Dozens Of TSA Agents Fired And Suspended For Not Screening Passengers At Fort Myers Florida Airport – 15% Of Workforce

June 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — Five Transportation Security Administration workers at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers have been fired and another 38 suspended after an internal investigation found they failed to perform random screenings last year.

The 43, a combination of front-line screeners and supervisors, represent about 15 percent of the roughly 280 TSA employees at the airport. The number of workers involved makes it one of the largest disciplinary actions TSA has taken in its 10-year history, TSA spokesman David Castelveter confirmed.

The workers were notified of their punishment Friday and are being given an opportunity to appeal, he said. The agency has brought in screeners from other airports to fill in.

During a two-month period last year, as many as 400 passengers who underwent routine screening at Southwest Florida International Airport never got additional random checks, Castelveter said. About 3.8 million passengers flew through the airport last year.

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TSA Claims It Will Stop Targeting Elderly Airline Passengers

May 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The US government is easing the airport screening process for travelers 75 and older, beginning to roll out new rules just in time for the long Memorial Day holiday weekend, an official said Friday.

From this weekend the elderly will no longer have to doff shoes, belts and jackets as they pass through security checkpoints at New York’s three major airports: John F. Kennedy International, La Guardia, and Newark Liberty.

The Transportation Security Administration has said rollout of the new measures to the rest of the country could follow.

“Seventy-five-plus is in the process of being rolled out and customers will see it over the course of the summer and beyond,” said David Castelveter, chief spokesman of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Castelveter said he did not have a precise timetable, but the New York rollout was expected to occur through the upcoming three-day weekend that unofficially kicks off the US summer vacation season.

The 75-plus measures have already been successfully tested in the Chicago, Denver, Orlando and Portland airports.

Last September the TSA decided to allow children 12 and under to pass through screening without removing their shoes.

The enhanced TSA airport screening was established after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States in which the attackers used airplanes as weapons.

The Al-Qaeda attacks claimed 2,976 lives in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

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Babysitters To Accompany Secret Service Agents To Keep Them From Overdrinking, Bringing Whores To Their Hotel Rooms, And Out Of Sleazy Bars

April 28, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Embarrassed by a prostitution scandal, the Secret Service will assign chaperones on some trips to enforce new rules of conduct that make clear that excessive drinking, entertaining foreigners in their hotel rooms and cavorting in disreputable establishments are no longer tolerated.

The stricter measures, issued by the Secret Service on Friday for agents and employees, apply even when traveling personnel are off duty.

The policies, outlined in a memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, are the agency’s latest attempt to respond to the scandal that surfaced as President Barack Obama was headed to a Latin American summit in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.

The embattled Secret Service director, Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to “consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks.”

Sullivan said the rules “cannot address every situation that our employees will face as we execute our dual-missions throughout the world.” He added: “The absence of a specific, published standard of conduct covering an act or behavior does not mean that the act is condoned, is permissible or will not call for — and result in — corrective or disciplinary action.”

“All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct,” Sullivan said.

Ethics classes will be conducted for agency employees next week.

The changes were intended to staunch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Cartagena involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors and 12 more enlisted military personnel who were there ahead of Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas.

But the new policies raised questions about claims that the behavior discovered in Cartagena was an isolated incident: Why would the Secret Service formally issue new regulations covering thousands of employees if such activities were a one-time occurrence?

“It’s too bad common-sense policy has to be dictated in this manner,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “New conduct rules are necessary to preventing more shenanigans from happening in the future, and whether these are the best, and most cost effective, rules to stop future misconduct remains to be seen.”

The rules did not mention prostitutes or strip clubs. But they prohibit employees from allowing foreigners, except hotel staff or foreign law enforcement colleagues, into their hotel rooms. They also ban visits to “nonreputable” establishments, which were not defined. The State Department was expected to brief Secret Service employees on trips about areas and businesses considered off-limits to them.

During trips in which the presidential limousine and other bulletproof vehicles are transported by plane, senior-level chaperones will accompany agents and enforce conduct rules, including one from the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., praised the new rules as “very positive steps by the Secret Service to make clear what is expected of every agent and also makes clear what will not be tolerated.”

