TSA's Investigation Into Groping Agents Ensured They Wouldn't Be Prosecuted

by Mike Masnick
Apr. 16, 2015

By now, you may have heard the story about how two TSA agents at Denver International Airport were fired recently after it was revealed that they had worked out a scam by which one agent was able to grope and fondle the genitals of male passengers he found attractive. The plan involved him signalling to a colleague who was working the scanning computer. That agent would tell the computer that the individual being scanned was female, which apparently would set off an "anomaly" alert for the groin area, allowing the male TSA agent to conduct a "pat down" of that area. Leaving aside the fact that these computers even have "male" and "female" settings and it can determine an "anomaly in the genital area" if they don't match -- this kind of thing was exactly what many insisted was going to happen when the TSA put in place these advanced screening procedures. And if you think that this is the only case of it happening, well, then, you probably think the TSA doesn't rifle through and steal stuff from your luggage as well.

Now here's the thing: this only came out because the TSA agent blabbed about it to a colleague, who then reported it, leading to an investigation. Many people find it odd that the two TSA agents (who are still unnamed) merely lost their jobs, rather than got arrested for this activity. Chris Bray, over at TSA News (found via Amy Alkon -- herself no stranger to intrusive TSA searches), went and grabbed the actual Denver police report on the incident, revealing that it appears that the TSA set up its "investigation" in a manner to almost guarantee no criminal charges and that the names of the TSA agents would remain secret.

Specifically, the TSA was first told about this scheme on November 18th of 2014. First, it took nearly two months for the TSA to do anything about it, and it did not contact the police during this time. Instead, on Feburary 9th, TSA investigator Chris Higgins observed the screening area and saw the signal/button push/grope of the genitals. Higgins made no attempt to speak with or identify the victim of this assault (this is important). Instead, he just spoke with the two TSA agents who were terminated at some later time (exact date not clearly indicated). The Denver police were not told about any of this until over a month later, on March 19th, 2015, at which point they noted that without a named "victim" there wasn't much they could do.

On that same day, the inspector, Higgins, told the Denver police that he had also spoken with a deputy district attorney who had told him that without a victim, it was unlikely they could prosecute a case. It's unclear when that conversation took place, but it appears that the TSA had plenty of time to fire the TSA agents and make it basically impossible for the police to file a case before then telling the police what happened. As Bray notes, this all seems rather suspicious, as if the TSA's "investigation" was much more about covering up the TSA's misdeeds, rather than holding the agents responsible:
So in November of 2014, the TSA was warned that two of its officers were currently, actively conspiring to commit sexual assault. But the TSA did not notify the police about that anonymous tip. The Denver Police Department is the agency that regularly polices Denver International Airport; the DIA Bureau is listed on this directory.

If the TSA had notified the police about the tip in November, the police could have been watching the checkpoint to observe the groping incident that was instead witnessed by a TSA employee. But the police didn't know about an allegation of active, current, ongoing sexual assault, because the TSA didn't tell them.

And so an act of sexual assault occurred right in front of a TSA investigator -- and the investigator let the victim walk away without approaching him and identifying him.

Then, in March 2015, the TSA informed the police of the allegation, and of the evidence of the event that a TSA investigator had personally witnessed more than a month before. But the TSA didn't notify the police until both employees had been fired -- in other words, until both participants in a scheme to commit sexual assault had been removed from the place in which they allegedly committed it.

It's as if someone called the fire department to report a pile of cold ashes. The TSA waited to call the police until the passengers were long gone, the TSA officers alleged to have committed the crime were long gone, and the crime witnessed by a TSA investigator was more than a month old.
Isn't that convenient?

Bray asked the TSA why it didn't contact the police earlier, and received a boiler plate response about how "intolerable" the actions were, but no substantive response to Bray's actual questions.

Yes, the groping scheme is a scandal, but it seems like a much bigger scandal is how the TSA handled the case -- first allowing the criminal activities to go on for two months without notifying police, and then making sure that no one could be actually charged with a crime.

261881798 Denver PD Report on TSA Sexual Assaults (PDF)

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