HOUSTON -- With travelers facing heightened security nationwide, hidden cameras found airport screeners' own bags being allowed to avoid any screening, Local 2 Investigates reported Wednesday.
Transportation Security Administration workers were recorded passing by X-rays, metal detectors and explosive-sniffing machines that other people face at airports. They often carry purses, lunchboxes, backpacks and even large luggage into the secure areas of the airport.
"I would say that we're not traveling securely because anybody could put something in there," said Houston visitor Theresa Kusak as she headed in for pat-downs and having her own bags searched at Bush Intercontinental Airport.
"I think their luggage should be screened like the rest of us," she said.
U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Houston) agrees, saying, "If this is TSA procedure, they are absolutely missing the point on airport security. It's absurd to let them go through without any type of screening and then you've got, right next door, you got grandma having to go through full body scanners. It doesn't make sense. It's total incompetence as far as I'm concerned."
Poe watched the hidden camera video from Local 2 Investigates, showing TSA workers hauling luggage and backpacks into a back door exit as they begin their shifts each day.
"They're bringing in bags, suitcase-size bags, backpacks. We don't know what's in there," Poe said. "It's never looked at by anyone, doesn't go through any machine and who's to say that one of these TSA employees won't be compromised by some outside group to bring some dangerous item into the airport?"
Airport police told Local 2 Investigates that they've noticed TSA workers at both Intercontinental and Hobby airports avoiding security by the dozens each day at shift changes.
In a written statement, TSA responded: "TSA employs a risk-based approach to security and focuses resources where threats are the greatest. Our officers are a thoroughly vetted group of trained professionals entrusted to keep the traveling public safe. TSA holds its work force to the highest professional and ethical standards and does not tolerate misconduct in the workplace. Our officers work in teams, in public areas and are under direct supervision."
Poe responded after viewing the Local 2 Investigates video, saying, "Just because they pass a background check doesn't mean that they shouldn't be screened. If anything, you ought to be screening TSA employees more than anybody else because they have access to much more than the passenger does."
TSA officials told Local 2 Investigates that is "impractical" to screen workers' bags because they pass back and forth from the secured areas so often in each shift. The agency relies on its workers being thoroughly vetted, and since they are "trusted members of the Homeland Security anti-terrorism team, they did not require daily screenings," the agency said.
TSA admitted it stopped screening workers' bags nationwide as a matter of policy in 2007, when workers switched to their current bright blue uniforms.
Another member of Congress, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and a terrorism subcommittee, plans to call for oversight hearings to change what Local 2 Investigates uncovered.
"I just went through a scanner the other day and got fully patted down and, you know, I think that's the way it should be," said U.S. Rep. Michael McCau