Responsible for providing airport security and enforcing federal laws, nearly a thousand Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents tested positive for drugs or alcohol in recent years. According to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, at least 858 TSA employees failed drug and alcohol screenings between 2010 and 2016.
A KGW investigation found that the highest rates of failure during that period occurred at some of the nation’s busiest airports. According to FOIA records, fifty-one TSA agents tested positive for drugs or alcohol at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), while another 40 failed screenings at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK). Thirty-five TSA employees at Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) also failed drug and alcohol tests.
“Illegal substances include, but are not limited to, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine [PCP],” TSA spokesman Nico Melendez wrote in an email to KGW.
Last year, the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee released a report titled “Misconduct at the TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public.” Within that report, the committee addressed numerous instances of sexual assault, drug trafficking, prostitute solicitation, routine incompetence, and other misconduct committed by TSA agents in recent years.
The report stated, “TSA employees have been criminally charged for using cocaine on the job, facilitating large-scale drug and human smuggling, and engaging in child pornography activities.”
In February, a former TSA security officer was sentenced to 21 months in prison after she pled guilty to abusing her position by allowing drug smugglers to bypass security checkpoints. Later that month, twelve current and former TSA agents and Puerto Rican airport employees were indicted for allegedly smuggling approximately 20 tons of cocaine.
Last year, the House Oversight Committee confirmed the removal of the TSA’s head of security after questioning why Kelly Hoggan had received more than $90,000 in bonuses and awards while repeatedly failing security checks and allowing airplane passengers to miss their flights due to excessively long wait times at airport security. In 2015, Acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway was removed from his position after undercover Homeland Security agents successfully smuggled dozens of fake explosives and banned weapons through airport security checkpoints.
Created in the aftermath of 9/11, the TSA employs approximately 60,000 workers at roughly 450 airports. According to the House Homeland Security Committee, many TSA agents reportedly continue to commit crimes “ranging from assaulting passengers to participating in large-scale criminal conspiracies.”