Now that's what I call a birthday party.
The TSA's publicity machine spent the last several days in self-congratulation mode, describing all of the wonderful things that have happened -- and I guess more to the point, not happened -- since its creation 10 years ago.
But the most noteworthy part of last week wasn't the little PR party, which was completely neutralized by a damning Congressional report that called for the TSA as we know it to be eliminated, anyway. It was the agency's clumsy actions leading up to the big event.
The TSA did a little housecleaning before its celebration. It reportedly terminated Roy Egan, a baggage screener at Chicago O'Hare Airport who allegedly ranted against Muslims, African Americans, Latinos and homosexuals on his Facebook page.
Egan openly identified himself as a TSA officer, posting comments such as, "FILTHY MUSLIM," Muslims "need to be exterminated," "BURN ISLAM," "Islam, a cult that glorifies death" and "Does anything at all make you smile more than a Muslim burning by his own hateful hand," according to reports.
The Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations had to meet with TSA's leadership before the action was taken.
On the flip side, remember the TSA agent of Middle Eastern heritage I wrote about a few weeks ago? William Touzani was upset that his own agency had targeted Muslim passengers for additional screening and had written a book about his experiences as an officer. After that, he claims he was targeted for removal.
And guess what? Last week he told me he'd been fired.
Here's his termination letter (PDF), just in case you've ever wondered how the TSA dismisses its employees. Touzani says the charges are trumped-up and that the real reason for his removal is that he criticized the agency for its discriminatory practices.
And here's another reported firing: Two TSA agents involved in the botched screening of a former Indian president, which mushroomed into an international incident, have reportedly been let go. The agents had apparently made the mistake of trying to screen Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's shoes and jacket.
A casual observer of these personnel actions might find evidence of a double standard here. One agent professes his hate for Muslims, and he isn't fired until the Council on American-Islamic Relations applies pressure. The officer who stands up for Muslims is let go on what you might call a technicality. Two more are terminated because, well, it just doesn't look good for the TSA.
You know what passengers really want? They'd like to see heads roll for allowing a loaded weapon through security (by the way, that's the second time in a year that a loaded gun has gotten through security in Houston, so all you terrorists out there looking for the weakest link, um, there ya go).
Do you think Touzani or Egan would still have their jobs if their crime was allowing a loaded weapon through their checkpoint? You betcha.
The TSA must be nursing one heckuva hangover after last week, because after all that's happened, what else can you do but drink heavily at the big party?
The most scathing birthday present, other than the Congressional report, was Becky Akers' call to disband the TSA. It's well worth the read, even if you don't agree with everything she says.
On its 10th birthday, the TSA is an agency in complete disarray, by most accounts. It needs a little sunlight, and the mainstream media is doing a ridiculously bad job of covering it. (The best recent journalism on the TSA, in fact, has come from online. Take a bow, ProPublica.)
Seriously, can't our MSM friends at least get the name of the agency right?
Which brings me to my birthday present for the TSA. I've created a new site called TSA News Blog. It's dedicated to covering the agency with accuracy, balance and fairness. My hope is that it will encourage a lively and necessary debate on the future of aviation safety.
Follow Christopher Elliott on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elliottdotorg