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Terminal Mixup Implicates TSA Agents In LAX Smuggling Plot 255

Posted by timothy
from the and-your-knees-go-on-these-yellow-dots dept.
First time accepted submitter ian_po writes "The U.S. Attorney's office has filed indictments against 7 people, including two Transportation Security Administration Screeners and two former TSA employees, after federal agents set up several smuggling sting operations. The alleged smuggling scheme was revealed after a suspected drug courier went to Terminal 5, where his flight was departing, instead of going through the Terminal 6 checkpoint his written instructions directed him to. Court documents indicate the plan was to return to Terminal 5 through a secure tunnel after being allowed through security by the accused Screener. The courier was caught with 10 pounds of cocaine at the other checkpoint by a different TSA agent. If convicted, the four TSA employees face a minimum of 10 years in Federal prison." If ten pounds of anything can get onto a plane by the simple expedient of bribery, please explain again why adult travelers, but not children, must remove their shoes as they stand massed in an unsecured part of a typical U.S. airport.
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Terminal Mixup Implicates TSA Agents In LAX Smuggling Plot

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  • The Weakest Link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:34PM (#39812733)

    As always, the weakest link in anything security related are humans. This begs the question of whether we really need the TSA

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:50PM (#39812933)

      Who guards the guards?

      • by cjcela (1539859) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:01PM (#39813121)
        That is part of the issue. We would be much better off without 'guards'. People already know what to do in case of an emergency in an airplane these days. Stop wasting money in the TSA.
      • by Builder (103701)

        Vimes does.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:57PM (#39813047)

      Those humans are letting smugglers through ... but they haven't caught a single terrorist yet.

      I'd say that almost all of the "additional security" since the WTC attack is only "security theatre". Aside from the improved flight deck doors and increased passenger involvement.

      Get rid of the TSA.

    • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:02PM (#39813139)

      This begs the question of whether we really need the TSA

      No. I'd say it answers the question quite succinctly.

      • by tqk (413719)

        This begs the question of whether we really need the TSA

        No. I'd say it answers the question quite succinctly.

        Yeah, and anyone "begging the question" on /. is seriously out of it. Damn, I'm glad I don't need to fly these days.

    • Re:The Weakest Link (Score:5, Informative)

      by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:20PM (#39813355) Homepage

      This begs the question

      Raises.

      Sorry. I need help.

    • Re:The Weakest Link (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jawnn (445279) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:35PM (#39813541)
      Quite right. You would (probably not) be surprised to learn that the rank and file airport workers, you know, those minimum wage folk who flip the burgers, empty the trash, haul the bags, and fuel the aircraft (more on that in a moment) go to work in the secured areas without going through screening of any kind. Well, there's that pre-employment background check, but that's... let's call it "less than exhaustive".
      My spouse used to work for one of the companies that fuels commercial aircraft at many of our nation's major airports. These workers have an extremely important job, and as you might expect, they have access to extremely sensitive parts of airport and aircraft. Nevertheless, their background checks are (or were) done by the cheapest contractor they could find. The results were... spotty. It seems reasonable to assume that the same goes for workers at the terminal food courts, news stands, custodial services, etc. Those poor smugglers could probably have bought the services of a Cinnabon worker for a lot less than a TSA agent.
    • To help smuggle drugs in, apparently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:35PM (#39812747)

    The government assumes as usual that terrorists don't have money... why would they they only live in tents with sand all around.

  • by BagOBones (574735) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:37PM (#39812759)

    They get the same kind of inhuman treatment.
    http://boingboing.net/2012/04/25/tsa-agents-bully-7-year-old-wi.html [boingboing.net]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A 7 year old?

      I got that beat: Howabout a 4 year old girl getting dragged away to a special room for a strip search?

      http://articles.boston.com/2012-04-25/news/31399816_1_pat-down-tsa-agents-screening-procedures

  • by Bieeanda (961632) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:38PM (#39812765)
    Clearly this indicates that travelers should be tipping their screeners more, and more often.
    • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oddjob1244 (1179491) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:44PM (#39812855)
      From TFA:

      TSA employees took payments of up to $2,400 to provide drug couriers unfettered access at LAX over a six-month period last year.

