iPad left at airport checkpoint ends up at TSA inspector's house

ABC News ran a sting against dirty TSA inspectors by leaving behind iPads (with tracking spyware) at ten airport checkpoints known for theft and following them electronically. One iPad, left at an Orlando checkpoint, moved 30 miles to the home of Andy Ramirez, a TSA inspector at the airport. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife. He has since been fired from the TSA.

I'm sure that he was the only crook working in the entire agency and now we're all safe. Thank goodness.

According to the TSA, 381 TSA officers have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, including 11 so far in this year.

The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired "represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed" by TSA.

...Ramirez produced the iPad only after ABC News activated an audio alarm feature, and turned it over after taking off his TSA uniform shirt.

His explanation for the missing iPad in his home was that his wife had taken it from the airport.

"I'm so embarrassed," he told ABC News. "My wife says she got the iPad and brought it home," he said.

... No TSA official, including director John Pistole, would agree to be interviewed by ABC News about the issue of theft and what steps TSA has taken to address the long-standing problem.

In its statement, the TSA said it "holds its employees to the highest ethical standards."

Republicans have promised to fix this problem by firing the unionized federal workers and replacing them with private contractors. Because private contractors -- not directly accountable to the government, insulated by layers of contractor/subcontractor relationships -- would never, ever abuse their authority. Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.

ABC News Tracks Missing iPad To Florida Home of TSA Officer (via Beth Pratt)


  1. Initially, he denied stealing the iPad, then he blamed his wife.

    Well that’s one more person he won’t get to grope anymore.

      1. Might have been an “or else” scenario for the wife. Whether or not it is, that guy is a super-douche of infinite baggery to blame his wife to the media like that.

        Hopefully it becomes his ultimate job-stopper, Google-style, even though that won’t bode well for her either.

    1. Why would ABC push the button that automatically lawyers the douche up when they can just trick him into saying and doing what they want without pressing charges? 

      A lawyer might have known how to respond: 


      “My client thought it was a free iPad, not a trap iPad” 

      “My client is too stupid to answer your questions” 

      “I would prefer to help you deflect this issue onto the TSA employment administration please and thank you.”

      “My client drank a potion and thought it was his iPhone”

      “My client’s wife did it, because it sounds legit coming from me and not my client”

      “My client is totally counter-suing everybody, even you, yes, you, and you, and you, and you.. Imma get me a ferrari”

    1. Half of the TSA hate seems to be about some pretty ugly class/caste conflicts between well-off frequent flyers and lower-income TSA employees (“that uppity TSA guy doesn’t know his place.”)  In a job with that kind of social dynamic, knowing that the union’s got your back can make a big morale difference.

      Of course, the other half of the TSA hate is about their corrosive effect on US civil liberties, their imposition of increasingly invasive warrantless searches as a condition of travel, and their “normalization” of police-state features like de facto internal passports and no-fly lists.  A union helping to push for *more* of this — in the same way that the prison guard union pushes for more prisons — is not a good thing.

      All the more reason to fix the TSA’s worst-in-the-First-World “security” policies now, before things like unionization make the policies even harder to roll back.

      1. I think half is a bit of a stretch for your first supposition. 

        While TSA clearly hires whosoever is willing to be part of a machine most people see as worthless, inept and harmful, staffed by pariahs and crooks and generally reviled, the acrimony is based most often on policies and procedures, violations of civil liberties and unwarranted delays. 

        Rude, crude and socially unacceptable staff are just the icing on the cake and the goto source for anecdotal accounts that support the core basis of most complaints.

        What complaints there are that may be solely based on an individual feeling that they should not be impeded but by someone of perceived equal social standing are not something I’ve encountered. 

        But if they are there, there is a chicken/egg, if the person were competent, would the complainer complain? The same person might eat at Mcdonalds without complaining if the service is fast, efficient and polite, despite feeling that they are a much better human being than the server for reasons that make them less so.

        As for unionization, since I don’t intend to enter US airspace  while I can use a car or train, I’m all for it. It matters little to me that the TSA employees are scum and doing something that shouldn’t be done for their living when I consider the matter in relation to employment practices. If the TSA rabble is being wronged in that manner they are correct to unionize. From where I sit it is merely a rearguard action by Americas dwindling unions, and a poor choice too unless death by association is the goal, yet beggars can’t be choosers. 

        When the house of cards that is an unsupported consumer market collapses, the unions will rise again as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.

