The TSA agent who went to jail for stealing a CNN camera and selling it on eBay (after first simply going on paid leave) is now out and talking about the TSA culture that permitted and even encouraged such behavior.
He explains he only got caught because he forgot to remove some of the CNN stickers before the sale.
“It was very commonplace, very,” said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.
“It was very convenient to steal,” he said.
..Brown is one of almost 400 TSA officers who have been fired for stealing from passengers in the past decade. According to the TSA, 381 TSA officers have been fired for theft between 2003 and 2012, including 11 so far in this year.
And that’s the number that have been fired, and it isn’t easy to actually be fired.
When he was arrested, I offered the TSA’s defense that
only 465 officers have been terminated for theft in the past five years (“0.4 percent of those employed by the agency”).
Somehow the number of officers terminated between 2003 and 2008 has shrunk in the four years since this incident, despite more officers having been terminated since that time. So I’m not sure how the math works. But their defense is still the same:
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.
This former TSA agent explains how his colleagues helped him out in his thefts.
Assigned to screen luggage behind the ticket counters, Brown said he often worked alone, was told when overhead surveillance cameras to prevent theft were not working, and was never asked about suspicious behavior.
“It was so easy,” said Brown, “I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand. Nobody said a word.”
He said he soon learned how to read the X-ray scans to find the most valuable items to steal.
“I could tell whether it was cameras or laptops or portable cameras or whatever kind of electronic was in the bag,” Brown said.
At the time of his arrest, Brown was offering for sale some 80 cameras, video games and computers on his personal eBay page.
“It was like being on drugs, it was,” he told ABC News. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’ but the next day I was right back at it.”
Brown described one instance when he got a tip off about complaints from passengers about thefts.
“One gentleman that used to work in the office one day came to me and said, ‘They were talking about you in the office. Be careful.’ I said, ‘Okay.'”
He also explains that TSA-standardized (‘approved’) locks were great because they were easy to pick, without the variance in lock types that means they only need to learn one. And the sense was that it was easy to steal, they were low paid, so it was ok.
As they say, a..