TSA Officer Pretended To Find Cocaine In Flyers' Bags

The Smoking Gun has procured internal TSA memos about the security officer who was fired after pulling jokes on travelers by pretending to find cocaine in their luggage.

It turns out the powder was creatine that the officer was supposed to be using to test new bomb detection equipment.

One of the of the incident reports is from a fellow officer who saw what happened:

On Jan 5th, 2010, I observed BAO [redacted] approach a female passenger on lane #7. He showed her a small clear plastic bag which contained white powder. He told her that he found this bag amongst her property in the x-ray bin and he believed the white powder was cocaine.

The female passenger [redacted] was surprised to hear this as she denied ever using drugs. She also stated that she had no idea how the plastic bag got mixed in with her property.

BAO [redacted] told her that she did not have to lie to him and asked her again as to why her property would have this plastic bag. She vehemently denied having the plastic bag in her property. Once BAO [redacted] realized that she was getting upset, he told her it was a hook and she would have to admit that it was funny. She said it was not funny but was rather cruel and unprofessional o him to do this.

Once the female passenger left the checkpoint (D/E), I informed ST30 [redacted] of my observation of this incident.

Pretty screwed up abuse of power. Also screwed up? Out of the six workers interviewed, this was the only one who reported the incident to a supervisor.

Memos Detail TSA Officer’s Cocaine Pranks [The Smoking Gun]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SkuldChan says:

    Ahh security theater… Its clearly more about the TSA having fun on their power trips.

  2. Julia789 says:

    Oh I would have had a heart attack if a security guy pulled that from my luggage. I would have assumed someone at the airport stuck it in there to sneak it through, and that I would go to jail for it – just like in the movies. I would have gone hysterical. What a shitty thing for that guy to pull.

    • sleze69 says:

      Hmm…since it is a felony to say you have a bomb at the airport, did this guy violate any criminal statutes? He should be in jail.

    • crazedhare says:

      I would have at least faked it to set up a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress later. Haha.

      • Julia789 says:

        “Oh, my heart!” (Clutching chest, fainting) Nah, I’m so high strung I wouldn’t need to fake it. If not a heart attack, I would have definitely had a panic attack!

        I feel really badly for that lady he pulled this “joke” on.

  3. SkokieGuy says:

    Well at least he was fired.

    But if creatine can be detected by the bomb detection equipment, what about bodybuilders and others who take it as a supplement? They could easily have residue on their body and / or pack a quantity in their carry-on.

    • GMFish says:

      Because their pumped-up arms are like heavy artillery.

    • Benjamin says:

      It may also be meant as a control substance that isn’t supposed to trigger the alarms.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      I got searched once because I had taken my cholesterol meds just before I picked up my suitcase. The residue triggered an explosives alarm. TSA guy told me it happens all the time. Thank god they’re protecting us from blood plaque.

  4. cheri0627 says:

    I can understand why other employees didn’t report it. Imagine working with a Jerk who would think something like this was funny. Imagine now that you tell on that co-worker and he finds out. I would not want to be that person.

    • keepntabs says:

      The mere fact that you’d let innocent people go emotional distress just because you didn’t want to be a potential victim is shameful. Well, it’s a good thing that at least one other person was able to not let fear stop them from doing the right thing.

      • cheri0627 says:

        I didn’t say I wouldn’t report it. I just said I could understand it. I don’t know anything about this person other than he thinks that pretending to find cocaine in someone’s luggage is funny. Doesn’t sound like the kind of person you want to mess with.

      • catskyfire says:

        Yet that’s basically how bullying works, at all levels. Let other people go through heck so the self is safe.

    • Lollerface says:

      The blue wall of silence

  5. PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:
    • kingofmars says:

      It looks like this is the same case. It happened at the same time of year and the same area as the consumerist post. The article linked to in the story is no longer avai or on the mobile site(stupid useless mobile websites!)
      Maybe, I’m just interpurating this wrong, but it sounds like this guy was using this prank to talk to young women. If that true, then this is officially the worst opening pick up line ever.

