A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the number of employee misconduct cases in the Transportation Security Administration has grown by more than 25 percent in the last three years, and that the agency does not have a sufficient process in place for reviewing such cases.
The report, released on Tuesday, says the number of cases has increased from 2,691 in 2010 to 3,408 in 2012. The GAO investigated about 9,600 cases, about half of which had issues involving attendance and leave or screening and security.
The more than 1,900 cases that were related to screening and security violated "standard operating procedures, including not conducting security or equipment checks, and allowing patrons or baggage to bypass screening," the report says.
Stephen Lord, director of homeland security issues for the GAO, said in the report that TSA employees have been involved in theft and drug-smuggling activities. On one occasion in 2011, a transportation security officer in Orlando pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement and theft, Lord said in the report. The employee stole $80,000 worth of laptop computers and other electronic devices from passengers' luggage.
"TSOs engaging in misconduct raise security concerns because these employees are charged with helping to ensure the security of our nation's aviation system," Lord said in the report.
The TSA, which was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, employs 56,000 people and is responsible for devising policies that protect travelers in the United States, particularly in airports.
Of the misconduct cases that the government watchdog agency investigated, 47 percent resulted in letters of reprimand, 31 percent resulted in suspensions with definite durations and 17 percent resulted in the employee's removal from TSA.
Still, the GAO reported that the TSA needs to improve how it handles allegations of employee misconduct and how it follows up after the investigations. Lord also wrote in the report that the TSA does not record all case outcomes in its central case management system.
"While TSA has taken steps to help manage the investigations and adjudication process, such as providing training to TSA staff at airports, additional procedures could help TSA better monitor the investigations and adjudications process," the report says.
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who ordered the investigation, told CNN that these findings "may be just the tip of the iceberg of some of the offenses."
The TSA said in a statement that it agrees with the GAO's recommendations and is "already working to implement" them.
"TSA holds its employees to the highest ethical standards and expects all TSA employees to conduct themselves with integrity and professionalism," the statement says. "There is zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and TSA takes appropriate action when substantiated, including anything from a referral to law enforcement or termination of employment."