TSA Agent Nabbed in Child Porn Sting, Fear of TSA Increases

Consumerist, owned by Consumer Reports, keeps a healthy eye on the TSA and picked up this story by the Boston Herald that a TSA Agent was among the 55 individuals caught in a child pornography sting. Consumerist reports:

The Transportation Security Administration keeps getting hit with scandal after scandal — from thieving agents to employees with ridiculous demands, or those who leave creepy notes in passengers’ bags. And now, in an even ickier development, a TSA agent who worked at Boston’s Logan International Airport has been nabbed as part of a sweeping child pornography crackdown.

Now this entire issue is somewhat ridiculous, I say that because the TSA is being spotlighted while the employment status of the other 54 people arrested has not been released. Thus, it is easy to see how this story plays into TSA paranoia while others being charged could have had more direct and regular contact with children and the general public. That said there is some interesting material to explore here.

This article is fascinating for its link into the inherent anti-TSA paranoia propagated across the web. There are two tones of criticism of the TSA present in this story: one useful and the other that contributes to the ongoing conspiratorial rhetoric against the TSA.

The Boston Herald notes:

Periodic arrests of TSA agents on sex charges across the nation have fueled criticism of the agency’s screening of its own employees, tasked with patting down the traveling public and keeping the airways safe. At least two other TSA officers assigned to Logan have faced sex charges in the past two years. Sex charges against others have been reported in Virginia, New Hampshire, Nevada, Georgia and other states

While, The Boston Herald fails to establish any basis for knowing if this case, and these other periodic cases, when contextualized among the 50,000 TSA officers who have regular contact with the public. It is nonetheless important to consider the standards, or lack thereof, used in hiring and training TSA employees. Given my own research into the TSA’s use of pat-downs and performances of bodily contact, it does suggest that for jobs that regularly require rituals of bodies in contact more clarity of hiring standards could be needed. That said, it would be mistaken to assume that more stringent hiring standards would have automatically precluded this person from being hired by the TSA.

Having said there are legitimate concerns, the standard anti-TSA talking points come in full force in the comments section of the two publications. For example, “Cowboyesfan” wonders “Could looking at the porno scanners all day long have caused this?” “Toadboy65” offers a cogent explanations, “What kind of people do you expect to apply for a job where you are required to fondle people of all ages all day…” and an anonymous poster at the Herald asked “Was he strip searched like all the good TSAs do to the flying public?”

While ignorant internet comments are nothing new (understatement of the decade), discourse of this type shows the disconnect between public discussions of the TSA and the actual TSA itself. As long as this gap persists and the public is lodged in a paranoid vision of the TSA as a mass of pedophiles desiring to see and feel nude bodies, constructive criticism of the agency is unlikely to emerge.

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Filed under Cultural Studies, Rhetoric, TSA

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