The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) just busted twelve individuals who were involved in a massive cocaine trafficking operation that lasted nearly two decades.
Oops! Wait – no, that’s not what happened.
Twelve TSA and airport employees who were involved in a massive cocaine trafficking operation that lasted nearly two decades were indicted by a federal grand jury in Puerto Rico on February 8. The current and former employees were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine.
The United States Department of Justice announced the charges yesterday.
From the press release:
During the course of the conspiracy, the defendants smuggled suitcases, each containing at least 8 to 15 kilograms of cocaine, through the TSA security system at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMMIA). Sometimes as many as five mules were used on each flight, with each mule checking-in up to two suitcases. From 1998 through 2016, the defendants helped smuggle approximately 20 tons of cocaine through LMMIA.
Drug mules would drop off the cocaine-filled suitcases at the airline check-in counter, and one of the defendants would allegedly pick up the suitcases from the counter and put them into X-ray machines. Another participant in the smuggling operation is believed to have monitored those machines, allowing the suitcases to pass through. A defendant would then allegedly take the suitcases to the airplanes, making sure they continued to avoid detection.
The TSA and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are in charge of the investigation, in collaboration with the FBI, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals, and Puerto Rican police.
In recent years, the TSA has dealt with a number of high-profile security lapses at airports, including a gun-smuggling operation uncovered at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in 2015.
Last July, it was reported that nearly half of the TSA’s entire workforce had allegedly committed misconduct, and almost half of those did so repeatedly.
Congress has attempted to address the problem of “insider threats and vulnerabilities” at airports. Last year, lawmakers attached language to an aviation bill to increase random inspections of airport workers at secure area access points, require the TSA to conduct a review of the insider threat posed by airport employees, and enhance employee vetting and eligibility requirements, reports The Hill.
But just last week, the findings of a two-year House Homeland Security Committee investigation were released, and problems abound.
The following are the key findings of the report, titled America’s Airports: The Threat From Within (emphasis mine):
- Inconsistencies exist across the aviation system related to how airport and air carrier security officials educate their credentialed populations on responsibly using their access and reporting suspicious activities.
- Conflict between industry and government stakeholders often impedes needed improvements to aviation security.
- After nearly two years of oversight efforts, the Subcommittee found that a majority of airports do not have full employee screening at secure access points. These airports are unable to demonstrate the security effectiveness of their existing employee screening efforts, which consist largely of randomized screening by TSA officers or airport law enforcement personnel.
- Recent insider threat examples discussed in this report include an attempt to detonate a bomb at an airport, gun and drug smuggling, an expressed willingness to smuggle explosives, as well as employees who became involved in terrorist activities overseas.
The report states that approximately 900,000 people work at the nearly 450 airports in the US that are under federal control. Many of those employees are able to bypass traditional screening requirements that travelers visiting the airports must endure. While the overwhelming majority of airport workers take their jobs seriously, the report says, there are increasing concerns that insider threats to aviation security are on the rise.
If convicted, the defendants in the cocaine smuggling case face a minimum sentence of 10 years up to life in prison. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Meanwhile, the TSA and its agents are doing things like confiscating cheese, conducting invasive pat-downs on children, keeping an eye on passengers who are doing “suspicious” things like yawning, clearing their throats, and gazing down, wasting billions on worthless screening programs, humiliating cancer patients for no reason, and failing 95% of undercover security breach tests.
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by Lily Dane of The Daily Sheeple