  6. oldwiz65 says:

    I’m only surprised it wasn’t real cocaine to get someone thrown in jail for a long time. After all, if the police can plant cocaine on people, why can’t the TSA people?

  7. blogger X says:

    Didn’t this happen at Philadelphia International Airport? I remember reading a story similar to this on Consumerist.

  8. Bativac says:

    These guys. This is why my wife and I are driving to Maine next week. Well, a combination of this and poor treatment of customers by the airlines.

    • vastrightwing says:

      I constantly drive or take the MegaBus/BoltBus to NYC. It only takes 4 hours.

      If I fly, the ticket costs $150 and it takes 2.5 hours plus the hassle of security. The Bus costs less than $40 round trip (less than the cab ride to the airport) and I can relax and surf the internet or work, if I want. Bonus, no security B.S.

      • Bativac says:

        For us, a flight from home (Florida) to Maine would definitely be quicker and maybe cheaper. I just don’t want to go thru the security and the hassle of the airlines (though admittedly we have seldom had any problems with the airlines – we usually use Southwest).

        My wife swears she was groped by TSA the last time she flew (something about having to check under her underwire — I wasn’t there). For that reason we’re putting off flying unless and until we have to. I guess the terrorists have, in fact, won.

        • Pax says:

          You could also take the train, at least as far as Boston, and maybe all the way to Portland ME.

          Plus, there’s an “Auto Train”, that loads your car on too, which can take you as far as D.C.

          A train ride is about 20-24 hours, and will cost as much as flying (more, if you go with the Autotrain, despite getting off sooner) … plus the cost of a couple meals en route. So it’s slower, and not cheaper – but, you don’t have to suffer through the Security Theater bit, and someone else still does most/all of the driving for you.

          • SabreDC says:

            Actually, the Auto Train runs all the way down to Orlando. I’ve taken the DC-Orlando leg numerous times.

    • PatrickPortland says:

      Since I moved up to Portland I have driven back down to NYC a whole bunch of times. I flew down and back once. I’ll take the drive over the flight any time.

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    So if I say something stupid like, well it’s not like I have a bomb in here, I get arrested and put on a no fly list but this guy plants fake cocaine in passengers bags and he only gets fired?

    This does not seem equitable to me.

  10. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I’m a diabetic and I use a natural non-sugar sweetener that is not commonly found at restaurants (xylitol, if anyone’s interested). I travel with a pound or so of it in my carry-on luggage. So far I have not run into any problems, and I’ve on multiple plane trips, even been to the UAE twice. (Just for the record, if they find so much as drug residue on your shoes in Dubai, they will haul your ass into jail without passing Go.)

    Nevertheless, it will take only one time for someone to assume the white crystalline substance is something that does more than just sweeten my coffee, and then I’ll be in trouble. Just one reason, among many, that I arrange to get through security at least three hours before my flight.

    Now, this joker with the baggie of creatine, pretending it’s drugs… all it will take is for some other official to see the bag, hear him say he thinks it’s drugs, and not want to “take any chances” for some innocent person to be hassled or worse. Imagine if he saw a supervisor out of the corner of his eye just as he was about to pull the bag out of someone’s luggage, or got called away or distracted, and left the bag in there. Then imagine that the individual had a connecting flight in, say, Heathrow terminal 5, where they re-examine your carry-ons before they let you on your next connection. Makes me want to vomit, it does.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Isn’t that what the test kits are for? Put the suspect powder inside, crack the tube, and shake. Blue = Jail.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Isn’t that what the test kits are for? Put the suspect powder inside, crack the tube, and shake. Blue = Jail.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        Oddly enough, I did have something tested at Heathrow. Their security person pulled a little vial out of my liquids baggie and asked if it was OK if he tested it. I said sure, what the hell, why not. He rubbed a bit on a test swab thing and it didn’t change color or whatever (it was hair goop) so no big deal. He shrugged and told me, “Thanks a mill, you’re a hero.” (You’re welcome, sarcastic bastard.)

