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Calif. Pilot Faces Federal Investigation for Behind-the-Scenes Airport Security Critique


A veteran commercial airline Army Reserve pilot is reportedly being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting personal cell phone videos on YouTube in which he points out potential flaws in airport security. The 50-year-old pilot who lives outside Sacramento, Calif., had even been deputized by the TSA to carry a gun on his flights for cockpit security -- a privilege that has since been revoked, he says.

The pilot, who has asked that his name and airline remain unidentified, says that three days after he posted a number video clips on YouTube critiquing security at San Francisco International Airport, several federal agents and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally issued firearm and his state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon.

According to local ABC affiliate News 10, a follow-up letter from the sheriff's department said the pilot's gun permit would be "reevaluated" pending the outcome of a federal investigation.

What is the pilot being investigated for? No one seems quite sure at this point:

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card.

"As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. "I would say a two-foot crash ax looks a lot more formidable than a box cutter," the pilot remarked.

A letter from the TSA dated Dec. 6 informed the pilot that "an administrative review into your deputation status as a Federal Flight Deck Officer has been initiated."

According to the letter, the review was directly related to the discovery by TSA staff of the YouTube videos. "The content and subject of these videos may have violated regulations concerning disclosure of sensitive security information," the letter said.

The pilot's attorney, Don Werno, says the federal government is simply trying to send an intimidating message. "And the message was you've angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we've spent billions of dollars allegedly to improve airline safety," Werno told News 10.

Despite the TSA's sweeping reaction, the pilot says he has not gotten in any trouble with his airline, although a supervisor advised him to remove his YouTube video's public accessibility.

He does, however, face potential civil penalties from the TSA, News 10 says.

Meanwhile, the pilot says he did not anticipate an aggressive response from the government. "I just tried to address my concerns and voice it on YouTube," he told News 10.  "Somebody obviously has to address the issue. Really, the only way this news story got traction is because of the government's response."

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