There are more developments and it is not pretty and culminates in an ugly and repulsive act by an on-duty TSA agent to a passenger. To illustrate the TSA’s behavior, let’s take the case of reader submitted videos of TSA Officer McFadden who usually works the TSA Charlotte Airport A Checkpoint.
First Interaction with McFadden – Roughly six weeks ago, McFadden challenged a passenger who was filming the checkpoint asking the passenger as a “personal person” to not film him.
Freeinfreedom inquired with the TSA about the restraint of filming the TSA Checkpoints and received this response from Jim McKinney, TSA Public Affairs spokesman:
So the conclusion with this interaction with McFadden? Filming is OK, don’t impede the screening process, and get a supervisor of the TSA agent may be misinformed about screening. This validates what is written for the public on the TSA website.
Second Interaction with McFadden – Roughly one month ago a passenger was again filming McFadden at the Charlotte TSA A Checkpoint. He was standing in the public hallway outside of the TSA Checkpoint and not filming the screening monitors. McFadden complained about this to a supervisor, TSA 3-Stripe Veteran Monroe who unequivocally informed the passenger filming was not allowed at TSA checkpoints. He was “positive”.
This was in direct contradiction with what Jim McKinney TSA Public Affairs spokesman said to do in such a situation. It is one thing to have a TSA Agent violate your rights, another to be told to get a Supervisor who will make it right and the Supervisor double downs on the incorrect TSA Agent! TSA Supervisor Monroe called in TSA Airport Director Omar Reece to the scene. Director Reece confirmed filming the checkpoints is allowed if one is not impeding the screening process and not filming the x-ray monitors. It is clear the passenger was doing neither. Director Reece told the passenger corrective actions and training would be taken with Agent McFadden and Supervisor Monroe.
It is worth noting that during the interaction with Director Reece, Supervisor Monroe pulled out his personal camera phone while on the job and started taking photos of the passenger and Director Reece.
The passenger continuing filming McFadden in view of Supervisor Monroe and Director Reece. When McFadden continued to protest this, Director Reece comes over to McFadden, puts his arm around him and informs him, to his dismay, that the passenger is within his right to film.
After this interaction with Agent McFadden, Supervisor Monroe, and Director Reece, FreeinFreedom inquired again with Jim McKinney and submitted a complaint to “Talk to TSA”:
Research performed by FreeinFreedom notes that the “Talk to TSA” is actually outsourced to a complaints management private company, Senture. It is Senture agents actually providing such a meager response on behalf of the TSA.
TSA Public Affiars Spokesman Jim McKinney was pressed again for comment about the situation in Charlotte where TSA Agents and Supervisors were depriving customers of their right to photograph the checkpoint. Here is his response:
“TSA does not prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at the checkpoint as long as you do not interfere with the screening process. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors. Remember, it is at the officer’s discretion if you are interfering with his or her duties. If you disagree with the officers request to cease taking photos/video, please ask for a supervisor to resolve the situation.
While taking photos or video near a checkpoint, you may be approached by TSA or airport police, inquiring what you are doing. While the TSA does not prohibit photographs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances might. “
“TSA takes all complaints seriously and has taken appropriate action.”
McKinney added (emphasis mine):
“Policies on taking photos and video were reiterated with staff at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.”
“Passengers following the TSA policy and not interfering with screening operations are able to take video and photos, although the final decision is made by the officers at the checkpoint.”
By this point the assurances by McKinney that policies on taking photos and video were reiterated with staff at Charlotte airport and Director Reece getting involved to take the appropriate action would make one think that they now have their act together in Charlotte. During the interaction with Director Reece, the passenger inquired of how Internal Audit performance was at the Charlotte airport given the incorrect Agent and Supervisor actions he had noted on film. Director Reece informed him that Charlotte had some of the highest Internal Audit scores of any airport in the region.
Third and final (thus far) interaction with McFadden – Roughly one week ago a passenger was again filming McFadden at the Charlotte TSA A Checkpoint. By this point the passenger had received reassurances given to FreeinFreedom at Tocqueville Miles & Points from TSA Public Affairs Spokesman Jim McKinney and TSA Airport Director Reece that staff in Charlotte were equipped to handle situations where passengers were filming appropriately. It is quite clear from the interactions noted above.
The passenger was filming McFadden in direct view of another TSA 3-stripe Supervisor, whose name was not obtained. That supervisor informed the passenger that he could film the checkpoint as long as he was not interfering with the screening process. As the passenger continued filming McFadden, McFadden began acting strangely. McFadden was in the process of screening a female passenger’s backpack full of shoes. When he saw the filming was going on, he immediately stopped screening the passengers shoes and started hiding his face behind an American flag. He then exclaimed to the unnamed Supervisor, “He is an idiot”, referring to the passenger. Shockingly, McFadden continues to pick up the corners of the entire American flag and wrap himself entirely within it. While cloaked in the American flag, McFadden sticks out his middle finger at the passenger, flicking him off! The irony could not be more incredible. All while on duty. All within view of the Charlotte Airport Checkpoint A Supervisor. And after multiple reassurances to the passenger that he was within his rights to film at a TSA checkpoint. The incredible video:
Who could imagine a Federal government official exhibiting such lack of professionalism and treating a passenger with contempt, calling him an idiot and giving him his middle finger. While wrapped in the American flag he has taken an oath to protect! And after this specific airport and checkpoint has been coached multiple times on passenger filming rights. Truly remarkable and surprising even by the TSA’s already low standards of employee conduct and passenger respect of rights.
The passenger then filed a complaint with “Talk to TSA”, a passenger’s main method of recourse according to McKinney. The passenger asked for a formal apology from McFadden for calling him an idiot and giving him the middle finger and from the TSA for allowing this to happen. The response from outsourced contact center company Senture:
No apology from the TSA. Only a notation that “we have forwarded a copy of your letter to the appropriate Customer Service Manager.” No compassion from Senture, just a canned response. And based on how the local Charlotte management team has taken inaction based on comments provided to them, the passenger will probably never get an apology from the TSA nor McFadden.
So based on the three interactions over six weeks with a single airport and single checkpoint it is clear the TSA is incompetent at defending the passengers rights they supposedly are protecting. Even worse, when they are coached on doing so, they show even more disrespect for the passengers. The TSA posts its Mission and Core Values on its website for the public and staff to review. It states:
To enhance mission performance and achieve our shared goals, we are committed to promoting a culture founded on these values:
- Respect and care for others and protect the information we handle.
- Conduct ourselves in an honest, trustworthy and ethical manner at all times.
- Gain strength from the diversity in our cultures.
- Embrace and stand ready for change.
- Courageous and willing to take on new challenges.
- Have an enterprising spirit, striving for innovation and accepting the risk-taking that comes with it.
- Open, respectful and dedicated to making others better.
- Have a passion for challenge, success and being on a winning team.
- Build teams around our strengths.
Hard work, professionalism and integrity in everything we do.
It is clear agent McFadden is in violation of the Integrity, Team Spirit, and Workforce Expectations components of the core values. Monroe’s lack of knowledge of core TSA filming rules and commencement of filming a passenger while on duty demonstrates a lack of the same core values.
It remains to be seen what action the TSA will take next. To what extent will these agents be terminated of employment with the TSA for multiple, repeated, and egregious violations of TSA values? Based on how this organization struggles in adequately communicating simple updates and protections of passenger rights from headquarters in Washington, their outsourced contact center with Senture, and their direction supervision at checkpoints, readers and journalism rights advocates should not hold their breath.