.

    Happy Flying!


  9. The person hired by the TSA at RIC was convicted of a felony within the past 10 years and failed to disclose they had been convicted within the past 10 years.

    Happy Flying!


  10. Ty

    Had the person properly disclosed they had been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years to the TSA and still been hired that is one thing…however the person failed to disclose this to the TSA and again failed to disclose it to RIC at the time they did a background check. There is a space on the applications that specifically asks if the person has been convicted in the past 10 years of a felony.

    Happy Flying!


  11. Fish,

    I understand your concern with the individual’s failure to disclose this information. Other than discovering that he/she had been hired by TSA, how much other research has been done as per why the information was not disclosed? In some instances, probation officers have advised convicts that certain information does not need to be disclosed. Although this person had been charged as an adult, is it not possible that he was advised to not be required to disclose certain information?


  12. Your FAR references are off. In February of 2002 the federal aviation security regulations under Title 14 Part 107, 108, et al, we’re moved to Title 49 CFR Part 1542 (airport operator), 1544 (aircraft operator), etc. We have not called them FAR anything since 2002.

    I do like your site though. Just thought I’d correct a few references for improved credibility.

  13. Jeff,

    As mentioned in other comments, I had contacted the TSA for the correct regulations, however the TSA would not answer my questions. I contacted the FAA for insight into this situation and the FAA provided me with the FAR information rather than the current CFR information.

    The information will be updated shortly.

    Happy Flying!


  14. Dear Steven,

    Give the kid (guy) a break. Everyone deserves a second chance in life. What if YOU were in that or similar position?

    No one is perfect and yes there are loop holes in laws, such as the ones you’ve listed. No bill/laws are 100% perfect, that is why they get amended. I pretty sure YOU have done somethings that were, lets say, illegal. You had to, unless you are 15 years old, which you are not by no means.

    Nevertheless, if I was doing the hiring and managing of TSOs, I would ‘keep a close eye’ on employees who have had a criminal history and ALLOWE them to prove/change themselves.

  15. Mike,

    The fact is this … person in question did not list having been convicted of a felony within a certain time frame as required by law. The TSA failed to find the felony convictions in their background search … where as Richmond Airport did find the conviction.

    I am not discussing a second chance, what I am focusing on is that a person failed to report the conviction of the Department of Homeland Security failed to find this conviction.

    Happy Flying!

    – Fish

  16. I will say yes they need to do a background check on all but you should not be singled out because you made one mistake in your life. Thats whats wrong with country you put a man in jail he gets out a better man but you hold him down!! Personally I think A person with a single felony conviction should get a pardon after 15 years of a clean life otherwise be prepared to pay for him for the rest of your life!! Remember not even Wal Mart hires people with felonys unless its been years!! So somebody better do something about this!! Im glad the TSA hired him and wish him well and dont ruin it for others!!

  17. 18 is still a kid, and it didnt say how old he was when he applied, just cause he screwed up once, long ago, doesnt mean hes still going to be robbing people. Damn, if you dont give a man a job he is GOING to rob your friggin house

  18. Rick,

    The issue is not that he had a Felony charge, and was charged as an adult … it is that when he joined the TSA he failed to disclose that he had been charged and convicted of a felony as an adult. The related issue to this is that the TSA failed to uncover that he had a felony within 10 years that he had not disclosed.

    Happy Flying!


  19. Seriously, give him a second chance. If you don’t forgive past debts, what’s their incentive to be good when you always expect they’ll be bad?

  20. Bob,

    The issue is this … when the TSA TSO was asked to disclose if they had any felony convictions in the past ten years they answered “No.”

    By answering “no” they lied on a federal job application, then lied again to the airport authority when applying for their badge.

    Happy Flying!


  21. I am all for the second chances, and at some point like say 10 years they should not be able to look further in your past, however the point remains he LIED on application. I don’t have any convictions and if I lied on an application I could be fired.
    That being said-do we have all the facts? Was the date of conviction 10 years ago-some places want to know 10 years from actual conviction, some say 10 years from release. It really depends on how it was worded as to whether he is being dishonest or not.

  22. Jenni,

    The background checked showed the conviction under 10 years from date of TSA job application and date of application for a badge at RIC.

    Happy Flying!


  23. I wouldn’t claim he intentionally lied without first having all the facts on the case. Many times there are gray areas on what counts. He may have been under the impression that because he committed the crime when he was a minor that it did not need to be disclosed. If you have never had experience on either side of the law then you don’t understand how things can be misinterpreted for the positive and negative effect of either party. Laws are not as black and white as people tend to believe and even if they were people are certainly not.

  24. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. If he’s stayed out of trouble since, I don’t see why we ought to hold this juvenile mistake against him.

    F’ing petty if you ask me.

  25. The Federal Gov. loves to boast that most felons are likely to relapse, ect. Here is an example of the government trying to derail a citizen who is trying to earn an honest living.

    Most companies won’t hire felons either if they are contracted to do something for a Federal Gov. Agency on a reoccuring basis. I knew a guy that could’t get a job selling ice cream because the the ice cream shop was contracted to make large orders for military functions.—all because he was a felon. Sad…..

