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Author Topic:   My TSA Experience
Posts: 22607
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.7

Message 1 of 1 (912055)
08-11-2023 9:33 AM

Some may have seen the recent news about three Miami airport TSA agents who were caught stealing money from passenger wallets and bags by distracting them during the screening process. Estimates are that they were stealing around $1000/day. See TSA workers busted for theft reveals vulnerabilities: experts.
My own suspicions that TSA agents were taking advantage of the security screening process to steal from passengers grew gradually. I have artificial hips and so have to follow a more stringent screening process that separates me from my wife for a few minutes. This was a very minor inconvenience. We were very aware of it while we were going through it but quickly forgot about it afterwards.
Until 2019. While my wife I were separated my laptop went through the X-ray in a bin and then sat unattended for several minutes while I was personally screened by someone with a wand. When I finally emerged on the other side the laptop was gone. We eventually got it back under incredibly lucky circumstances, but that's a story for another time.
The laptop disappearance was the fault not of TSA agents but of the process they had been trained to follow which makes no provision for the possibility that some of your fellow travelers may be crooks or at least opportunists.
But then in 2021 I had an experience that revealed that TSA agents themselves might be responsible for theft. Again my wife and I were separated, and then I was told I was in the wrong line, that I would have to go to another line. She said another agent was on his way to escort me to the other line, but in the meantime she asked me to empty my pockets. In it were AirBuds, keys and change. I assumed she wanted all the metal placed in the tray she was holding out, but she said only the AirBuds. I was then escorted to another line. I assumed the tray with the AirBuds would be going with me, but they didn't. Surveillance footage discovered that the AirBuds were routed way off to the far side where they sat for a minute before someone who knew there was a camera plucked them up. We had to make a flight and had no time to try to convince the police that the TSA agent who took my AirBuds was complicit in a conspiracy to separate passengers from their belongings and should be arrested.
Then earlier this year I was instructed to go to one line, but a passenger in a wheelchair in front of me experienced mechanical difficulties. My wife had already gone through and reacquired the laptops and so forth and she thought everything was fine. I was directed to the adjacent line where another TSA agent made an attempt to separate me from the contents of my pockets. She wanted me to put them in a tray in her line, and then she was going to escort me to a different line. I resisted and she became abusive, yelling at me and being derogatory when I looked confusedly at a railing she asked me to step through but that turned out to be on hinges. Fortunately my wife finally noticed the confusion and escorted the tray with my pocket contents through the X-ray station while I was escorted to another line. The TSA agent continued to berate me, telling me I couldn't behave like this, while I told her she was behaving in a highly suspicious manner and appeared to be trying to separate me from my possessions, something we had experienced before. She seemed willing to stand there and argue at length, and I finally rolled my eyes and walked away.
Whether that particular TSA station was on the up and up I do not know, but clearly their process is very vulnerable to exploitation by thieves, particularly if the thieves are the TSA agents themselves. I felt targeted by this particular agent because I was older and might be someone more easily confused, particular as I had to maneuver through an additional screening process because of my artificial hips.
After that my wife and I modified how we proceed through TSA. Before we reach TSA we remove everything from our pockets and put it in our bags. My wife goes through first and waits for all our stuff on the other side. Once she has it all she signals me and then I go through and it doesn't matter how many times they redirect me to another line.
I hadn't considered posting about my TSA experiences until I saw that article about the TSA agents in Miami. After my recent experiences I've become convinced that TSA security screening is an opportunity for theft, including by the TSA agents themselves, and particularly if you're an older traveler. Be careful out there.

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