      Up to $2,400 bucks. That's less than the cost of a first class ticket for the average Joe who doesn't want to deal with TSA. It's also well within the budget of a terrorist organization. That's awfully cheap.

      • Well, here's the question though, would these screeners have 'ignored' an explosive for $2,400?

        I mean I wouldn't lift a finger to report someone selling pot. But if I somehow knew someone was selling plastic explosives I would definitely report them. I think a TSA agent is probably more likely to turn a blink eye to cocaine than an actual threat to people's lives.

        I know I could sleep easy knowing there is a kilo of coke in the world. I wouldn't be able to sleep easy if I let a terrorist kill 200 peop

        • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DarkTempes (822722) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:05PM (#39813189)

          Of course they wouldn't possibly lie to you about what you're helping them smuggle.

        • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tftp (111690) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:06PM (#39813195) Homepage

          Well, here's the question though, would these screeners have 'ignored' an explosive for $2,400?

          Do these screeners have a portable chemical lab kit right next to the pornoscanner? Are they trained chemists who know what to do with this lab kit to tell the difference between a drug and an explosive?

          Of course, once the screeners are paid the courier carries whatever he pleases, and nobody is going to check what it is.

          I think a TSA agent is probably more likely to turn a blink eye to cocaine than an actual threat to people's lives.

          Cocaine may be more destructive than explosives.

          • Cocaine may be more destructive than explosives.

            Not while it is in transit on an airplane. Of course, neither are explosives that dangerous, provided they aren't set up to be detonated in flight, as an Army veteran demonstrated recently with a block of C4 on a domestic flight.
          • Cocaine won't bring down an airplane. It won't explode in the TSA queues. It won't leap out of the bag and stab anyone.

          • by Githaron (2462596)

            Cocaine may be more destructive than explosives.

            The victims of cocaine chose to do cocaine. The victims of explosives usually did not want to be meaty bits splattered over the walls.

          • Do these screeners have a portable chemical lab kit right next to the pornoscanner? Are they trained chemists who know what to do with this lab kit to tell the difference between a drug and an explosive?

            Their called "Explosives Trace Detection systems", and, yes, TSA checkpoints have them.

            Where I've seen them in use, IIRC, its not by the same agent doing the other screening, and I seem to recall that, to expand flexibility, they are now using mobile systems that aren't fixed to a particular checkpoint.

        • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by aintnostranger (1811098) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:07PM (#39813207)
          do you think the TSA guys checked that the guy was carrying what he told them? Oh, we are going to accept your bribe, but we'll check your package. I don't think so.
        • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Rhys (96510) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:10PM (#39813239) Homepage

          So you're saying that the TSA guy who took the bribe trusted the obviously trustworthy guy trying to bribe him that it was really coke, as opposed to say, 10 lbs of plastic explosives?

          Security theater to catch the rare stupid attacker and enrich the buddies of those in congress and nothing more is all it is.

          • Re:Bribery, huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by isorox (205688) on Friday April 27, 2012 @04:15AM (#39818027) Homepage Journal

            So you're saying that the TSA guy who took the bribe trusted the obviously trustworthy guy trying to bribe him that it was really coke, as opposed to say, 10 lbs of plastic explosives?

            Security theater to catch the rare stupid attacker and enrich the buddies of those in congress and nothing more is all it is.

            I've seen the TSA catch people with bottles of water or penknives. Never seen them catch the "rare stupid attacker", and certainly not the even rarer smart attacker.

