A TSA agent works at a security screening area at Newark Liberty International Airport, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, in Newark, N.J.
The Transportation Security Administration said Friday it plans to fire 25 employees at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport and suspend 19 others for not following proper baggage screening procedure.
The announcement capped a year-long investigation in which approximately 250 checked bags were determined not to have been properly screened in one baggage room during November and December 2011, a TSA official told TheBlaze.
The TSA had been conducting an unrelated investigation into reports that an employee was stealing from checked bags, the New Jersey Star-Ledger reported. A review of closed-circuit footage by the agency's Office of Inspector General found that screening procedures were not being followed properly. According to the Star-Ledger, "dozens of screeners" were caught on tape "failing to physically search bags that had been flagged during the X-ray process."
"TSA holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards and has a zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace," TSA spokesman Nico Melendez told TheBlaze in a statement. "Accountability is an important aspect of our work and TSA takes prompt and appropriate action with any employee who does not follow our procedures and engages in misconduct."
Eight employees were fired in June as a result of the investigation; the additional 44 employees announced Friday raises the total number to 52, making it the largest disciplinary action undertaken by the TSA at a U.S. airport, according to the Associated Press. The latest group of workers includes TSA screeners and the managers who failed to supervise them.
The TSA said all screeners cited for failing to follow protocol were removed from their jobs in November and December and given non-screening duties pending the outcome of the investigation, the AP reported.
A TSA official told TheBlaze the agency believes it has identified all individuals involved and that it regularly tests security operations to make sure proper procedures are followed.
The official would not specifically say whether there had been a threat to public safety, saying only that the agency uses a "multi-layered approach to airport security," each of which alone is "capable of stopping a terrorist attack."
"In combination, their security value is multiplied, creating a robust, formidable system. A terrorist who has to overcome multiple security layers in order to carry out an attack is more likely to be preempted, deterred or to fail during the attempt," the official said.
The employees set for suspension or firing have the right to appeal the TSA's planned action; Stacy Dodtmann of the American Federation of Government Employees told the AP the union will likely seek to have the charges dismissed.