Integrity Matters
October 6 , 2004

Shame on TSA thieves

Question: (E-144)

Dear Jim:

What's your reaction to reports that the new, more qualified Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners have been stealing millions? If we cannot trust the integrity of those who check our bags, then how can we be confident they will protect us?


There are problems with some TSA employees, but it would be my assumption that the overwhelming majority of airport screeners are doing a commendable job and are eager to make travel safer. After all, if people don't fly, they won't have jobs. It's in their best interest to make travel safe and secure.

Once again, the news is that a small group has behaved badly. They have been discovered and they will be prosecuted. Bob Port reported in the New York Daily News some screeners conspired to routinely steal expensive watches, bags and laptop computers from checked luggage.

In September, the U.S. Department Homeland Security announced it will pay $1.6 million to settle claims filed since late 2001 by 17,600 angry air travelers. Over and over, this column repeats a theme from the Bracher Center for Integrity in Leadership: "It should be common knowledge that free markets must regulate themselves or governments will." The TSA must continue to refine its recruiting, training and self-policing. Having been organized to address a national emergency following 9/11, the agency has had little time to adjust to its critical role and gigantic challenges.

Meanwhile, travelers can take common-sense actions to protect themselves from any dishonest screeners.

For example, wear smart clothing, including shoes that will go through security with ease -- and be prepared for a more in-depth search. Shipping valuables does not seem wise, especially if they can be "carried on" and kept with the traveler. Assume the best of those who work in airport security. Keep careful watch of valuables. Maintain your own personal and travel integrity. Graciousness applies at airports. When on the plane, speak to the people around you because they are your partners in any emergency that occurs for whatever time you are traveling.

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