TSA whistleblower raises concerns about security at RSW

Mike Mason

TSA whistleblower raises concerns about security at RSW

CREATED Aug. 7, 2012

LEE COUNTY - A former TSA worker breaks his silence tonight, speaking out about security concerns at RSW airport in Fort Myers that he says could affect your safety. Meanwhile, TSA officials are firing back. Four in your Corner investigator Mike Mason joins us with a story you will only see on Fox 4.

This veteran TSA security officer was in good standing when he left for personal reasons and now wants the public to know what he claims is really going on at RSW.

Jim: "They're supervisors and they don't do those things so they just stand around."

This TSA agent worked at RSW for several years. He doesn't want us to show his face for fear he may lose his benefits but he wants you to know what he says is really going on at RSW. We'll call him "Jim".
Jim says many of the problems plaguing TSA are happening nationwide. But Jim says while working at RSW he witnessed numerous issues that could put your safety at risk. Jim says he was an experienced X-ray screener but some of his co-workers were not.

Jim: "You give me any 10 year old kid who has ever played a video game and I could teach him how to operate that X-ray in 30 minutes and he'll probably do it better than a lot of the people who are doing it for a living."
Mike Mason: "That's scary."
Jim: "It is, because these people are so afraid of making a mistake. They don't read the X-ray, they guess at it."

According to Jim, agents are afraid to report problems to their supervisors.

Jim: "It's a management by fear atmosphere that you work in. The people are scared to death."

Jim says when agents have not been properly trained to work as screeners they are more likely to allow weapons and contraband to slip through the X-ray machines. He says at RSW this has happened numerous times.

Jim: "I've seen people miss knives and cans of mace."

Jim says one of his duties included acting as a training mentor and training new agents how to work security checkpoints. He says agents are required to complete approximately 100 hours of 'on the job' training before they can work checkpoints unsupervised. Jim says even after completing the training some agents are still not qualified and, as a result, he has told his supervisors he would not sign off on that agent.

Jim: "I've had people that I trained who, and I told people, he's not ready. I mean he's just not ready, doesn't matter."

Jim says supervisors didn't seem to care and would simply have another training mentor sign the paperwork, whether that agent was ready or not. He says this has happened to him once but it happened to his fellow officers several times and when new agents are not trained properly it presents a security risk to all passengers.

Jim: "You can't just give somebody 100 hours of training in a 2 and a half week period and say 'Ok , you're gold, go for it'."

We contacted TSA officials in hopes of getting their side of the story. A spokesperson would not comment on specifics but she did send Fox 4 a written statement saying in part:

"TSA's training for both full-time and part-time employees is rigorous and on-going, providing the tools necessary to face the tests presented to them. Officers are re-certified every year to continue their work protecting our transportation network. The fact that there has not been a successful terrorist attempt validates that our layered security system is working."

Jim says, for the most part, agents at RSW are doing their best to protect the public but the turbulent atmosphere inside the TSA distracts many from doing their best.

Jim: "If you're part of the ‘in-crowd’ you're fine. If you're not and they need somebody to hang out to dry they'll paint a target on your back and once they do you're done."

Last year TSA officials investigated security problems at RSW and, as a result, more than 40 agents were recently disciplined for not following protocol at security checkpoints. This has been one of the largest disciplinary actions in TSA's history.