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"Airport Screener Jacket Found at Local Thrift Store"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Security Alert: Airport Screener Jacket Found at Local Store
By Brian Collister
WOAI-TV Ch 4 (NBC), San Antonio (TX)

Disturbing new evidence reveals a threat to our homeland security is worse
than originally thought. 

The News Four WOAI Trouble Shooters first uncovered records last May showing
1400 airport security badges and uniforms are missing from airports here and
across the country. 

Now, new information obtained by Trouble Shooter Brian Collister shows a
dramatic increase in the total number. 

But that's not all the Trouble Shooters found. 

A WOAI viewer contacted the Trouble Shooters because he found a TSA
screener's jacket for sale at a local thrift store. Security experts fear
TSA uniforms could help terrorists pull off an attack. Mike Martinez, who
found the jacket, said he felt compelled to pull it off the rack. He told
News 4 his main concern was for the safety and security of fellow Americans
after what happened on 9-11. 

The thrift store sale is also a violation of the Transportation Security
Administration's policy, which requires "for reasons of security" any
discarded uniform must have all distinctive markings removed. 

We asked Martinez if he had contacted the TSA. 

"Yes I did," Martinez told News 4 during an on-camera interview. "When I
first got the jacket, I looked in the phone book and I tried to contact
somebody over at TSA. And I told them about the jacket, and they just told
me it was a discarded uniform, and that was it. I didn't feel comfortable,
but I didn't throw it away or give it away." Martinez said the TSA told him
they didn't want it back. 

So, Martinez brought the jacket to the Trouble Shooters after seeing our
investigation last May. 

Now, we've received new records revealing the number of missing badges and
uniforms has more than doubled and is now at 3719. 

After our initial investigation, a source within TSA told us agency
officials sent out an email urgently asking every airport security director
to immediately report any missing items they have not already reported to
TSA headquarters. 

Records the Trouble Shooters obtained under the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) show the number of missing items from San Antonio and Texas airports
remains about the same, except for a dramatic increase in the number of
badges missing at Bush Airport in Houston. Bush originally reported missing
18 items, but now reports missing 77. 

It is far from being the airport that's lost the most items, though. That
title belongs to Los Angeles Airport (LAX), which is now reporting missing
636 uniforms, and O'Hare in Chicago tops the missing badges list with 189. 

Congressman Lamar Smith spoke with the Trouble Shooters about the problem
during a recent visit to his office on the North Side of San Antonio. Smith
sits on the Homeland Security Committee and did not know the problem was
getting worse until we showed him the new information. That's because TSA
sent him a letter in August claiming the numbers were much lower. In that
letter, Assistant Secretary Kip Hawley told the Congressman that TSA did not
have any idea of the number of missing uniforms and that only 1375 ID badges
were reported missing. That's not true. TSA had the larger numbers in May,
nearly four months before they sent the letter to Smith. 

Congressman Smith believes they're withholding information that he feels is
absolutely critical to our national security. 

"We have to do better or, frankly, they'll bear some responsibility if there
is some kind of misuse of those badges and uniforms," Smith said. 

Even though many security experts have called the problem a threat to our
national security, TSA is still denying that a uniform or badge could help a
terrorist pull off an attack. 

"We recognize that these security systems, no matter where you go, are not
perfect," the TSA's General Manager of Field Operations Earl Morris said
during a phone interview. 

While Morris admitted missing over 3700 badges and uniforms is less than
perfect, he maintains that the system is far from flawed. 

"We have many different security levels in place to thwart any kind of
attempt to breech our security," Morris told the Trouble Shooters.
Congressman Smith says he's going to propose new legislation. He wants heavy
fines for any TSA employee who loses his or her badge or uniform. To this
point, no TSA employee has ever been disciplined by the agency for losing a
badge or uniform. We will let you know when Congressman Smith files his

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