TSA IDs agent who left "inappropriate note" in woman's luggage, "removed from screening operations"

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47 Responses to “TSA IDs agent who left "inappropriate note" in woman's luggage, "removed from screening operations"”

  1. TheHowl says:

    Very good! I feel awful that I am shocked by news of a government agency (especially the TSA!) doing the right thing, but… good on ‘em.

    Edited after update: Ugh, nevermind. Same ol’ under-the-rug shit, different day. Boo.

  2. Locobot says:

    Wait a sec, THIS is what isn’t allowed from TSA workers? Creepy yes, but this is the smallest personal violation that’s ever been reported here from a TSA worker.

  3. Guest says:

    probably not the sort of discharge they were imagining.

  4. SamSam says:

    NOT fired!

    “Inappropriate Note Author Identified and Removed From Screening. [...] That individual was immediately removed from screening operations and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated.”

    S/he just won’t be screening luggage anymore. At least for the time being.

  5. Bodhipaksa says:

    It doesn’t say she was “fired,” just that she was “removed from screening operations and appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated.” She’s no longer screening. Perhaps they’ll fire her, perhaps not. 

  6. ridestowe says:

    the TSA has a blog TEAM? excellent use of resources, right there.

  7. Alvis says:

    What’s the source for your claim the agent was fired? The linked-to post makes no such statement.

  8. Craig C. says:

    Agree with @Alvis and @samfen:disqus  – no word of firing. it could have been a stern talking to, and no donuts for a week.

  9. Xeni Jardin says:

    fixed, regret the error

  10. semiotix says:

    True, there’s nothing in here about firing. But “TSA baggage screener” is what you do when the airport Chik-Fil-A isn’t hiring. It’s scut work, it draws scut-work pay, and you have all the usual job security of a scut-worker. The guilty party here is in the kind of job where you can get fired for tying your shoes wrong–s/he is definitely going to get fired for this. It doesn’t say so in this press release because the nature of modern HR best practices is never to come out and say so. (I don’t know why that is–maybe there’s some infinitesimal chance of a lawsuit for emotional damages by the ex-employee–but you just don’t ever see press releases saying, “yeah, we fired their ass, sorry for the inconvenience.”) 

    It’s probably killing the TSA that they can’t post a YouTube video of the firing, because that would satisfy a little bit of the bloodlust from the people who want all the other $9/hr TSA workers fired for following TSA rules, but trust me–this is NOT the worker they’re going to circle the wagons around. S/he has already started looking for another unskilled minimum wage job.

    It’d be nice if the TSA took, well, transportation security seriously enough to hire actual professionals and put them in a work environment where they had the ability and authority to do their jobs in a way that maximized safety with minimum loss of dignity. Which is to say, it’d be nice if the TSA had that kind of budget and operational flexibility. Which is to say, it’d be nice if anyone wanted to give it to them. But that would cost more (probably in the form of a higher per-ticket security surcharge), and expose all kinds of people to political risk (“But we haven’t had a hijacking under the old system! Why change anything?!”), and do little or nothing to soothe the kinds of people who instantly become hardcore libertarians for the fifteen minutes a year they spend in airport security lines.

    • Draxlith says:

      I feel like more money/power is the exact *opposite* of what we need out of the TSA. Take a look at how Israel handles their airports- quality over quantity. Assuming we can’t get rid of them entirely, I would feel a lot better cutting 3-4 $9/hr jobs to pay a skilled person $27-36/hr, and to change procedures to compensate. Of course that would cut jobs, and we can’t have that, so why don’t we hire twice as many people off of pizza boxes for 4.5/hr!

      • Layne says:

        Regardless of the supposed “severity” of the offense, it more importantly exposes the needlessness of this particular mouthbreather and the phony BS organization that deems him a necessary bulwark in the fight against terrorism. 

        We all get treated like violent criminals in the hunt for a terror boogeyman.  But the reality is some government sack of shit (who will NEVER lose his job), making you feel sexually violated and pawing through your personal life – and leaving a ‘funny’ note to boot. 

        Thanks PATRIOT Act!

      • semiotix says:

        You may be right that the optimal solution wouldn’t actually require more money, or possibly could be done with even less. I don’t think we have a glut of TSA employees at the moment, though–I bet they’re not hiring any more “disposable” workers to stare listlessly at screens than they need to. If there’s any security to be had from x-raying every bag and rummaging through the suspicious ones (and I think there is), then what we really should be doing is hiring more screeners in shorter shifts. You’re a hell of a lot less likely to miss the gun-shaped object on the monitor at the end of a four-hour turn when your salaried job depends on it than you are at the end of an eight-hour shift when your crap job depends on it.

