In the latest scandal to rock the beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA), badges that allow agents to access secure areas of airports are missing along with uniforms and other devices used to control entry.
Judicial Watch has obtained records that show the TSA, which was created after 9/11 to secure the nation’s transportation system, has reported hundreds of lost, stolen or missing badges since 2012. It’s part of an ongoing JW investigation into the massive agency, which functions under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a multi-billion-dollar budget and more than 60,000 employees. Earlier this month JW obtained records that detail alleged sexually-related assaults on passengers by TSA personnel at three major U.S. international airports.
Some of the documents relating to the lost badges and uniforms were withheld by the government because they were deemed “sensitive security information” that would be detrimental to the security of transportation if disclosed. However, the documents JW got reveal that 139 security badges went missing in 2012 and 131 in 2013. Last year the agency reported 123 missing or stolen badges an so far this year there have been 19, according to the records provided to JW by the TSA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lost uniform items, which can also be utilized to compromise security, were broken down by airports in the TSA files obtained by JW. O’Hare International in Chicago is among the biggest consistent offenders with 336 lost uniform items in both 2013 and 2014. Washington Dulles International lost 343 uniform items last year and Philadelphia International 253. Houston Intercontinental was the leader with 220 lost items in 2012, so the numbers show the numbers are increasing with time.
On the heels of this alarming information, a mainstream news outlet reports this week that the problem is much worse than the official government records show. More than 1,400 TSA badges that allow employees to access secure areas like runways and boarding gates went missing at one airport alone, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, over approximately two years. The same news outlet reported that 270 badges went missing at San Diego International Airport in the last two years. It gets better. Some of the security badges weren’t reported missing for months, which means they weren’t deactivated and could still be used to enter restricted areas.
It appears that this crisis has finally caught the attention of Congress because lawmakers on the Senate Transportation Committee have requested that the TSA reveal how many airport security badges have been lost or stolen nationwide. In fact, one news report said the senator who chairs the committee, John Thune, fired off a blistering letter to TSA officials demanding answers regarding missing, lost or stolen Secured Identification Display Area badges that can by use to access secure areas at airports. The story quotes Senator Thune saying that “clearly there are an awful lot of things falling through the cracks and there’s just no room for an error when it comes to this issue.”
The TSA is well known for its many transgressions and failure to adequately protect airports. This includes missing guns and bombs during covert exercises known as “red team tests,” TSA agents literally sleeping on the job and steeling from passengers, the failure to properly screen luggage and a number of other violations that have risked the nation’s safety. A few years ago a congressional report revealed that the TSA had failed miserably to fulfill its mission despite being generously funded by the government. Even a former TSA director has said that airport security is a national embarrassment at the hands of the agency he once headed.