REPORT: Scores of TSA workers test positive for drugs and alcohol


An investigation has uncovered the fact that hundreds of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at airports around the country have failed to pass drug and alcohol tests.

Federal records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that through random testing (and tests given upon suspicious behavior), 858 TSA employees have tested positive for drugs or alcohol between 2010 and 2016. TSA fires all employees who fail a drug or alcohol test.

The nation’s busiest airports reported the highest failure rates.

  • Los Angeles International Airport reported 51 TSA workers tested positive for drugs or alcohol.
  • New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport reported 40 employees tested positive.
  • Boston Logan International Airport reported 35 failed tests.
  • Portland International Airport reported six TSA workers tested positive for drugs or alcohol.

“Illegal substances include, but are not limited to, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, and phencyclidine [PCP],” TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.

TSA conducted random drug tests on 17,649 workers last year.

“Of those tested, 97 employees, or 0.55 percent, tested positive, which is far below the positive testing rate for other federal employees,” according to the report.

Quest Diagnostics said federal employees in “safety sensitive” jobs test positive during random drug tests 1.5 percent of the time.

TSA failed drug tests

Homeland Security analyst Scott Winegar said that it’s unreasonable to expect 100 percent compliance. “We can optimize what we expect from the screeners and we can optimize the people we select,” he said, “but I don’t think we are ever going to be able to have absolutely zero mistakes.”

Increased employee misconduct at TSA was revealed in a U.S. House Homeland Security Committee report from July 2016. “TSA employees have been criminally charged for using cocaine on the job, facilitating large-scale drug and human smuggling, and engaging in child pornography activities.”

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) introduced legislation earlier this month requiring that senior TSA officials oversee the review of discipline for TSA agents. Disciplinary actions currently depend on the supervisor on a case-by-case basis.

Approximately 60,000 TSA employees are employed at nearly 450 airports.

“Our expectation is that they will keep us safe in the airways, so when you put that type of expectation on somebody, you would certainly want them fully alert and not inhibited by alcohol or drugs in any way,” said Winegar.


H/T: KGW Portland

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