The Secret Service has forced eight employees from their jobs and was seeking to revoke the security clearance of another employee, which would effectively force him to resign. Three others have been cleared of serious wrongdoing. The military was conducting its own, separate investigation but canceled the security clearances of all 12 enlisted personnel.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano assured senator this week that the incident in Colombia appeared to be an isolated case, saying she would be surprised if it represented a broader cultural problem. The next day, the Secret Service acknowledged it was investigating whether its employees hired strippers and prostitutes in advance of Obama’s visit last year to El Salvador. Prostitution is legal in both Colombia and El Salvador.

“If they are true, the emergence of these anecdotes about past Secret Service misconduct is precisely why our committee will be trying to determine if such behavior is widespread,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, R-Conn., who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee has asked Sullivan for information “related to misconduct by agents on assignment,” he said.

In a confidential message to senators on Thursday, the Secret Service said its Office of Professional Responsibility had not received complaints about officer behavior in El Salvador but would investigate.

On Capitol Hill, early signs surfaced of eroding support for the Secret Service director. Grassley said Sullivan’s job could be secure if the scandal were an isolated incident. “But if it goes much deeper, you know, nothing happens or nothing’s changed in Washington if heads don’t roll,” Grassley said on CBS “This Morning.”

The White House said the president remained supportive of Sullivan and confident in the capabilities of the Secret Service.

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Nearly Half Million In Taxpayer Cash Spent On Michelle Obama’s Vacation In Spain – Similar Costs When Obama’s Went To South Africa And Botswana

April 26, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – It cost taxpayers nearly a half-million dollars for first lady Michelle Obama to travel to Spain in 2010, according to an analysis by Judicial Watch.

The right-leaning watchdog group estimated that the trip cost $467,585. It based its analysis on documents obtained from the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Air Force.

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said it took his group “two years and a lawsuit to get these documents out of the Obama administration.”

“It is hypocritical for President Obama to fire GSA officials for wasteful conference spending, while his family went on a luxury vacation in the Costa del Sol Spain that cost taxpayers nearly half a million dollars,” Fitton said.

Among the various travel costs, the group estimated — using the Defense Department’s 2010 published hourly rates — that it cost the government $199,323 to fly to Spain and back to the United States.

The New York Times reported that those on the trip included the first lady, one of her daughters and “two friends and four of their daughters, as well as a couple of aides and a couple of advance staff members.”

Fitton’s group has previously disclosed the cost of sending the first family on overseas trips. Its analysis indicated that it cost $424,142 to fly the first family to South Africa and Botswana in 2011.

White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the report during a press briefing Thursday.

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TSA Created Travel Hassles Currently Cost US Economy $85 Billion And 900,000 Jobs Per Year

March 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S Travel Association and a panel of travel and security experts today unveiled a groundbreaking plan to improve security at America’s airports and reduce the burden on travelers. Among the most notable recommendations are the creation of a trusted traveler program and a requirement that travelers be allowed to check at least one bag at no additional cost to the ticket price as a means to reduce the amount of luggage going through the security checkpoint.

The need for reform was made especially clear by recent research revealing that travelers are avoiding two to three trips per year due to unnecessary hassles associated with the security screening process. These avoided trips come at a cost of $85 billion and 900,000 jobs to the American economy.

The recommendations, the culmination of a year-long analysis to remake aviation security screening, were issued in a report titled “A Better Way: Building a World Class System for Aviation Security,” and call on Congress to own responsibility for improving the current system through effective policy decisions. U.S. Travel and its panel of experts set out to achieve three primary goals:

1.
Improve the TSA checkpoint by increasing efficiency, decreasing passenger wait times and screening passengers based on risk;
2.
Generate greater governmental efficiency and cooperation in executing its security responsibilities; and
3.
Restructure America’s national approach to aviation security by developing and using risk management methods and tools.

“While our government and passengers deserve credit for preventing another terrorist attack like what happened nearly 10 years ago on 9/11, each day in the United States roughly two million air travelers are advised to arrive upwards of two hours before a flight in order to be processed through a one-size-fits-all security screening system,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

“The country that put a man on the moon, invented the Internet and creates daily innovations in manufacturing can and must do better in screening passengers and improving our air travel experience. Air travel is the gateway to commerce and an improved experience is directly tied to job creation and a stronger economy.”