        • by Solozerk (1003785)
          That's true, except you could be told it's coke that's being smuggled while it's really explosives. Or a few runs actually smuggling coke to get the screeners to lay down their guards (assuming they'd even go to the bother of checking the first few runs to make sure nothing dangerous is being let through), and then you could replace it with explosives/weapons/whatever for the next run. In any case, this just proves something that should have been obvious: no matter how tight your security procedures (and in
      • by VoidCrow (836595)

        > Up to $2,400 bucks. That's less than the cost of a first class ticket for the average Joe who doesn't want to deal with TSA. It's also well within the budget of a terrorist organization. That's awfully cheap.

        But that's what you get when you have people who are awfully badly paid, doing an awfully shitty job.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Really, how is one meant to sell cancer causing X-ray scanners if the public realizes that the costly scanners can't stop well funded people from bribing severely underfunded people.

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Not even "well funded". $2,400 (the alleged price) is, like, two middle-class house payments.

  • TSA corruption?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:38PM (#39812781)

    Who would have thought?!?!

    Seriously, though, as someone that proctored the TSA tests for years, believe me, I'm not surprised at all. Half the people I sat for the tests seemed to be under the influence of some type of narcotics, not to mention the gang tattoos and shit.

    The test itself was stellar, too, asking hard hitting questions like "Have you ever lived in a house you thought was haunted?" I wish I could say I was kidding, but I'm not.

    Remember this next time they've got their hand in your 8 year old's waistband....

    • "Have you ever lived in a house you thought was haunted?"

      Wait, which is the right answer?

      • Fuck if I know, I didn't score the tests; I just sat people for them and made sure they weren't cheating.

        How one 'cheats' on questions like that, though, I have no idea...

        • by RulerOf (975607)

          How one 'cheats' on questions like that, though, I have no idea...

          You get one of your non-crazy, more dishonest (more than you, because he'll pass the test, obviously) friends to help you using SMS/MMS while taking it.

      • by digitig (1056110) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:57PM (#39813055)

        "Have you ever lived in a house you thought was haunted?"

        Wait, which is the right answer?

        "No, because ghosts are afraid of the invisible goblins that follow me everywhere."

      • by siddesu (698447)
        4. Not since the government is paying for a weekly visit from the exorcist.
    • by Thing 1 (178996)
      Reminds me of the test for cops, that kicked applicants out for being too intelligent. "If you can see through our shit, then you're not good enough for us!"
  • Why? Because (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:38PM (#39812783)

    If ten pounds of anything can get onto a plane by the simple expedient of bribery, please explain again why adult travelers, but not children, must remove their shoes as they stand massed in an unsecured part of a typical U.S. aiport.

    Because the TSA isn't about security, it is about making people feel secure. Well, that and wasting billions of federal dollars on "security" equipment manufactured by private companies run by buddies of TSA directors and/or former TSA directors. I'm not actually sure which one is their main goal, right now.

    Kudos to the Terminal 6 guy for actually noticing the 10 pounds of cocaine. I would not want to be a TSA agent who got thrown into Federal prison. That does not sound fun, at all.

    • Re:Why? Because (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chas (5144) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:45PM (#39812867) Homepage Journal

      Because the TSA isn't about security, it is about making people feel secure.

      Wrong!

      The TSA isn't about security, or security theater, or making people feel secure.

      At this point, they're like every other useless, failed agency in this country. A bunch of hacks trying to cover their asses so they continue to get paid for doing a job that isn't actually needed.

      • by mayko (1630637)

        Because the TSA isn't about security, it is about making people feel secure.

        Wrong!

        The TSA isn't about security, or security theater, or making people feel secure.

        At this point, they're like every other useless, failed agency in this country. A bunch of hacks trying to cover their asses by busting people for drugs

      • Re:Why? Because (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:51PM (#39813735) Homepage

        The principles behind the TSA are far worse than that. People's rights are slowly being boiled away. The TSA is about getting people used to random searches no matter where they are. There have been repeated efforts to expand the TSA to all public transport, not just planes.

