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CHECK THIS OUT: TSA STAFF ARE RUNNING SCAMS

September 16, 2011

Gonzo Town

This has nothing to do with sports or TV or radio. But it has to do with 9/11, and I suspect it’s important.

Last month, Friday, Aug. 12, I was at Newark Airport scheduled to fly to Vancouver, British Columbia, with my wife and another couple, her cousins.

The line to pass through security was enormous, far beyond the point where the mazelike barriers feed passengers forward. The back of the line was extended deep down a long hallway. We got in it, and the long, slow post-9/11 airport shuffle began.

Suddenly, a small middle-aged woman wearing a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) uniform moved along that line, pushing a wheelchair while asking, in a thick non-English accent, if anyone was in need of her help.

No one responded. But she nonetheless made it clear that one didn’t need to be disabled for her to assist one of us, that she was available. Stopping, she even insisted that any one of us hop in.

$10 under the table will get you in the TSA fast lane.

Really, now? OK, let’s see where this caper leads …

We talked/dared Rich, my wife’s first cousin, to sit in the chair. He balked, but then went along with it.

Zoom. Off we went, the four of us, circumventing roughly an hour’s shuffle line, until we reached the screening stations. Along the way, the woman in the TSA uniform said in her broken English, “I take care of you; you take care of me.”

As suspected. She was working a hustle.

When we arrived at the screeners’ positions, Rich arose, suddenly and magically cured of his affliction. The uniformed TSA and NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) men and women working this stop didn’t seem to think anything of it. They seemed familiar with this woman as they allowed her to provide us the next position through the nearest scanner.

I reached into my pocket, selected a $5 bill from a fold, and conspicuously handed it to her. No moderately alert TSA or NTSB uniformed personnel in the vicinity could have missed it. It was clear: I was paying off a uniformed TSA worker officer for privileged access.

Everyone nearby in uniform seemed to know the score.

As we stepped through the scanner, our TSA wheel-woman was waiting on the other side. She indiscreetly — well above a whisper — told us she expected more than $5 for her official crooked services rendered. This time she was borderline angry: “Not happy. I took care of you, now you take care of me!” We gave her a few more bucks, again, as conspicuously as we made the first payment.

Again, no uniformed security person even looked sideways at what was going on, or going down. On this shift and at that security position, this must have been business as usual.

Was this one TSA servicewoman working alone, or did the security personnel down the line take a cut of her action? Is cash-out payment to airport security officers for “special favors” a common occurrence, or did we just happen to run into one scammer and co-workers conditioned to look the other way?

That TSA woman, her uniform, her position and the public trust were for sale. She solicited and accepted what amounted to be a bribe, and did so in the wide open, and with impunity. And at a large, international airport, post-9/11.

This uniformed airport security officer wasn’t on the lookout for suspicious characters or even infirm passengers, she was on the lookout for extra cash.

It frankly made us wonder and worry about how far these things go, who’s involved, how deep it runs and just what it takes to bribe your way through an airport.

After all, for less than 10 bucks, four of us got where we were going — and in a hurry. Nine years and 11 months after 9/11, it was all so easy. And it was appalling.

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This article originally appeared in the NY POST.


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