      2. I think your comments about unions pushing for those policies is off. Workers don’t like having to be invasive no matter what the weirdos in these comments typically think.

        This part was good though, and it bears itself out over and over again with the way entitled people complain:

        Half of the TSA hate seems to be about some pretty ugly class/caste conflicts between well-off frequent flyers and lower-income TSA employees (“that uppity TSA guy doesn’t know his place.”)  In a job with that kind of social dynamic, knowing that the union’s got your back can make a big morale difference.

  2. “The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by TSA”

    By that logic, terrorism also isn’t a problem, since WAY fewer than one-half of one percent of airline passengers are terrorists. Problem solved! You can all pack up and go home, now, TSA.

    1.  Not to mention that you can’t measure the scope of the problem solely by the number of thieves who get *caught*.

      1. Not even caught….it’s the number of officers FIRED.  Which means they have a handy-dandy solution available for keeping the statistic down: don’t fire anyone just because they were caught.

  3. Um, we had private security before. It was a Republican administration that insisted we needed a new federal agency (not big government though) in order to standardize procedures at every airport and make us safe. 

    1. Yeah, Argenbright, and they were awful and even less accountable.  That’s all this is about btw. They don’t want to fix the bad security theater policies, they just want to privatize security and undercut labor.

      Argenbright is the largest U.S. provider of airport security, with 19,000 employees managing 40% of the passenger screeners used by U.S. airlines. It has expanded despite a mud-stained record. In 1997 undercover agents at Detroit’s Northwest Airlines terminal sneaked a fake bomb through an X-ray machine; the airline subsequently canceled its contract with Argenbright at that airport. FAAinvestigators have discovered Argenbright employees who do not speak
      English and others who are undocumented immigrants. Its workers earn the equivalent of burger flippers at fast-food restaurants, and it has a turnover rate of nearly 400% at some airports. Argenbright employees were at the security posts at Dulles and Newark when the Sept. 11 hijackers slipped through, but they are not being held negligent in that situation.
      Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1001252,00.html#ixzz27nVTbWPnhttp://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/18/us/us-charges-impropriety-in-security-at-airport.html

  4. re: “the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by TSA.”

    That’s just the number CAUGHT. I am sure the numbers would be much higher if all those who were guilty were nabbed.

    1. No, it’s the number FIRED. There could well have been more caught that were given wrist-slaps and kept on the job.

  5. Let’s see, they left 10 ipads and had 1 stolen for a rate of 10%.  The TSA only fires less than .5% so a lot of crooks are getting off the hook. 

    (yes, I know this isn’t scientific)

  6. And we trust these people to run the security at the airports. I think if I worked for DHS I would be more worried about a TSA agent getting paid off to allow an incident then I would that a regular citizen would commit an act of terrorism. Typical police state, shut up slave, do not look over here!

  7. Now let’s do the same experiment at McDonald’s, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, law offices, post offices, and any other structured place and see if the theft rate is any different. There are honest TSA agents and dishonest agents, just like there are honest plumbers and dishonest plumbers.

    1. And which of those jobs is “charged with providing effective and efficient security for passenger and freight transportation in the United States”?  Because those other places you mention?  If someone doesn’t follow the rules, they get fired and nobody’s safety is interfered with.  If a cop can’t help but steal from the evidence locker, don’t you see where that might be a bigger problem than someone at Home Depot sticking some extra cinder blocks in their car?  If you cannot trust the people whose entire job it is to create a safe, secure, and trustworthy environment, they’re pretty much failing at the basic premise of their responsibility.  If the TSA can’t weed out the people who steal before they hire them how are they going to weed out the people who want to cause harm?

    2. I was under the impression that the background check & screening process for TSA agents was supposed to be a bit more stringent than the one for McDonald’s employees. I’m also not required by Federal law to entrust my personal possessions to a McDonald’s employee every time I want to get something to eat.

  8. “Which is why mall security guards are the pinnacle of policing efficiency.”

    That’s some incredibly poor reasoning. 
    Rent-a-cops are rightly derided, but the major flaw in that analogy is that Rent-a-cops don’t try to tap your phone, throw you in jail for lack of respect, track your car, flag your name for life, shoot your dog, and trap you away in an absurd totalitarian maze of red tape and regulations. Look at how out of control the TSA has already become – searching toddlers and amputees, confiscating bottled water and belt buckles while wasting billions on faux security. 

    True the GOP approach is crap in this case, but if the TSA remains federally institutionalized, does any one truly believe it will ever cede any authority, power or money? 