        But money isn’t the real stumbling block to TSA improvement–after all, eventually there will be another bombing or hijacking, and their budget will surely go up then. Politics is. Unless you tend to believe that only the scum of the earth would ever want a TSA job (see the various “how dare they not quit in protest over these backscatter machines!” threads), as a rule of thumb, giving workers of any sort some discretion in how they do their jobs usually leads to better results, no matter what the industry. I don’t mean that every TSA agent should be a law unto herself, racially profiling to her heart’s content and making up pat-down procedures on the fly–that’s why you want workers with the training and aptitude to make good decisions. But a lot of the stuff that makes for good blog-outrage comes from the fact that three-ring binders full of rules and regulations don’t cover every conceivable situation, yet there’s almost no empowerment on the ground to do anything about it. 

        And, of course, because the TSA already has a bad reputation, the idea of giving its employees more professionalism, more money, and more authority over how they do their jobs (not more authority period) sounds counterintuitive at best. But extreme Taylorism in the name of security theater isn’t doing too well, either.

  11. cjeam says:

    I feel the intentions of the screener are important here, it’s clearly a lapse in judgement and a dumb thing to do, but the screener could’ve at the time intended a message entirely different to the worst we’ve assumed, and so I don’t think necessarily they should lose their job over this. 

    I think it depends upon their intentions, any previous actions, and whether it’s a man or a woman. 

  12. Eddie Perkins says:

    “appropriate disciplinary action has been initiated” Uh, no. If the person still has a job with the TSA then appropriate disciplinary action has not been initiated.

  13. dagfooyo says:

    The agent was reprimanded for using the word “your”.  A more thorough explanation of policy:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5a0NCK8N0rs

  14. Some federal workers more likely to die than lose jobs http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2011-07-18-fderal-job-security_n.htm

  15. greenberger says:

    While I’m no fan of our lovely TSA, this seems to be the least “bad” thing they’ve done. I mean, please- we all know they’re going through all of our vibrators and strap-ons and whatever else we have in there. This is not a secret. The only thing this person did was acknowledge it, and in a funny “you go girl!” sorta way. Disciplinary action basically says “it’s not wrong to invade your privacy, it’s wrong to drop the pretension of formality.” Personally, I prefer a world where we can joke about such shit than a world where we have a Patriot Act, all its ramifications, and yet can’t joke about such shit.

    • mccrum says:

      I think it’s great you don’t mind if the TSA was to handle and examine items you would then place into various orifices.  Your open attitude is really wonderful and, honestly, I think your approach to seeing it as humor is very healthy.

      However, in this case, it’s not your item.  It’s her choice to complain and rant and rave.  She has no idea who it was or what their motive might have been in writing that.  It may have been in a humorous, pro-feminist “yeah!” or a leering, sexist “I’m imagining you getting your freak on” way.

      When they find your intimates you can react the way you want to but I’m defending her right to react the way she feels necessary.

      • greenberger says:

        She’s welcome to react however she wants. That doesn’t mean people should get fired because of it,  or that any legal action should be taken, just because she decided to react angrily. The world doesn’t revolve around her, or you, or any single person. And, like I said, I do mind if the TSA handles my personal items- but that’s not what this is about, since the TSA handles EVERYONE’S personal items every day and we can’t stop them. This is about someone who actually acknowledged the fact- and gets in trouble because of it. You’re basically saying it’s okay for the TSA to handle your dildo, you just don’t want anyone letting you know it was handled. A bizarre “don’t ask, don’t tell” sorta policy. I’m not sure how willful ignorance gives anyone the right to get someone fired.

        To sum up: you have the right to rant and rave. We have the right to ignore you. From a logical point of view, her ranting and raving is unfounded. She’s upset not because someone inspected her stuff, but because someone acknowledged it was being inspected by another person- a person with thoughts, ideas, opinions. The awareness of this fact is what bothers her. Her prerogative, I guess, but hardly a reason to prosecute.

        • mccrum says:

          What if, say, nobody got fired?  What if, say, the TSA acknowledged that they shouldn’t be writing notes of a personal nature and leaving them in luggage?

          Because that’s what’s essentially happened here. 

          I’m not saying “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  Personally I fully expect anything I put in a suitcase and give to someone at the airport to not come back to me and as a result only use carry on.  But those that check should have a reasonable expectation that someone’s going to give their stuff the once-over and move on.  Not leave cute notes about the contents of their suitcase.  I’d allow someone to rant and rave if there was a note saying “shitty music taste” on someone’s Dave Matthews Band CD no matter how much I agree that it is indeed, shitty music because that’s not what the inspector is being hired to do. 