  26. Just a couple things to point out here. First the TSA knew of the Felony. Unlike what Mr. Fish theororized your job history wont hide a felony convicting, no matter how clever you think you are. Second, any agency even local LEO’s will see your felony on even the most basic backround check (regardless of time passed) even from another state. Something to add also is some folks (like myself) who have a felony may not have even served a single day in jail or prison. The reason he ( the TSO in question) was hired was because his felony wasnt on the list of disqualifying crimes. He may have lied or most likely what occured here is that since the gent was arrested as a juvi in some states regardless of when he was actually convicted if he was arrested as a juvi he would have his felony recorded as such. And in many states ( sorry, some* states) he would have to disclose a juvi arrest record even to rt he good ‘ol USA. So without actually and factual evidence no one should be getting to upset. In the end if a Gov. Agency tells you to do something like issue an ID badge, then shut the hell up and issue that badge!
    I am an Army Vet., felon, and still somehow, a hellava great guy. I havent needed any second chances, I just say Ive never been behind bars and dont ever plan on it and then let my outstanding job refferences and qualifications speak for themselves. I have only been turned down one job since my conviction, shame on them and to bad to because the fella they hired instead of me (had no criminal record) robbed them. Just like the terrorist of 911, they hadnt had any criminal backround, neither did oswald when he shot kennedy, neither did any of the secret service men who robbed and beat a prostitute, neither did the border patrol agents who helped smuggle in tons of illegal drugs into the USA. Some of the worst people in the world are ones WITHOUT any criminal history. Some of the best people in the world have a mark or two. Thats all from me. Thank you for your time. Enjoy your Sunday! Sorry for any mistakes, I wrote this from my phone, haha.

  27. The fact is, people, that it is almost impossible to get a decent job as a convicted felon! I served 2 years for stealing a car when I was 18. My “rehabilitation” consisted of weekly rape sessions and a seemingly endless nightmare of terror. When I was released I filled out dozens, and I mean dozens, of applications to no positive effect. Finally my PO suggested that I lie on my applications and make up a job history that covered the years I spent “rehabilitating” myself. I am now 30 years old with a management job in Starbucks. This is the only job I’ve ever had. I have not gotten so much as a traffic ticket since my incarceration, and I live my life as positively as I can. I am a respected member of my community, but no one knows about my past, and I believe it is none of their damn business. If I had continued telling prospective employers of my past, I would never have been able to make an honest living. My point is, it is foolhardy to check yes under felony convictions because there are too few people willing to give second chances. This alone accounts for many of the repeat offenders in our justice system. How is a body supposed to stay honest if they cannot get honest work?

  28. TSA wants former criminals because criminals are more willing to humiliate and grope people. There is a deficiency in empathy. TSA would have a harder time filling positions If they had a no criminal history requirement.

    Only law enforcement such a police should be allowed to do a body search and that is only for cause. Also, police officers also go through a rigorous background search.

    This whole situation is about the up in coming for a NWO… TSA is just a instrument of controlling Americans. I don’t think this is understood by the overall public who don’t know the truth.

  29. Though this post is old, I think your concerns in the matter presented is off base. Because of how the media protrays persons who have a felon seem to may people prejudice, but there are millions of individuals in this country that at one point in their life made a bad decision and ended up with a record. Once they have fulfilled the sentence that ordeal should be over and as long as they are law abidng citizens they should not have to walk around with this shadow over them. It is notthe person that has done a crime that one need to worry about but the one that has yet to commit a crime that is the problem.

  30. LC,

    The issue is this … the background paperwork specifically asks if a person has been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years. The person answered this question falsely.

    Happy Flying!


  31. The state of attainable jobs for convicted felons (even first time minor felonies with otherwise clean records) in this country is despicable! Trust me, I know from first hand experience. It’s almost impossible to find a job to better yourself. How can they expect anyone to rehabilitate when they can’t even hardly work? The types of jobs available to someone with the smallest felony record are hardly ones that someone could rely on to support a family if they happen to have one. They would probably have a hard time supporting themselves its ridiculous. I’m getting out of this country. Oh wait! I forgot I can’t get a passport! It’s fucking sad…

  32. I am a felon and want a second chance at life and to me that means working for TSA or DHS only so that I may use my past experiences in prison and in life in general to protect and serve the people of this country. I speak Spanish, English, Farsi and some Arabic and am very familiar with foreign and domestic terrorism by studying my ass off. I don’t want to be an out cast of society for some stupid mistakes and poor choices that i’ll never do again. Are those who aren’t felons that perfect that they never did anything wrong? I have been caught forr my crimes and did the hard time. I got out of nothing free. So now I cant get a job because im branded a felon! I believe it wasn’t felons who pulled off 9/11 it was Islamic jihadist of foreign origin. I love law enforcement and am ready to work hard for what I want.

  33. Cody,

    The bigger issue here is the person, who was a felon, failed to disclose they were a felon. The application asked if they had been convicted in the past 10 years , they answered No.

    Happy Flying!


  34. Okay so that person lied…. Fire his ass for failing to be honest who wants to work security with a liar. I am not judging its just that security is something I personally value and although I’d do anything to get hired lying to get what I want isn’t what I’m about. I want you to know I’m a felon and when I’m on the floor working my ass off for you I want people to know they hired a man with honor. I want to be hired for the services I can provide and given the opportunity to be and feel like an American again!! T his being a felon and your burnt from working honorable jobs has got to be alleviated somehow. I believe that America is still a place where a man can achieve his dream…. Felon or not I’m still going to try.

  35. Anyhow, I just want the opportunity to fail if I’m going to fail or succeed if I’m going to succeed. Aristotle said that ”In death all men are alike”. That’s the truth when its all said an done were just skin and bone. What should really matter is not the three or four mistakes you’ve made but the progress made in changing the choices you do choose to make and being responsible for those actions. I learned Farsi just to increase my chances of getting hired for T.S.A or another security company etc… I’m dead serious about what I want to do and I also have the support of some law enforcement officials. I don’t want to work at McDonalds or some restaurant that shit is for high school kids, drop outs and dope heads who have no ambition in life. You cannot raise and provide for a family reasonably in America working at these kinds of jobs especially as a felon.Its statistically a fact that felons are not given ample opportunity to rise above their current status. Plato once stated that ”You cannot put bad with bad and expect good results” . How do you expect a man to breath if you have a foot on his neck?

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