    Our Kafkaesque government agencies don’t ever work that way. they just grow bigger and more wasteful while completely losing sight of the original purpose.

    1. Those policies will all be the same, the only difference is that the workers will be paid less, and likely even less accountable. 

      See the NFL debacle.  It is a completely reasonable comparison.

  9. TSA agents all pass a fairly rigorous background check and hiring process. Can this process ever be 100% effective?  Ideally it would be, but it probably isn’t.  There are 45,000 screening officers employed (Source: Wikipedia) by the TSA, and I’m willing to guess that almost 100% are good, honest people.  The rest should be held accountable as should anyone in a position of public trust.  I personally know several screeners, and they are all great, hard-working, honest individuals, who are sensitive about people’s privacy.

    I just get a little sick of the knee-jerk reaction of “The TSA is evil, DHS is evil, the government is evil” blah blah blah.

    1. The value of a “background check” is greatly over-rated.  If it’s a security-critical job, you *never* assume that a single unobserved individual will act honestly, no matter how ostensibly squeaky clean their record is.  

      This is just another example of how TSA — while it may not see itself as intentionally “evil” — is not at all focused on providing statistically relevant security, but is instead quite intentionally focused on providing a theatrical security-like experience to serve as an alibi for US politicians and bureaucrats when the next bad thing inevitably happens.

      1. It is also a make-work program, Republican style. 

        BTW  ken, the TSA is evil, the DHS is evil, and some of government is evil. That has little to do with the people that work there.

  10. Cory – why can’t you post the interesting article without including your own editorial “Republican’s Suck” at the end?  It adds nothing. 

    1. Let’s deconstruct this:

      why can’t you post the interesting article without including your own editorial

      Because it’s his (among others) blog, and editorializing is a feature, not a bug.

      “Republican’s Suck”

      Those little double tick marks that you’ve used to bookend those words are normally used to denote a quotation. And yet, funnily enough, Cory doesn’t seem to have used those words.

      “Republican’s Suck”

      You’ve failed to identify the particular Republican who has possession of the “Suck” in question. Did you mean to say “Republicans suck”?

      It adds nothing.

      If one party is attempting to make a significant change in the way that the TSA is run, I would consider that a salient piece of information in a discussion of TSA failings. One might even argue that considering the terms under which TSA workers are contracted contributes nuance to a sometimes one-sided subject.

    2. Republicans do suck and it bears mentioning every time their answer to bad employees is to make things worse by encouraging employment classification abuse. 

      One thing that TSA employees will not be if privatized, is employees.

      They’ll be disenfranchised, desperate working poor fake “contractors” with no employment insurance, medical insurance worth having or hope of not starving in retirement. 

      This response to the TSA troubles is water on a grease fire, bad for everyone.

    3. You know how I know you’re a Republican?  The usual way: it’s always the plural-vs.-possessive that trips you guys up.

  11. Truly I hope much, much more of this is to follow, place fear into the minds of those who have thought themselves untouchable until now.

  12. From 1986ish till 9/11, I got hassled every time I flew from DFW because I carried a pocket knife.  Also got hassled most of the time on the return flights.  Every time I’d ask for a supervisor, who would come over and either eyeball the knife or measure it and let the security dude know that it was legal and to stop hassling people over crap like that.  Every time the supervisor would apologize for the delay and the hassle and would at least say that the dude would be getting some additional training.  I don’t know if that happened, but it was a good “feel good” gesture on their part.  Some of the supervisors encouraged me to fill out complaints on the security dudes, I guess so that they could be fired, or for it to at least go on their record.  The longest line I recall getting in was five minutes, maybe 10.  

    Now compare that to post 9/11.  Many of the same people who worked at DFW before now work there for the TSA. (I recognize a few, plus I have a friend who worked there pre and post 9/11) I regularly stand in line to get in for over an hour.  Never has any TSA agent ever apologized for the delay, at least not to me or anyone in my hearing.  Most of the time there are empty x-ray machines and metal detectors while they funnel everyone into one line.  For seven or eight years every time I flew I was pulled aside and frisked, always in view of the general public.  I’ve had items expressly allowed on flights taken from me, with no recompense.  I have made complaints, but the supervisors don’t care.  They don’t even pretend to care, which to me is amazing.  At least fake caring, geez, that’s customer relations 101.  They don’t care how mad or angry  or frustrated we are, they don’t care how long it takes everyone to get in, they don’t care if we miss flights because of it, heck, I think they even like to fuck up people’s schedule.  