    • Bob Lu says:

      Didn’t something similar actually happened? What was worse, there were REAL bomb ingredients left in people’s begs. (It was for a bomb detection drill. They place real bomb ingredients in innocent people’s bags, but failed to catch all of them.)

  11. daemonaquila says:

    Ah, yes. More security theater to create the illusion of safety while allowing illegal peeks into luggage for basic street crime and nudie pics for… for… for… personal enjoyment(?)/horror(?).

  12. Liam Kinkaid says:

    I make my own semi-thug organization that wastes billions of taxpayer dollars and millions of travelers hours at home.

  13. DragonThermo says:

    And because the TSA are now government union employees, they can’t be fired for this kind of shenanigans. If the TSA were a private company, the perpetrator could be fired and the conspirators (the one’s who witnessed but did not report the violation) could/should have a written reprimand in their employee file and possibly re-assigned.

    I seriously doubt the perpetrator was fired. They were probably encouraged to resign since government union employees cannot be fired, at least for anything less than a felony.

    • veg-o-matic says:

      He was fired.

      Take your anti-government, anti-union rhetoric elsewhere.

      • George4478 says:

        He was fired for only terrorizing one civilian. He’s expected to terrorize groups, such as families or children’s choirs, so he was actually fired for not being efficient enough.

    • catskyfire says:

      Even if it was private employment, doesn’t mean he would be fired.

    • JiminyChristmas says:

      If the TSA screeners were private contractors we probably never would have heard of this incident. Their employers would have encouraged them to cover it up so they wouldn’t be at risk of losing their government contract. To get any form of redress the people who were ‘pranked’ would have had to file a complaint with some other agency or file a lawsuit. If they got a settlement it probably would have included a gag order that would have prevented them from publicly discussing it.

      The only reason we are reading about this story now is that the screeners are public employees and we as citizens have the right to see documents about their activities. Likewise, the person who actually blew the whistle on their co-worker maybe did so in part because their union-negotiated work rules would help protect them from retaliation.

    • Mauvaise says:

      Jesus Christ, it was in the very first sentence of the article: “The Smoking Gun has procured internal TSA memos about the security officer who was fired ….”

      I can understand not reading the linked article and I can even bend my brain around not reading the entire Consumerist article, but not even reading the first sentence?!

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Well, the Dems figured if they were gov’t employees, they’d be more professional. Or something.

      • backbroken says:

        YES YES YES.

        Asshats work for TSA so that means Democrats are bad.

        Thank you for sharing that moment of brilliance.

  14. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Come on, admit it, it was funny. Getting fired was totally worth it. He could have followed up with a crevice search since she was so annoyed anyway and it’s a great way to get to know someone. Nah, probably get in trouble for that, better to just put her in the Backscatter Peter-Meter and ogle. “Respect mah authority!”

  15. dreamfish says:

    As if the TSA wasn’t hated enough.

  16. UnicornMaster says:

    It’s like they had Seth Rogen working there. I wonder if he used it to hit on the pretty ladies.

  17. cmdr.sass says:

    What an asshole. He’s lucky that he only got fired.

  18. maxx22 says:

    These TSA guys wear uniforms. They should all be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) like everyone in the armed forces.

    A few public courts martial convictions followed by six months to five years at hard labor will stop all of the games and stealing real quick.

    • Pax says:

      The UCMJ is for the armed forces, not “anyone in uniform”.

      FBI, Secret Service, local police, State Police, TSA, even Customs and Border Patrol … none of them are at any time subject to the UCMJ … because they are not military personnel, and they are not part of the armed forces.

      The UCMJ is solely for the Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Army. Maybe the Coast Guard still, too; I’m not sure how their move to the Department of Homeland Security, or whatever it’s called, may have changed that.

      But certainly not the TSA.

      • SonarTech52 says:

        The US Coast gaurd used to be part of the Dept of Transportation, unless acting under the US Navy then it acted under Dept of Defence. When the Dept of Homeland Security took it over, it changed. It is part of the Armed Forces, and is subject to the UCMJ, but they also have federal law enforcement authority, where other armed forces do not.