          If they want us to take them seriously as a professional organization then they need to act like it.  Either security is serious business (no joking about bombs while in line) or it’s not.  I believe the TSA would like to think of itself as a professional organization, leaving sassy notes is high school sophomoric graffiti that needs to be left at home.

  16. I don’t think she should have been fired anyway you bunch of heartless bastards.  It was an inappropriate, but likely failed attempt at engaging with her customers, she probably thought it was just light hearted humour and is likely devastated and embarrassed at how things panned out.  Don’t get me wrong, this woman might be a complete ass, but she could also just be a normal person doing her 9-5 and putting a roof over her families head and made a silly mistake.

    Sure she should have been disciplined, and really she should have been aware that this kind of thing really isn’t appropriate; but come on, it’s not like a policeman breaking the law, she just made a mistake, a pretty harmless (if not inappropriate) one – and in TSA terms it’s the lightest infringement I’ve heard yet.

    I mentioned on the original thread, that if this note had appeared in someone else’s luggage the story could have been completely different.  Still wrong… but come on, it’s not even judgmental, it’s positive, she’s celebrating her actions!

    • marilove says:

      It was HIGHLY inappropriate and unprofessional.  If a TSA agent doesn’t know that writing something like that to a complete stranger while on the job is inappropriate and unprofessional and NOT OKAY, how can you be confident in their ability to do their job correctly?  What other “silly mistakes” have they made?  Have there been other “silly judgement calls gone wrong” with this agent?  If she can’t use common sense to come to the conclusion that commenting on someone’s private life while on the job is NOT OKAY, is she able to make common sense decisions in other areas?

      It’s frightening that someone who is supposed to be in charge of our security in the airport doesn’t know that doing this sort of stuff is just … wrong.  And people are defending it!

      We complain and moan when the TSA has issues making rational, common sense decisions in other areas … but somehow this gets a pass?  We need to be consistent, otherwise the TSA will continue to be full of morons lacking common sense.

      • I can’t really argue your point, nor do I want to; but people make mistakes, and this is a pretty minor one in the grand scheme of things – it doesn’t necessarily indicate that she’s terrible at her job and therefore people gleefully cheering at her firing and then scornfully disappointed that she was only disciplined is a bit over zealous; whether her job is to check luggage for coke or to ring up your shopping at the till; jotting a playful ‘nod’ to her customer is hardly a sin.  As you say, it’s inappropriate (I’d reserve ‘HIGHLY’ for if she scrawled ‘slut’ directly onto the device – let’s keep things relative) – but starting a lynch mob over it is just over the top.

        I don’t really care if they’re doing their job well or not anyway, they don’t actually provide any real security; I’d rather they just wrote notes like this and stayed out of our way to be honest. I can get on a train or a bus without needing a pat-down, don’t let the government convince you that every flight you take is dicing with terrorism and that the TSA’s job is really that important.

        • marilove says:

          I don’t think making a rude, completely uncalled for comment on someone’s private life is that minor.  It’s inappropriate in any setting, and ANY person who has any kind of job should know this is inappropriate.  A freakin’ cashier at Target should know better than to do this.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Target cashier made a similar unprofessional comment regarding customer’s purchases, and was then (rightfully) canned, or at least reprimanded.  A TSA agent should really know better.  This is not some silly job.  She is in charge of the safety of thousands of passengers, and she can’t even determine that leaving this sort of remark is inappropriate?!  

          I’d say if she didn’t consider how inappropriate this was, she is terrible at her job.  It’s common fucking sense. I do not want TSA agents who lack common sense. This is simple stuff we should have all learned in kindergarten: Don’t make inappropriate remarks regarding personal stuff. Even my nephew knows this, and he’s 8! But somehow she gets a pass, when she is in charge of our safety… Okay.

  17. bobarctor says:

    where is it stated that the TSA agent was female?

  18. michael b says:

    I guess if they can legally touch my junk before I board the aircraft, why should if I care if they find the sex toys?  (who travels with teh sex toys anyway?)

  19. William Hurley says:

    It seems the lessons of the Catholic Church have not gone unlearned by other, hierarchical social institutions whose “mission” is to protect and/or guide us.

  20. retepslluerb says:

    Sorry, but what is it with Americans and firing people? Is it some kind of new religion? 

    Sure, what the TSA agent did was inappropriate.   Send him or her to retraining, even make entry in the employee record as documentation and fire him or her, when it happens again. 

    But going nuclear because of this is wildly disproportionate and, frankly, makes people sound like the dickheads described in “Not always right” and other blogs fuelled  by service persons. 

  21. Stooge says:

    So the TSA claims to have correctly identified someone who actually did something wrong, and not only does everybody here accept this statistically improbable claim at face value, but the majority opinion seems to be that summary, authoritarian justice was called for, rather than respecting the worker’s right to a disciplinary hearing with representation before reaching a decision.

