Groping Conspiracy Thwarted, TSA Claims [Updated]

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It still hasn’t caught any terrorists, but it has managed to root out a conspiracy of gropers (maybe sub-conspiracy is a better term) within its own ranks, according to this report.

After another employee reported that a screener at Denver International Airport had told her that he groped passengers he found attractive, a TSA investigator found that in fact at least two screeners were working together to further this goal. The investigator witnessed the male screener signaling to a female colleague when a certain passenger approached, and she then manipulated the scanner to “detect an anomaly.” (She apparently did this by deliberately selecting the wrong gender, something I’m sure they never do by mistake.) Result: thorough pat-down. She admitted she had steered travelers to him this way on at least ten other occasions.

The TSA described the alleged acts as “egregious,” which as you know means “really bad,” and because it fired both employees I assume it wasn’t using the archaic meaning of that term, which I have just learned was the opposite.


The case was turned over to the district attorney’s office for a possible charge of unlawful sexual contact, but the DA has apparently declined to prosecute because “none of the passengers believed to have been touched by the screener could be identified.” Well, I don’t think the admission to the tipster was hearsay, and the co-conspirator confessed. Do they not prosecute many people based on less evidence than that? I think they do.

Prosecutors are considering filing a different charge, a spokeperson said, but she did not elaborate on what that might be.

I’d say more about this, but I have to catch a flight back to San Francisco (just finished a presentation in Memphis). I don’t have to go through security when I connect in Denver, but after the firings, that might now be the least gropey airport in the country (at least temporarily).

Update: The TSA News blog made a good point that I missed—the culprits supposedly can’t be prosecuted because the victim can’t be identified, but a TSA investigator watched at least one of these crimes happen and yet let the victim leave without identifying him. That is, TSA—which is not a law-enforcement agency—didn’t get the police involved when it received the original tip, instead choosing to do its own investigation, in which it failed to preserve information that we’re told is necessary for prosecution. Interesting.

Here’s the police report.