US Airline Passengers Claim TSA Ignoring Their Theft Reports
Congressman calls for "complete overhaul" of TSA in wake of ABC News report.
Sept. 28, 2012 — -- Hundreds of air passengers reacted following an ABC News investigation into theft by uniformed employees of the federal agency in charge of airport security, some saying they were victims of theft and were ignored by Transportation Security Administration officials.
Rep. John Mica (R-Florida), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called Friday for "a total reform and complete overhaul" of the TSA.
The ABC News report, which included footage of a TSA officer who appeared to have taken an iPad left behind on purpose at the Orlando airport, "is another eye-opening example of how this bloated security agency cannot properly recruit, train and oversee a ballooning 65,000 person workforce," said Mica.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama), a member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said the report showed that the TSA had more than just an image problem.
"The bloated agency is so overwhelmed with managing its workforce that it has lost track of its real security mission," Rogers told ABC News. "It needs to become leaner and smarter."
WATCH more on this report tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer."
Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards said the case of the Orlando TSA officer, Andy Ramirez, has been referred to the U.S. attorney's office for criminal prosecution and that any theft involving TSA personnel is "a key concern."
"Our investigators have dealt with a number of theft cases while our auditors are currently examining the root causes and recommending deterrents to TSA management," Edwards said.
The TSA said Ramirez was fired Wednesday, one day in advance of the ABC News broadcast, in keeping with its "zero-tolerance" policy for theft from passengers. Ramirez was the 381st TSA officer to be fired for theft, according to the TSA, and one of eleven this year alone.
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.
Since the original report aired, ABC News has been flooded with hundreds of comments on its website and on Facebook from passengers, many of whom claimed they had personal belongings taken from their luggage.
Echoing similar stories, one woman wrote that she had a laptop stolen after TSA officers went through her checked bags at JFK airport in New York and said "the airlines and TSA have been zero help" in getting her things back.
Several said they opened their carry-on or checked luggage after a trip in the U.S. to discover their laptop, iPad or cameras were missing. One woman said that her 10-year-old daughter had all of her jewelry stolen.
Talon Windwalker told ABC News that after his Kindle went missing, no officials seemed to care.
"They were no help and basically just shrugged their shoulders. Didn't even offer to take a complaint," he said via Skype.
Dallas businessman Dirk Wenzlaff said he got the cold shoulder from TSA after his iPad disappeared from his checked luggage.
Using the Find Me app, Wenzlaff tracked the homing beacon on the iPad to TSA officer Clayton Dovel, who authorities said was found with at least five other stolen iPads when he was arrested.
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