        Also the TSA publicly and emphatically break the principle that "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal", instead the wealthy are specifically excluded from the predation of the TSA. This is not even hidden yet the majority blindly accept that the poor and middle class are routinely abused while the wealthy are left alone shoes on, never touched, carry on assault rifles, all the fluids they want on private or charter flights.

        So public enforcement of the principle that America is a classed society, those that are protected (as publicly described by a US president the haves and the haves more) from those that are abused (the have not). Then other lesson being driven home is the majority have no right to personal privacy of any kind either direct physical (naked scanners and direct sexual abuse) or belongings (phone, camera, computer data). Again with a distinction between rich and middle class/poor.

        All without a single hint of protest at people being treated differently, about a grossly unequal quality of treatment for the rich.

    • Because the TSA isn't about security, it is about making people feel secure.

      Close, but not quite. It's about the government making it look like they are doing something about security. ...And spending lots of money like you said.

      I don't think they give a flying fart about how people feel. If they did, they wouldn't have groped that little girl from a few stories back.

  • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:39PM (#39812801)

    So why would the TSA give a shit?

    Oh yeah, they'll never actually catch or stop an actual terrorist so using their fourth amendment exemption to search for things that aren't security risks is all they can actually do.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:40PM (#39812813) Journal
    Those poor TSA agents thought that it was the CIA's cocaine they were waving through. They were just doing their jobs.
  • Terrible (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:41PM (#39812819)

    If it's possible to move ten pounds of cocaine through an airport, it's just as possible to move ten pounds of explosives. Hell, the TSA agents don't even need to know it's a bomb. If they think it's just drugs they probably won't care. Terrorists don't even need to get a bomb on a plane. They'd do far more damage setting it off in the airport, probably killing a larger number of people and likely resulting in air travel being grounded around the country for a few days while the powers that be try to figure out what happened and whether other airports are at risk.

    Really, the only way to make it stop is to completely leave the Middle East alone, in which case they'll probably go bother someone else or each other. The only other alternative is to make sure they know that if they bomb our airports, we'll hit them back with one hundred times as much force and an equal disregard for human life. Either way, the TSA becomes completely pointless.

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)

      Really, the only way to make it stop is to completely leave the Middle East alone, in which case they'll probably go bother someone else or each other.

      Terrorists are not rational, and their hatred for the West runs too deep for such a strategy to work.

      The only other alternative is to make sure they know that if they bomb our airports, we'll hit them back with one hundred times as much force and an equal disregard for human life.

      We tries/are trying that. It's not really working. They still blew up London in 2007.

    • I wouldn't say explosives are the same as cocaine. There are chemical detectors that can detect that kind of thing... as a colleague of mine discovered when he tried to go through security in Tel Aviv a day after placing his laptop bag on an engine part filled with jet fuel.

      -d

  • If ten pounds of anything .... It does not relate to the subject. It is vague, specious, and kind of -1ish.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:43PM (#39812841)

    I'd like to think that since these people were in positions of power regarding 'Homeland Security', TSA agents after all, are supposed to be there to stop threats right, that such a violation of public trust and authority would warrant them much harsher penalties than some common bloke caught smuggling dope. Sadly I know this not to be true.

    I've always thought that Federal employees, be it lowly TSA employees, postal workers right up to Supreme Court Justices, should be held to a much harsher judicial standard than your every day citizen, or local and state public servant. Why? Because the amount of power within the system that is retained by those positions, makes the violations of it that much more severe because they breaking the public trust.

    In short, if the system is rotten from within, kinda hard to support in it theory, much less in practice.

  • That little of a bribe is required! That is horrible, the "accused" agent met the smuggler to get the second payment of $600. Why would a terrorist not just see that as part of the costs of doing whatever plot they have planned. I'm sure they could easily scrounge up that much money, just call the whichever explosive cocaine and they'll be fine. Ugh.
  • Will the prison be more secure than the airport? :o

  • From the article:

    "The allegations in this case describe a significant breakdown of the screening system through the conduct of individuals who placed greed above the nation's security needs," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr.

