It may come as a surprise to anyone who flies in the United States, but about four years ago, a now-deceased federal security director filed an anonymous whistleblower complaint alleging that Transportation Security Administration agents were cutting corners to keep people moving.
It’s mismanagement and a danger to the flying public, said the director, whose identity, aside from his title, is being withheld.
They told the federal Office of Special Counsel around 2018 that TSA personnel were allowing passengers traveling with wheelchairs and other unidentified assistive devices to go through low-security PreCheck before boarding.
PreCheck subscribers provide biometric and biographical data when registered and used in conjunction with airline digital ID schemes. The government is clear about the fact that the program limits threats, not eliminates them.
Only passengers who have been verified by the government and have paid for a program subscription are supposed to have access to the PreCheck identification lanes. In other words, it is not a free prize that can be offered at the discretion of a TSA agent.
The whistleblower also reportedly told the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates and prosecutes political corruption, that the TSA was potentially screening bags that were being X-rayed.
TSA officials say they have not changed the risk-based and intelligence-based screening approach they adopted in 2013. An inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA, has backed that assessment.
Passengers who are members of PreCheck are identified by the “technology” and agents at a document control podium. A signature from both is required to enter the low-friction PreCheck lanes, according to a notice posted by TSA officials.
The notice does not address claims for screening very light bags.
The Special Counsel last week strongly disagreed with the inspector general’s report.
What the TSA is doing constitutes “gross mismanagement” and poses a “substantial and specific risk to public safety,” according to a redacted memo on the matter, according to the Special Counsel.
The Special Counsel sent his findings to the White House. A timeline, if any, for reconciling the two stories has not been announced.
airports | aviation security | background checks | biometric | identity verification | passenger processing | trusted traveler | TSA