SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KPIX 5) — They’re a major line of defense for stopping terror attacks.
But several Bay Area airport screeners have pleaded guilty to taking bribes.
Some fear this could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Security screeners at the airport won’t even let you walk into the terminal with a bottle full of water.
But on Tuesday, a supervisor screener who used to work at SFO is facing federal charges for turning a blind eye as 50 pounds of cocaine went through his x-ray screener.
Joseph Scott, the former security screener at SFO, plead guilty to receiving a bribe as a public official.
The man who bribed him, Bobby Napier, was sentenced last week to four years.
The U.S. attorney said, “Napier admitted he agreed to smuggle cocaine through security at SFO by paying Joseph Scott” and that “Napier agreed that he participated in the scheme for ‘several years’ and also smuggled marijuana”.
The big worry, says KPIX 5 security analyst and former FBI agent Jeff Harp, is that if a screener is willing to watch drugs go by, what else are they willing to watch go by?
Harp said, “RDX and some of these other materials that are used in explosives, yeah they look like cocaine, they look like a white powder.”
A total of seven Bay Area airport screeners face similar charges.
Harp said, “I think we really need to take a close look at how we’re hiring TSA people, how they’re screened, what kind of background investigation is done, and all of this costs money.”
Kiana Clark was a TSA screener at Oakland International Airport.
In a few days, she starts a 21-month sentence for smuggling suitcases filled with marijuana through security.
In all, she allowed more than 200 pounds of weed to pass through her x-ray screener in carry-on bags.
“I don’t believe this is an isolated incident at SFO or Oakland. I think what will end up happening here is, TSA is going to have to take a hard look at what they are doing across the country.”
The six screeners facing charges at SFO work for a private company called Covenant Aviation Security, which the TSA contracts with to do the screening at SFO.
Over at Oakland International, their screeners are actual TSA employees.
The bribes, in terms of the amount of money weren’t that much.
According to court documents, we’re only talking about up to $4,500. And that money Scott received would have been presumably split with two other screeners involved.