Beware of the TSA: The new deal

Beware of the TSA The new deal Stephen P. Prentice Just in case you have not heard yet, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now the government agency you will likely deal with in any dispute over termination of your...


Beware of the TSA

The new deal

Stephen P. Prentice
Stephen P. Prentice

Just in case you have not heard yet, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now the government agency you will likely deal with in any dispute over termination of your security sensitive employment in the airline business and or the suspension or revocation of any FAA certificate you may have. They have taken over all aviation security functions of the Federal Aviation Administration.

You might think "Oh well . . . another government agency." But the fact is this agency can have a significant effect on your ability to continue working as a pilot, mechanic, bag loader, fueler, aircraft cleaner, screener, or any other position that might require SIDA (security identification display area) clearance.

Early this year Congress gave the TSA the power to determine whether or not someone is a security risk. In the case of people holding FAA certificates, like mechanics, the TSA is directed to notify the FAA any time it identifies individuals known to pose or are suspected of posing a threat to aviation safety. The final rule by FAA was effective on Jan. 24, 2003 and was published without giving the public an opportunity to comment on it. FAA simply found that notice and comment were . . . unnecessary, impracticable, and contrary to the public interest. The TSA can have a significant effect on your ability to continue working as a pilot, mechanic, bag loader, fueler, aircraft cleaner, screener, or any other position that might require SIDA clearance.They are allowed to do this in accord with the law under certain circumstances. This was one according to them! Further comment was permitted, however, after the fact, but the time to do so has since passed on March 25, 2003.

Are you a security risk?
When any information, provided by anybody, reaching the TSA suggests (in the opinion of the TSA) that an individual poses or may pose a security threat to aviation safety, they are required to not only notify that individual (and his employer) but also the FAA. The FAA then is required to suspend your mechanic certificate (if you have one) and also advise your employer, who will then terminate you pending further proceedings.

There is no procedure presently established to challenge the TSA action except that you can write them a letter in an attempt to show you are not a security threat.

Some have appealed this finding to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). As most of you know, any alleged violations of the FAR's prosecuted by the FAA can be appealed to the Board and a judge will hear your case. Not so with the TSA! When you appeal to the NTSB they will simply say they do not have authority to question the action by the TSA. The only issue they can review is whether or not the FAA followed the law in notifying you that you have been identified as a security threat by the TSA.

Example
Here's an example that I recently heard of . . .

Your roommate and you have a dispute over rent. He leaves and you subsequently find a check made out to him. You say he owes you money so you cash the check (in his name) and pocket the loot. He finds out and gets the District Attorney to prosecute you. You are charged with fraud and petty theft of less than $1,000. The DA agrees to a diversion of the charge. This is simply a program to put the case in limbo for a year or so and if you do not commit any crimes during that time they will dismiss the case. The only demand is that you enter a conditional guilty plea and pay a fine. This procedure is quite common in most states and provides an easy way for the DA to dispose of otherwise minor matters without burdening the court system. The case is dismissed and there is no conviction. A good deal for all concerned.

You inform your employer in accord with your understanding of the 10-year background check instructions and the company informs the TSA. They tell the company that they must suspend you because you are deemed convicted of a crime.

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