IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

TSA Chief: We'll Work to Regain Trust After Denver Gropes

The acting administrator for the TSA said an alleged plot to fondle attractive men at security checkpoints have tarnished the agency's reputation.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now
/ Source: NBC News

The director of the Transportation Security Administration expressed his disgust Thursday over an alleged plot by a male screener to grope attractive men at Denver’s airport, and said the "egregiously inappropriate behavior" has damaged the reputation of the agency.

In a blog post, acting administrator Melvin J. Carraway encouraged workers to blow the whistle on bad behavior, as was the case with the incident at Denver International Airport which was reported in November and resulted in the firing of two TSA employees.

"The lone bright spot in this dark and disturbing behavior is that another employee saw what was going on and did not allow it to continue," Carraway said. He called the alleged acts a "blatant violation of public trust."

TSA investigators found that a male security screener would signal a female employee when he saw an attractive man approaching a screening machine, and that second employee would incorrectly enter the sex of the passenger in order to trigger an anomaly used to justify a pat-down.

An investigator observed the scheme in action on Feb. 9, and saw the screener give a signal and then pat down a man's groin and buttocks with the palms of his hands, which is against TSA policies, according to a Denver police report. The second employee said she helped in this way at least 10 times in the past.

Criminal charges could be filed in the case. Prosecutors at first couldn’t file charges for "unlawful sexual contact" because a victim had not come forward to make a complaint.

But, after media reports about the incident this week, several people have called the prosecutor’s office and police to say they may have been victimized, authorities said. The names of the fired employees have not been released.

"The vast majority of our employees act with the utmost integrity and professionalism every day, but unfortunately the conduct of a few can do significant damage to the entire workforce — and this damage is very difficult to overcome," Carraway said. "We are committed to working very hard to prove ourselves to the public we serve in the months ahead to regain your trust."