      • maxx22 says:

        I didn’t say they WERE subject to the UCMJ. I know they are not. I said they SHOULD BE subject to the UCMJ.

        • Worstdaysinceyesterday says:

          I agree – anyone in public office or civil job for that matter. You want the privilege of working at a job funded by taxpayer money? Then tow the integrity line.

  19. Pax says:

    I have an anxiety disorder, coupled with an extremely limited (read: “nonexistant”) ability to cope with sudden and unexpected stress. (Yeah, it’s a bitch of a combo, ain’t it?) I also have GERD and EERD, both of which are exacerbated by stress and anxiety … at times, to the point where I am literally unable to sleep, for days at a time, without triggering a “do you need an ambulance”-severe fit of hacking coughs and a general inability to breathe.

    Having that sort of stunt pulled on me, would have pretty much ruined whatever trip I was going on, right then and there. I’d spend the rest of the week unable to sleep, constantly looking over my shoulder, and unable to participate in any activities, let alone enjoy them.

    Considering I only fly for vacations, that tend to cost in the low to mid 4-digit range, and those trips only happen once every 6-8 years? I would be ramming a [i]six-lane-highway[/i] sized lawsuit so far up the TSA’s ass, their breath would smell of diesel and asphalt …!!

  20. silver-spork says:

    Yeah, 99% chance I would go absolutely ballistic on someone who pulled that on me and then get arrested for assault.

    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      lol – I thought the same thing. I’ve never done illegal drugs, and am proud of it. I’d be raging if I was told ‘drugs’ were found in my bag.

      I’d be f-ing Incredible Hulk-ing when they told me they were just joking. Like, my blood is just boiling reading this.

  21. LACubsFan says:

    I would have sucker punched this asshole.

  22. OnePumpChump says:

    Burn it to the ground, salt the earth.

  23. ChuckBlack says:

    ‘Work to live’, not ‘Live to work’…

    Enjoy life, make light of it. A slap on the wrist is all that is deserved.

    • levelone says:

      Uh, no. There are people with stress related medical conditions that this asshole could have sent into a panic, maybe even killed. The TSA has supreme authority to ruin not only your trip, but your life if it so chooses. It’s a dick move, and you’re a dick for thinking it’s okay for a TSA agent, who could get someone thrown in jail for illegal possession of narcotics, to do this.

  24. Willow16 says:

    I was pulled over a few months ago for an expired inspection sticker. The officer mentioned the expired sticker and I explained that my registration and inspection were due in different months so I didn’t even realize that the inspection was overdue. He went back to his car to check things on the computer. When he came back to my car, he said “Ms. ___, do you know that you have a warrant out for your arrest?” I almost died and said “What?!?!” to which he replied “Just kidding.” He did let me go since my story checked out (inspection due in March and registration due in June) but I was so pissed off about his little joke.

  25. Mcshonky says:

    Are they supposed to pull things out of your bag without you present?
    Had this happened to me I would have said prove it’s mine.
    And when he said he was just kidding I would have raised a stink you could smell across the country and won a huge judgement against the TSA for harassment and slander.

  26. Mcshonky says:

    PS keep your bags closed at all times

  27. thomwithanh says:

    Get your freak on girl!

  28. anchorworm is really sick of Minnesota weather says:

    This is why i fly out of small airports whenever possible, namely Duluth, MN and Moline, IL. Both these airports have small TSA detachments who are known by members of the local community. I have never had a problem with any of the agents at these locations as opposed to places like O’Hare, Midway, Houston, or Philadelphia. It really helps to keep the agents civil when they know that the people that they are screening are quite literally their friends and neighbors.

  29. Mark702 says:

    Do Consumerist writers even use the rudimentary tool of SPELL CHECK ever? “unprofessional o him to do this” A spell check would flag a random O like that. If I’m paying for the use of this site via advertisements, can we at least have the information be grammatically correct?

  30. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    Imagine all the cash we could put towards stuff that actually helps, like making higher education free, if we abolished the TSA.