    OK, the people who took bribes to let this stuff get through deserve to be prosecuted, but can we please stop appealing to so-called "national security"?

  • I wonder if the previous story about the 4 year old was actually TSA attempting to "recruit" another drug running mule.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:49PM (#39812919)

    Several decades ago a popular author of thrillers said something along the lines of "the best way to smuggle a nuclear bomb into the USA is to disguise it as drugs and bring it in through the Miami airport".

  • ... an airplane how? Is the terrorist going to threaten to force everyone to snort it?

    • They have other jobs in addition to finding bombs and guns. They're on the lookout for all contraband, including drugs. They seriously freak out if you bring unauthorized produce into the country.

    • by AndrewNeo (979708)

      So apparently doing something illegal is okay as long as it's not one of the items on the Security Theater checklist?

    • by Xiver (13712)
      How about when he pulls the gun out of the middle of it and hijacks the plane? What if its not cocaine, but anthrax? What if its not cocaine, but a bomb?
      • He's going to get jumped, that's what's going to happen.

        On 9/11, the attitude of the passengers was, "all right, I'll sit back, relax, and get a trip to Cuba, then retire after a fat emotional distress lawsuit against the airline. Fuckin' A." This was perfectly justifiable at the time.

        It'll never happen again. You pull a gun on a plane, the 10th, 11th, etc person are going to kick your ass. You pull out a bomb, people are going to assume that they're dead already and they have nothing to lose by rushing

  • I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:55PM (#39813011)
    I'm annoyed by the TSA as much as the next guy, but it's their job to screen people and baggage for threats to aircraft (snow globes, nail clippers, pasta sauce, hand grenades etc.). Since when is it their job to detect drugs? That's the job of the police, not the TSA. Cocaine and meth are not threats to aircraft.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @05:58PM (#39813061)

    I've always thought this is one of the biggest holes in the entire system -- all a terrorist has to do is bribe one of the thousands of screeners (or a few of them) in some small airport anywhere in the country, and the terrorist can fly his 10 pound bomb to JFK or any other large airport.

    The screener will think he's getting paid $25,000 in cash to smuggle in some drugs, he doesn't even have to know it's a bomb.

    • Re:Weakest link (Score:4, Interesting)

      by blindseer (891256) <blindseer@earthli n k .net> on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:47PM (#39815161)

      It's even easier than that. No bribing needed. I know people that have private pilot licenses. They fly out of small airports with no security and then into major airports all the time. Their bags aren't checked by TNA... I mean TSA. They are sometimes even allowed to drive their cars up to their planes. How much cocaine, explosives, or whatever can you fit in a car?

      One person flying alone in a cheap two seat airplane can carry 200 pounds of cocaine, or whatever, right into any major airport in the USA you can think of. They can then drive their car up to the plane, load the whatever into the trunk, and drive off. I know this because a pilot I know had to get a very expensive machine very quickly from one place to another. The so called "airport security" people saw a box labeled "pin ball machine parts" or something and waved it by.

      My theory has been that the TSA is not about keeping us safe. It's about keeping the powers that be safe. They don't want to see another jumbo jet get landed on their lap. It happened once at the Pentagon. Next time it might be the US Capitol.

  • Terminal? (Score:4, Funny)

    by su5so10 (2542686) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @06:24PM (#39813405) Homepage
    How could it be a terminal mixup if no one died?
  • by hengist (71116) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @08:34PM (#39815001)

    as they stand massed in an unsecured part of a typical U.S. aiport.

    And that is the biggest, most glaring, elephant-in-the-living-room hole in U.S. airport security. The last time I had the misfortune to go through Chicago O'Hare airport, there must have been 300 people packed into an area the size of a basketball court, all waiting to go through the TSA checkpoint. Never mind a nail bomb, the place was so packed that if someone had dropped a lit road flare, the panic and stampede would have caused casualties.

    Not that I'm advocating dropping lit road flares in check-in lines, but if I can think of it, I'm sure someone else can.

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