Committee Releases Report Detailing Patterns of Misconduct and Whistleblower Retaliation at TSA

Published: Sep 25, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans released a staff report detailing misconduct, retaliation, and obstruction at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The Committee found senior TSA officials engaged in recurrent misconduct with minimal consequences, inappropriately used involuntary directed reassignments to retaliate against disfavored employees and whistleblowers, and – under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of General Counsel (OGC) – withheld documents and information from Congress and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).

During the investigation, the Committee conducted 1 deposition, 10 transcribed interviews, met and spoke with dozens of whistleblowers, and reviewed thousands of pages of documents.

Key Takeaways

  • Senior TSA Officials Engaged in Misconduct
    • Throughout the investigation, the Committee uncovered a pattern of unchecked misconduct among current and former senior level managers. Further compounding the issue, TSA senior officials often circumvented the disciplinary process to avoid repercussions for their actions. This pattern of mitigation allowed senior level misconduct to persist, decreasing agency morale.
  • TSA Used Involuntary Directed Reassignments as a Means of Retaliation
    • The Committee found TSA inappropriately reassigned employees to new positions hundreds of miles from their stations without any discernable, organizational need. Many reassignments resulted in considerable hardship due to financial and family obligations, forcing some employees to leave TSA rather than accept the reassignment. Some senior TSA officials used directed reassignments to retaliate against disfavored employees, including whistleblowers.
  • TSA and DHS OGC Obstructed Congress and the Office of Special Counsel
    • TSA withheld documents and information from Congress and the Office of Special Counsel under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of General Counsel.
    • TSA testified it would wait until the conclusion of OSC’s investigations into whistleblower retaliation before determining disciplinary action. TSA, however, consistently refused to produce documents and information to the OSC.
    • Through hearing testimony in March 2017, the Committee learned DHS Acting General Counsel Joseph Maher instructed TSA to redact and withhold documents on the basis of the attorney-client privilege. The Committee ultimately issued a subpoena to compel the documents in question. DHS OGC, however, directed TSA not to produce the documents.

Read the full report here.

Background

  • Since 2015, the Committee has been investigating senior level misconduct, mismanagement, and retaliation at TSA.
  • On March 2, 2017, the Committee held a hearing to address transparency challenges at TSA. It was revealed TSA was withholding information necessary for the Office of Special Counsel to conduct whistleblower retaliation investigations.
  • On November 16, 2017, the Committee sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke demanding compliance after TSA repeatedly refused to turn over documents and make witnesses available for transcribed interviews.
  • On January 18, 2018, the Committee sent a letter to Secretary Nielsen requesting a transcribed interview with then-DHS Acting General Counsel Joseph Maher and demanded the production of the subpoenaed documents. DHS and TSA refused to comply with either request.
  • On September 14, 2018, Chairman Gowdy issued a subpoena to Department of Homeland Security Principal Deputy General Counsel Maher for deposition. He is appearing before the Committee today.

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