The blue ribbon panel created by U.S. Travel was chaired by former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Congressman Jim Turner and Sam Gilliland, president and chief executive officer of Sabre Holdings. The panel consisted of former top officials from DHS and TSA; representatives from the airline, airport, logistics and security technology sectors; and leaders who represent the destinations and other businesses reliant on a functional air travel system.

In helping U.S. Travel introduce the report, former Secretary Ridge said: “A strong aviation security screening system must feature several characteristics, including efficient methods of deterring and interdicting terrorists and criminals; tailored security based upon risk assessment; frequent, clear communication with the traveling public; and cost-effective use of resources.”

Dow acknowledged the complexity of addressing the current challenges, noting solutions will require cooperation, and possibly sacrifices by airlines, airports, the broader travel industry, the traveling public, federal agencies and the Congress, which he said must take responsibility for leading change.

“Dramatic policy shifts undermine the ability of our nation to create a secure and efficient aviation system, and demonstrate a lack of a long-term vision for aviation security,” Dow said. “TSA and its officers often bear unjustified public criticism for simply carrying out the ever-changing policies set by Congress and an unwillingness to date to embrace risk management. If this pattern is to change, Congress must set the tone and take on the responsibility of improving the current system.”

Rooted in the diverse professional and political viewpoints of the panelists, the group did not always find consensus in how to address the difficult challenges. Among the panel’s recommendations in the report:

*
Implement a risk-based trusted traveler program. Congress should authorize TSA to implement a new, voluntary, government-run trusted traveler program that utilizes a risk-based approach to checkpoint screening, with the goal of refocusing resources on the highest risk passengers;
*
Improve preparation of travelers. Industry stakeholders should work with TSA to improve their education and communication on security rules and regulations, targeting locations and sources that travelers are likely to review as they book or prepare for a trip;
*
Encourage fewer carry-on bags. The Department of Transportation (DOT) should issue regulations requiring airlines to allow passengers one checked bag as part of their base airfare and standardize existing rules covering the quantity and size of items that can be carried onto an airplane;
*
Reduce duplicative TSA screening for international arrivals. DHS should enable certain low-risk passengers who are traveling to another domestic airport to forego checked baggage and passenger screening upon landing in the U.S.;
*
Expand trusted traveler programs to qualified international passengers. DHS should expand access to international trusted traveler programs for international passengers entering the U.S., as well as lead efforts to establish a multinational network of streamlined entry procedures for low-risk travelers;
*
Give TSA authority over the entire checkpoint area. Congress should immediately act to clear up confusion over “ownership” of commercial aviation security and authorize TSA to control the entire security checkpoint starting at the beginning of the security lines and ending after a traveler exits the screening area;
*
Develop a comprehensive technology procurement strategy. TSA, in collaboration with technology vendors and the travel community, should develop a comprehensive strategy for implementing necessary checkpoint technology capabilities. Congress should provide multi-year funding plans for TSA to execute this strategy;
*
Implement well-defined risk management processes. The Administration should convene an external panel of experts with appropriate security clearances to review TSA aviation security programs, assess the risk each is designed to mitigate and develop metrics for measuring progress to lessen that risk.

Dow urged Congress and the Administration to seriously considering implementing the panel’s recommendations as quickly as possible, pointing out the current aviation security system is discouraging Americans from flying and contributing to a decline in productivity among those who choose to fly.

According to a 2010 survey conducted by Consensus Research, American travelers would take an additional two to three flights per year if the hassles in security screening system were eliminated. These additional flights would add nearly $85 billion in consumer spending and 900,000 jobs to the American economy.

According to the same research, a large majority of Americans consider today’s security screening system to be “inconsistent,” “stressful” and “embarrassing.”

Dow concluded: “When combining the staggering economic consequences of the current system with the widely held views of the traveling public – and with the American way of life hanging in the balance – the picture becomes clear. We must find a better way and build a new traveler-focused system for aviation security.”

To download the complete report, visit http://www.ustravel.org/betterway.

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