TSA agents do the strangest things!

by Christopher Elliott on February 5, 2012

What’s with TSA agents’ bizarre behavior lately?

Take Ellen Terrell, who was flying out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. As she was being screened, one of the agents asked, “Do you play tennis?”

“Why?” she responded.

“You just have such a cute figure,” the agent said.

As the Dallas CBS affiliate reported last week, that wasn’t all. Terrell says she walked into the body scanner, but was repeatedly told that she had to back up and walk through again.

After the third time, Terrell says even the agent seemed frustrated with her co-workers in the other room, the men reviewing the digital images of a svelte Terrell.

“She’s talking into her microphone and she says, ‘Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go. Come on out,’” she says.

Boys will be boys. But this latest reported incident is just one of several recent cases of truly unusual behavior exhibited by the agency workforce.

Margaret Hillers and her 91-year-old mother were traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which gets an inordinate number of complaints about its agents, a few weeks ago. When they reached the metal detector, the conveyor belt on the X-ray stopped.

“I watched as a TSA employee — a young man who looked like a sulky 16-year-old but was probably mid-20s and who had just sat down at the scanner — sat there and looked liked he was ready to fall asleep,” she says.

Passengers began lining up behind the Hillers, but the agent was unconcerned.

“He looked as if he were going to take a short nap,” she says.

An airport employee helping the women with their wheelchair explained that the young agent really didn’t care, and that he wouldn’t work unless a supervisor was nearby. He said several passengers had even missed flights because of his sluggish screening practices.

The Hillers made their flight, but not before Mom had to stand up, totter through the magnetometer without her cane and walk through a full-body scanner.

“I was struck by the complete lack of courtesy demonstrated by the TSA employees in Seattle,” she told me. “They treated us all like cattle.”

Yeah, but sleeping on the job? That’s a new low.

Actually, I wouldn’t call it “new.”

Just last week, six TSA baggage screeners in Newark — another troubled airport, as far as the TSA is concerned — were suspended for sleeping on the job.

One of the strangest recent cases of inexplicable TSA agent behavior was what happened when a screener found an adult toy in attorney Jill Filipovic’s baggage. Instead of quietly admiring the electronics, he slipped her a note urging her to, “get your freak on, girl.”

The TSA initially disputed her claim, but after an investigation, it tracked down the employee and fired him. In a prepared statement, the agency called the screener’s actions “highly inappropriate and unprofessional.”

It’s not the first time the TSA has targeted sex toys. Nor have agents abstained from leaving passengers notes in their luggage since then.

Who can forget the utterly strange note — “C’mon son!” — left in rapper Freddie Gibbs checked luggage when an agent discovered a bag marijuana in it?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the TSA is staffed by a bunch of perverted, incompetent, lewd, pot-heads. But incidents like these make you wonder when the a TSA urges us not to judge the agency by the actions of a few, as it did last week.

How should we judge the agency, then? Perhaps by the number of domestic terrorist attacks it has stopped?

Oh wait, that would be zero.

I have a better idea. Let’s stop making silly public statements about the integrity of the TSA and put the agency to some good use. Why not use those overpaid Behavior Detection Officers to keep an eye on the agency’s own workforce? After all, they’re experts at ferreting out strange behavior, and if anyone can stop TSA employees from doing bizarre things, isn’t it them?

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