    What’s the difference?  The only thing I can tell is that pre-9/11 the security people, and the companies they worked for, could be fired.  Now?  They’re gov’t employees, and can not be.   

    1. Never has any TSA agent ever apologized for the delay, at least not to me or anyone in my hearing.

      It’s like they don’t even want you to know that you’re wanted, truly special and loved…

      Seriously: “Apologize to me because the airport is busy!”

      Holy entitlement..

    2.  Goverment employees can’t be fired?? I wish I could get a contract like that!

      Whether someone is Gov or Private sector, the true standard should be accountability. Are staff being held to the rules and standards set down by their employers, and are those rules and standards appropriate/fair?

      I agree, having things that are supposed to be allowed onto a plane randomly confiscated is a problem, because it creates a lot of uncertainty and fear. But is this a solely a feature of Government processes? I would argue it is a failure of the chain of command, which can happen in any organisation without proper oversight and accountabilty.

  13. Wow, iPad’s were left at 10 airports and only one was stolen. How many agencies or companies can say they don’t have thieves working for them especially if it’s items left out on purpose to see who would take them. We are quick to be TSA haters but everyone making post about this theft has stolen something in their life and many even from their employer. 

    1. …everyone making post about this theft has stolen something in their life and many even from their employer.

      Please don’t project your own moral inadequacy onto the rest of us.

      1. To be fair, I did steal some Cadbury’s cream eggs from my mother once.

        In my defence I was young, and had much poorer standards for chocolate than I do now.

    2. I used to snarf down one of the unsellable broken cookies now and then when I worked at a bakery. I guess I never paused to consider that doing so was the moral equivalent of stealing expensive electronic equipment from people who I was tasked with protecting.

      1. Well, it, like, totally was.  Because, um… straw man!

        That said, given the ease and ability to track and find iPhones and iPads, TSA workers taking them should be fired for stupidity. If you can’t see the trap people are laying out in front of you, you deserve to fall in it.

  14. Wow, so they’ll openly admit to one-half of one percent of officers as felons. I have a terrific idea! All those people they have chasing down rolls to block voter registration could be put to better use keeping an eye on TSA workers! They could feel good about their civil duty, it agrees with the current concerns of the Republican party, and here’s a comparison of the estimated numbers:

    Number of felonious TSA officers = 0.5%
    Number of fraudulent votes WA 2004 Gubernatorial election = 0.0009%
    Number of fraudulent votes OH 2004 Gubernatorial election = 0.00004%

    (Thanks to The Brennan Center!)  http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/policy_brief_on_the_truth_about_voter_fraud/

  15. The agency disputes that theft is a widespread problem, however, saying the number of officers fired “represents less than one-half of one percent of officers that have been employed” by TSA.

    What’s the percent that’s been fired for breaking urine bags, making people remove their prosthetics, or any of the other horrible shit I read about in any given BoingBoing article about the TSA?

  16. I’ve passed through 5 airports in 2 countries in the last 4 days.  Security theater occupied approximately 3 hours of my week.  We carry special laptops for our jobs and are instructed never to let them out of our sight.  One of our colleagues put his in checked baggage and never saw it again.  Tools are our worst worry.  Special electrical meters costing upwards of $5K are disassembled and the ruined parts tossed back in the tool box.  Wrenches with proprietary bits that are essential for our jobs disappear even though they are of no use to anyone else.  Flashlights, screwdrivers, Allen wrenches, pliers, Zip ties, etc. all vanish mysteriously from checked baggage.  In Puebla, Mexico yesterday the metal fork was confiscated from my backpack’s cutlery set.  That’s OK, though because once past security you can appropriate one from the concourse restaurant before getting on the plane.  You fail. Mexican TSA-equivalent.

  17. For all that their security is pretty much exactly the same as the states, Canada does it better. CATSA has independent, unionized security staff, overseen by a Crown-corporation. Staff has the oversight of a quasi-federal body, which allows for levels of reprimand. The staff has to pass CATSA’s regular testing and when they get caught stealing, the investigation is on behalf of the taxpayer/customer, not covering their own butts, because these are independent contractors. If CATSA recommends a dismissal, the employee is still with the security firm and maybe should just be a mall-cop, but at least CATSA washes their hands of an employee not up to snuff. CATSA is dependent on how well it manages its own contract with the Canadian gov to keep funding and has a set budget.

    But it’s still faulty and things get through and people are randomly hassled for no good reason. So let’s keep debating how to do this stupid thing, because the how matters so much.

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