June 4, 2012 at 2:38 PM ET
The Transportation Security Administration fired five employees and suspended 38 others on Friday for violating security procedures at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Fla.
The security workers violated protocol by willfully not performing random checks, TSA found in an investigation. The violations occurred over a two-month period in 2011, TSA spokesman David Castelveter told msnbc.com.
Southwest Florida International served about 7.5 million passengers in 2011.
NBC News has learned the violations occurred during the late security shift. A TSA employee who joined the late shift in 2011 was concerned that proper procedures weren’t being followed.
Castelveter, in order to protect the identities of those involved, would not confirm or deny the shift covered by the disciplined workers.
TSA said it holds its work force to high standards and “has a zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace.” The agency insists passenger safety was never jeopardized.
John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and an outspoken critic of TSA, said the security violations might involve high-level personnel at the airport.
“Whether TSA is trying to protect administrative bureaucrats from congressional and public scrutiny, or just trying to sweep this breach under the rug, TSA must come clean and provide a full accounting of this incident,” Mica said in a press release.
Last year, dozens of TSA screeners were fired at Honolulu International Airport for not screening checked bags for explosives.
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NBC News' Tom Costello contributed to this report.