Rep. Issa recites Facebook TSA complaints

House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked Transportation Security Administration officials to respond to complaints from Facebook and other social media Monday.

TSA has often come under fire from lawmakers after incidents involving its airport security employees are posted on social media by passengers airport security. 

During a joint hearing of Issa's Oversight committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Issa asked the agency to respond directly to online complaints.

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"We opened up this hearing to Facebook," Issa said before launching into the first of four online complaints he read.

"For example Joe Corica," Issa continued. "He's a U.S. Marine. He was flying in his "Dress Blues" -D uniform. He was forced to remove my trousers in full view of other passengers because the 'shirt stays' beneath were scaring a TSA employee. It didn't matter that he explained what it was, and it didn't matter that they were something that he undoubtedly would have seen many times before if he was were veteran."

Issa then read the comments of a Facebook posted named Regan Shea, who he said wrote "I am a disabled person and have been targeted for groping. My wife travels with a portable oxygen concentrator and her use of the machine means she gets pawed by hand every time we travel.”

Next he read a post from a woman named Julia Rachiele, who Issa said wrote “the TSA has taken away my freedom to travel. Because I wear a medical device that cannot go through and amount of radiation, I would be subject to the "enhanced pat-down" procedure every time. 

The final comment read by Issa was posted under the name "I Am Wendy." Issa said the post read: "I have worn an artificial leg since I was 4 - I am now 61. I used to travel a lot for work but gave up after being assaulted by the TSA constantly, even to the point of having by breasts checked instead of the prosthesis." 

Issa said during Monday's hearing that his office received over 350 Facebook comments about TSA. 

Officials from TSA touted the agency's attempts to move to a "risk-based" airport security system, such as its Pre-Check known traveler program that allows passengers to volunteer information about themselves in advance of their flights to reduce the possibility of having hang-ups at security checkpoints. 

"TSA’s security measures create a multi-layered system of transportation security that mitigates risk," TSA Assistant Administrator for Security Operations Christopher McLaughlin and Assistant Administrator for Intelligence and Analysis Stephen Sadler said in testimony that was submitted to the panels. 

"We continue to evolve our security approach by examining the procedures and technologies we use, how specific security procedures are carried out, and how screening is conducted," McLaughlin and Sadler continued.

Democrats on the committees were more sympathetic to TSA than Issa and other Republicans were during Monday's meeting. 

"In the realm of aviation security, TSA must achieve a delicate balance.  TSA must be effective in meeting the evolving threats posed by terrorists," said the ranking Democrat on Issa's Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md).  "We also expect it to be responsive to the needs of the public and the demands of commerce.

"I welcome TSA’s efforts to develop a more intelligent, risk-based approach to transportation security," Cummings said, though he added Congress should "ensure that [TSA] strikes the appropriate balance between moving too quickly to deploy untested or unreliable technologies or techniques and moving too slowly to address new threats."