Rules Are for Fools

That seems to be the motto of top officials at TSA Miami

As a punishment Miranda received a letter of admonishment. Thomas wrote that, additionally, Carter would be counseled regarding his supposedly inappropriate behavior. But Carter says he never received counseling or any other indication that he'd been found partially liable.

Despite the apparent setback, Alex Miranda's star was on the rise. Shortly after Carter's complaint, Guevara appointed Miranda acting assistant federal security director for screening, one of the top four positions at TSA Miami.

Carter's career, meanwhile, was headed in the opposite direction. On April 23, 2003, he received his first reprimand -- a "general counseling form" chastising him for not informing management of a dangerous situation at one of his screening stations, and maintaining inappropriate professional contact with screeners at a station he no longer supervised, which undermined the authority of the new manager. In July he received another reprimand, this one for his "lack of approachability" and "intimidating style" with his subordinates. He was also accused of spending long periods of time at Checkpoint A "rather than moving throughout your area continuously to show a presence."

Former TSA manager Alex Carter says he complained and paid the price
Jonathan Postal
Former TSA manager Alex Carter says he complained and paid the price

In August he was censured for not being available at his Checkpoint A station to answer questions from airline workers. Asks Carter: "How can I be criticized for spending too much time at my station, and then a month later criticized for not spending enough time there?"

On August 7, 2003, the TSA fired him for "failure to meet conditions of employment."

Carter found a lawyer willing to take his case, Chris Whitelock, and sued the TSA in federal court for retaliating against him because he complained about sexual harassment.

In June 2004, TSA Miami's new director, Richard Thomas, a former army intelligence officer who took over when Guevara left, made permanent Miranda's acting appointment as assistant director in charge of screening.

Things at the TSA took a dramatic turn a few weeks ago when attorney Whitelock made it known he intended to take sworn depositions from two TSA screening supervisors, Rosie Martinez and Rebecca Moore. Prior to the employees' testimony, scheduled for November 30, TSA officials asked them what they would say. Both women explained they would testify to numerous incidents in which Miranda made inappropriate sexual comments and lewd gestures. Two instances involved Miranda allegedly grabbing the breasts of female subordinates. Martinez said she never came forward with this information because she feared reprisal.

As a result of the women's remarks, Thomas suspended Miranda without pay on November 24. It was only the beginning.

In early December another manager was suspended. "As part of our continuing investigation into allegations of unprofessional behavior, we have uncovered other allegations of sexual harassment," explains the TSA's Stover. "Those employees have been put on administrative leave with pay while the matter is looked into."

Although Stover didn't name the employees, others have identified them as screening manager Paul Diener and screening supervisor William Morrison. The timing couldn't have been worse for TSA's Miami management. As a result of anonymous complaints, OIG agents from the Department of Homeland Security had been interviewing TSA employees throughout the fall regarding Jay Rogers, the assistant federal security director in charge of law enforcement. The agents were asking employees about incidents in which Rogers allegedly violated security procedures.

According to two TSA employees interviewed by the OIG, the investigators are looking into sixteen instances in which Rogers may have abused his position. One involved a vacation he took this past July. While waiting to board a plane, Rogers allegedly used a law enforcement badge to gain access to a secure door leading to the loading-ramp area, where he retrieved something from his luggage, according to the sources. Several screeners objected to this and wrote a memo to their supervisor, Tracy King, who filed her own report on the incident and delivered it to Richard Thomas. Nothing came of it.

Agents are also trying to determine whether Rogers asked Customs inspectors to give him and his wife, who is not a U.S. citizen, special treatment upon their return from that vacation. A July 14 Customs e-mail titled "Passengers J. Rogers & Louise Rogers, Head of TSA Miami" instructs Customs officials to "not interfere with inspection and escort both passengers to pick up luggage and expedite passengers out."

Another allegation has Rogers ordering TSA inspector Tony Tranumn to escort two furniture delivery trucks, which had not been cleared through security, onto the airport's tarmac to deliver items to the TSA offices in terminal A. Tranumn reported this infraction to Thomas, according to sources, but there is no indication Thomas responded.

(Citing the ongoing investigations and Carter's lawsuit, Rogers and Thomas declined comment.)

The accusations may seem petty, but a number of TSA employees argue they are anything but petty. They go to the heart of the TSA mandate: to ensure that security procedures are consistently followed. When the top managers flout those procedures, other employees are left confused and demoralized -- not to mention the possibility that security at MIA may have been seriously compromised by the very people meant to oversee its safety. But what especially upsets many employees is that when they report incidents to their superiors, nothing seems to happen. Or if it does, it takes the form of retribution.

Alex Carter wholeheartedly concurs.

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