    Have I entered the Twilight Zone again or has Boing Boing just undergone an ideological redesign?

    • mccrum says:

      How is it statistically improbable?  She went through a specific airport during a specific time.  If the TSA can’t figure out who was opening up bags at the airport during that time then there is a problem.

      • Stooge says:

        It’s statistically improbable because the TSA has never previously demonstrated an ability to discern the difference between people who have and have not done something wrong.

  22. benher says:

    How fucking creepy is America getting? 
    Why don’t they just spare us all the trouble and implant telescreens into our genitalia at birth?

  23. This is the equivalent to going to the doctor and disrobing, and having a nurse say “Wow!  Check out the size of those t**ties!”  As a joke, it’s not even remotely funny.  As a creepy thing to say when someone is already potentially feeling vulnerable or even violated, it’s extra creepy.  And it’s absolutely inappropriate and unwelcome.

    If you don’t know someone, and they didn’t initiate or welcome your creepy jokes, then it’s not funny.  Just sleazy.

    • greenberger says:

      It’s not equivalent to your analogy at all. First of all, this note was funny, and, as you yourself point out, “check out the size of those titties” is not funny, unless you’re doing it in a dry, ironic hipster way (and even that’s not funny in 2011 being that it’s such a played-out form of humor.) This note carried none of the sexist implications attached to your analogy, and it had wit, which your analogy lacks. Second, this was a PRIVATE note intended for a SINGLE person. The TSA didn’t make it public knowledge, the passenger did. Having someone embarrass you in front of strangers by making a comment on something you were born with is not the same as a private wink at something you freely chose to purchase. The irony here is that our passenger is the one that made this a public spectacle, and now the world knows she travels with a vibrator. Meanwhile, the TSA respected that privacy.

      If you guys want to say the behavior is “high school sophomoric,” fine- you’re absolutely right, and some of us will giggle while others will shake their heads in disgust. I personally have no problem with “high school sophomoric” and, in fact, wish we had more of that attitude in the workplace and life in general- especially in this United States of Uptightness. Going the extra mile to “discipline” or “fire” someone for doing that, that’s where we’ve got a problem. The TSA agent did not do anything morally wrong, and I would hate to see them penalized for what is basically making a bad judgment call that harmed no one.

  24. mccrum says:

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

    The TSA wants us to take airport security seriously then they need to act in a professional manner.  Locke’s metaphor is actually appropriate.  Disrobing in front of a doctor is in a private setting and the note does have sexist implications (the doctor could be  male or female the same as the baggage screener could).

    If I’m not allowed to make bomb jokes in line and say “It’s okay, I’m only funnin!” then they shouldn’t be putting personal notes in bags about personal items.

    Respect needs to be given to be earned.

    • greenberger says:

      I don’t mind disagreeing about what’s “appropriate.” What I don’t understand are these logical leaps people are making here:

      “Disrobing in front of a doctor is in a private setting…” If you’re disrobing in front of a doctor, that’s not private, unless the doctor just died and is actually a corpse. If s/he is alive, then you are not disrobing privately. It’s more private than a room full of doctors, or on stage at a concert hall, but it’s not the same as disrobing in your bedroom, alone. The note WAS actually private- so Locke’s metaphor isn’t accurate at all. You can’t be humiliated or embarrassed in front of nobody- a minimum of 1 other person is required (which our passenger ensured by making her complaint public.) And if you’re saying the passenger was embarrassed at the mere acknowledgment that someone else had seen her vibrator, then that embarrassment would (or should) have occurred regardless, because the TSA leaves official notices in your luggage telling you someone went through it. So even the “correct, legal, official” note is just as embarrassing as the “incorrect, private note” since they both make the passenger aware of the same fact. At least, has a friendly and humorous angle (as opposed to the cold, big-brother nature of the note.)

      Second, making a bomb joke while standing in an airport line is a problem because it can cause a needless panic which can hurt people, not to mention it undermines all the security measures everyone is taking to prevent terrorist attacks. I mean, I personally find a joke like that funny, but I get why one could get in trouble with such a joke. A personal note in luggage has nothing to do with national security- it poses no threat at all. I’m not sure how you arrive at “if we can’t do X, then they can’t do Y” when X and Y have no relation to each other.

      I’m happy to agree to disagree about our tastes in how people should behave, but I’m not happy to accept things based on choppy logic. This situation seems to be making some people uncomfortable, and rather than acknowledging the fact that it’s their own hangups or tastes or preferences, they want to justify them with legal arguments that don’t really make any sense. A simple slap on the wrist and a “hey, don’t leave notes in other people’s bags because not everyone has a sense of humor” is what’s called for here.

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