ABC News tests honesty of Houston's TSA agents

September 27, 2012 4:28:05 PM PDT
Air travelers have long complained about TSA's "hands-on" security approach, but now TSA agents are coming under fire for something else. A new ABC News investigation revealed some agents taking liberties with expensive items left at checkpoints.

The investigation covered several major airports with a history of theft, including Houston.

ABC News put cash and iPads in luggage at 10 airports. They also intentionally left iPads at TSA checkpoints in those same airports. The investigative team picked Houston because of Karla Morgan, a former TSA agent charged in June 2011 of stealing $1,000 from the wallet of an undercover officer during a sting.

"In our examples, the iPads came back in Houston and the bags went through the Houston TSA without anything going missing," ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross said. "By far, most of the people who work there are going to be honest people but you've got a handful -- actually it's more than a handful -- you've got 380 who've given a very black eye to an agency that has an important job."

The TSA confirmed to us Thursday that 381 officers were fired for theft between 2003 and 2012. Though in its investigation, ABC says nine of the 10 airports they checked were good.

But not Orlando. That's where they say a TSA agent kept their laptop. And despite filing a missing property report, they never got it back.

"But we had been able to track our iPad the night it disappeared, 30 miles away from the airport, to the home of the TSA officer," Ross said.

That officer eventually admitted he had it, and he's been fired.

The TSA issued this statement:

"TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards. TSA has zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and takes immediate actions when allegations are substantiated."

Morgan, by the way, was charged with a felony. It was dismissed, but she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of theft and was given a deferred 180-day jail sentence and put on probation for a year.

There's a list of financial and criminal activities that can automatically disqualify an applicant from becoming a TSA agent. Felony theft is one of them but, misdemeanor theft is not. However, in its policy, the TSA says any kind of theft generally disqualifies from working for the agency.

Load Comments