TSA Baggage Screeners Exposed

He's supposed to be protecting the public from terrorists. But investigators say a federal baggage screener was lining his pockets with jewelry.

The screener was busted in a sting that recovered a stash of laptop computers, watches, and other merchandise -- all stolen authorities say, by Transportation Security Administration workers.

"Usually we notice it's gone after we've been traveling a lot," Daniela Sassoun told CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta. "And when we get back we'll open the suitcase and say 'where is it?'"

Sassoun is one of at least 17,000 passengers who've filed baggage theft complaints with the TSA since a new rule requiring checked bags be left unlocked. Her family's lost thousands of dollars in clothing.

"It's usually the really nice ones," she said. "It's almost like they have good taste."

It seems good taste in food as well.

"Went halibut fishing, came back with our catch," said another luggage theft victim, Ray Bolanos.

Bolanos lost half of the 75-pound halibut he caught in Alaska. The rope protecting one of his checked coolers was cut.

"Someone has a lot of time on their hands to do inspections and take what they want and somehow take it out of the airport," Bolanos said.

When the TSA took over air safety two years ago it hired scores of workers without background reviews -- some with felony records. The agency claims it's now screening all of its screeners.

But background checks only go so far.

A TSA spokesman noted one screener actually passed his.

"But when a crime of opportunity presents itself, individual loses his or her moral compass and makes a bad decision," said Mark Hatfield, with the TSA.

Passenger Bolanos believes screeners have more important work to do than fishing through his luggage.

"I even had someone send me a can of tuna fish wrapped up to say, 'Here's to help offset the loss.'"

He blames the TSA, for the one that got away.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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